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American Perry – The Musical

The eternal trawling of historical literature for all things perry-related often throws up unexpected gems, and in this case, something worth sharing without embedding it into a larger narrative. A song called American Perry that was written in 1813 (McCarty, 1842).

What’s especially fun about this song is that it clearly starts with perry the drink, but as the song goes on, the perry takes on more a reference to Commodore Perry, and celebrating his thrashing of the British in a naval battle. In this, they mean Oliver Hazard Perry, who was commander during the battle of Lake Erie in 1813 (the later stages of the 1812 War). In this battle, Henry Proctor, a British major-general, and Robert Heriot Barclay were the defeated, and it is with these two gentlemen, and their thirst for perry, that the song begins.

I have to admit that till now I’ve found very little detailed information about historical American perry, but clearly settlers (or occupiers) had been bringing trees over, so I assume some estates had perry similar to English perry of the day, whereas today dessert pears seem to dominate American perry. But it’s significant to note the lyrics twice mention sparkling perry, specifically invokes pears in the line “being pear’d to the quick” as well as “thundering” and “flushing”, which could equally refer to the aperient effects of perry, as well as perhaps the mighty power of Oliver Hazard Perry!

Oliver Hazard Perry (public domain)

Sung to the tune of “Abraham Newland” which was in turn sung to the tune of “The Rogues March”, you can try singing along. Enjoy!

American Perry

Bold Barclay, one day, to Proctor did say,
“I’m tired of Jamaica and Sherry; 
So let us go down to that new floating town, 
And get some American Perry 
O, cheap American Perry! 
Most pleasant American Perry!
We need only all bear down, knock, and call, 
And we’ll have the American Perry. 

The landlady’s kind, weak, simple, and blind; 
We’ll soon be triumphantly merry!
We’ve cash in the locker, and custom shall shock her,
And we’ll soon get a taste of her Perry 
O, American Perry! 
The sparkling American Perry! 
No trouble we’ll find, your orders to mind, 
So away for American Perry.” 

All ready for play, they got under way, 
With heart and hand right voluntary: 
But when they came there, they quickly did stare, 
At the taste of American Perry: 
O, the American Perry! 
Sparkling American Perry.
How great the deception, when such a reception 
They met from American Perry. 

They thought such a change was undoubtedly strange, 
And rued their unlucky vagary: 
Your liquor’s too hot, keep it still in the pot, 
O! cork your American Perry 
O! this American Perry 
Fiery American Perry: 
In my noddle ’twill work; it’s a dose for a Turk 
O! O! this American Perry. 

Full surely they knew the scrape would not do; 
‘Twould ruin his majesty’s ferry: 
So they tried to turn tail, with a rag of a sail, 
And quit this American Perry 
O, the American Perry! 
Flushing American Perry. 
But the crossing the lake was all a mistake 
They had swallow’d so much of the Perry. 

Then Barclay exclaim’d, “I cannot be blamed 
For well I’ve defended each wherry: 
My men are so drunk, and some so defunct 
If I strike to American Perry. 
O, this American Perry! 
Thundering American Perry. 
Such hot distillation would fuddle our nation, 
Should it taste the American Perry.” 

The stuff did so bruise his staggering crews, 
That some with their feet were unwary; 
While some had their brains knock’d out for their pains, 
By this shocking American Perry: 
O, American Perry! 
Outrageous American Perry! 
Old , tough British tars, all covered with scars, 
Capsized by American Perry. 

The Indians on shore made a horrible roar, 
And left every groundnut and berry; 
Then scamper’d away, for no relish had they 
For a dose of American Perry 
O, American Perry! 
Confounding American Perry, 
While General Proctor looked on like a doctor, 
At the deadly American Perry.

The Briton was sick, being pear’d to the quick, 
And his vessels were quite fragmentary; 
So, scolding his luck, he prudently struck 
To a stream of American Perry 
O, American Perry! 
Persevering American Perry! 
A whole British fleet, ship to ship, has been beat, 
By an American commodore – “ Perry!” 

On American ground, where such spirit is found, 
Let us toast the brave · Heroes of Erie;” 
And never forget those whose life – sun did set, 
By the side of their Commodore Perry 
O, brave American Perry! 
Triumphant American Perry! 
Let us remember the “Tenth of September,” 
When a fleet struck to Commodore Perry.

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Barry Masterson is an Irishman living in a tiny village in Germany. Working by day in GIS, he has a side-business farm/cidery making orchard-based cider and perry. Often seen with Anu the border collie, climbing into hedgerows in search of perry pear trees, with which he is obsessed. @BarMas and @Kertelreiter on Twitter. @Kertelreiter_Cider on Instagram.

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