»  Leslie Sarony's "Ain't It Grand To Be Bloomin' Well Dead"

 

Ain't It Grand To Be Bloomin' Well Dead

sung by Leslie Sarony, 1897-1985

 

•  Background

The death-wish — the longing for the quiet, botherless state of non-being — while a human universal, is perhaps especially strong among the English. There are many examples in these readings: Shakespeare, Drummond, Gray, Keats, Tennyson, Orwell. In his book Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination Peter Ackroyd gives over a whole chapter to "A Note on English Melancholy," from which:

In the nineteenth century London became known as the "suicide capital" of the world but, even before that date, there was a more general belief that the English were a race subject to melancholia. The prevailing gloom was variously ascribed to the damp climate of the island or to the diet of beef, but we need only turn to the prevalence of elegies in the English tongue to suggest that melancholy may have found its local habitation …
 … … …

There have been periods in which melancholy became the prevailing mood or the spirit of the age. The first surviving English morality play takes as its theme the advent of death. It is an abiding preoccupation, this terror of mortality, aligned with a yearning towards transcendence. As one fifteenth-century writer expressed it:
Me thynk thys world is wonder wery
And fadyth as ye brymbyll bery

Like any other human mood, this one finds both high and low literary expression. Tennyson et. al. are the high; here is the low.

The composer of this ditty is not known to me. The only ascriptions I can find give it as "English traditional." It was made famous by the English music-hall (=vaudeville), radio, and occasional movie performer Leslie Sarony, in a 1932 recording that everyone of my parents' generation seemed to know.


•  Notes

"sozzled" — intoxicated, pickled, plastered, soused, canned, loaded, etc.

"hay-bag" — a mess, noisy or riotous

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•  Play the song

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•  Lyrics of the song

Ain't It Grand To Be Bloomin' Well Dead

(English traditional)

Lately there's nothing but trouble, grief and strife.
There's not much attraction about this bloomin' life.
Last night I dreamt I was bloomin' well dead.
As I went to the funeral, I bloomin' well said:

        Look at the flowers, bloomin' great orchids.
        Ain't it grand, to be bloomin' well dead!
        And look at the corfin, bloomin' great 'andles.
        Ain't it grand, to be bloomin' well dead!

I felt so 'appy to think that I'd popped off.
I said to a bloke with a nasty, 'acking cough:

        Look at the black 'earse, bloomin' great 'orses.
        Ain't it grand, to be bloomin' well dead!
        Look at the bearers, all in their frock coats.
        Ain't it grand, to be bloomin' well dead!
        And look at their top 'ats, polished with Guinness.
        Ain't it grand, to be bloomin' well dead!

Some people there were praying for me soul.
I said, "It's the first time I've been off the dole."

        Look at the mourners, bloomin' well sozzled.
        Ain't it grand, to be bloomin' well dead!

        Look at the children, bloomin' excited.
        Ain't it grand, to be bloomin' well dead!
        Look at the neighbours, bloomin' delighted.
        Ain't it grand, to be bloomin' well dead!

"Spend the insurance," I murmured, "for — Alack! —
You know that I shan't be with you going back."

        Look at the Missus, bloomin' well laughin'.
        Ain't it grand, to be bloomin' well dead!

        Look at me Sister, bloomin new 'at on.
        Ain't it grand, to be bloomin' well dead!
        And look at me Brother, bloomin' cigar on.
        Ain't it grand, to be bloomin' well dead!

We come from clay and we all go back they say.
So don't aim a brick — it might be your Auntie May.

        Look at me Grandma, bloomin' old hay-bag.
        Ain't it grand, to be bloomin' well dead!