The World Turned Upside Down

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   The tune which the British band played at the surrender of Cornwallis's army at Yorktown on 19 October, 1781 is claimed, by many sources [but not all], to have been The World Turned Upside Down. And whether the tune that was played that day was the one linked to this site, or the one known as Derry Down is questionable. A number of tunes were given the same title. One of those other tunes, and the one that critics of the idea that The World Turned Upside Down was played at Yorktown, cite the most, was originally titled When The King Enjoys His Own Again.

   The problem of identifying the tune played by the surrendering British troops is complicated by the fact that it has not been firmly established that the band played any of the versions of The World Turned Upside Down that day. The song was indeed a popular one at the time of the American Revolutionary War, and the title presented a fitting sentiment for the British in the surrender of their main army in the colonies, but the fact of its having actually been played has not been substantiated by contemporary reports.

   According to Lesley Nelson (see link below), one version of this song included the following verses:

If buttercups buzz'd after the bee, If boats were on land, churches on sea,
If ponies rode men and if grass ate the cows, And cats should be chased into holes by the mouse,
If the mamas sold their babies To the gypsies for half a crown;
If summer were spring and the other way round, Then all the world would be upside down.

   Another version, bred in the Puritan austerity of the English Civil War, and dating from 1646, contained the following verses:

Listen to me and you shall hear, news hath not been this thousand year:
Since Herod, Caesar, and many more, you never heard the like before.
Holy-days are despis'd, new fashions are devis'd. Old Christmas is kick'd out of Town.
Chorus: Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down.
The wise men did rejoice to see our Savior Christs Nativity: The Angels did good tidings bring, the Sheepherds did rejoice and sing.
Let all honest men, take example by them. Why should we from good Laws be bound?
Command is given, we must obey, and quite forget old Christmas day:
Kill a thousand men, or a Town regain, we will give thanks and praise amain.
The wine pot shall clink, we will feast and drink. And then strange motions will abound.
Our Lords and Knights, and Gentry too, do mean old fashions to forgoe:
They set a porter at the gate, that none must enter in thereat.
They count it a sin, when poor people come in. Hospitality itself is drown'd.
The serving men do sit and whine, and think it long ere dinner time:
The Butler's still out of the way, or else my Lady keeps the key,
The poor old cook, in the larder doth look, Where is no goodness to be found,
To conclude, I'll tell you news that's right, Christmas was kill'd at Naseby fight:
Charity was slain at that same time, Jack Tell troth too, a friend of mine,
Likewise then did die, roast beef and shred pie, Pig, Goose and Capon no quarter found.

   Eyewitness accounts do state that the British army band did play something. Exactly what was played just can't be agreed upon.


   Note: The midi file that is linked to this page was sequenced by John Renfro Davis. This midi file is maintained on Lesley Nelson's excellent website, Folk Music Of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales And America, located at: