From “The True-Born Englishman.” Defoe composed this satire of English xenophobia in part as a defense of King William III, who had been born in Holland and ascended the English throne in 1689. Defoe was a boy when his native city of London was ravaged by a bubonic plague epidemic in 1665, an event that he fictionalized nearly sixty years later in his novel, A Journal of the Plague Year. That work was published in 1722, the same year as Moll Flanders and Colonel Jack. Defoe died in cheap lodgings on Rope Makers’ Alley in 1731.
Thus from a mixture of all kinds began,
That het’rogeneous thing, an Englishman;
In eager rapes, and furious lust begot,
Betwixt a painted Briton and a Scot;
Whose gend’ring offspring quickly learn’d to bow,
And yoke their heifers to the Roman plough;
From whence a mongrel half-bred race there came,
With neither name nor nation, speech nor fame.
In whose hot veins new mixtures quickly ran,
Infused betwixt a Saxon and a Dane.
While their rank daughters, to their parents just,
Received all nations with promiscuous lust.
This nauseous brood directly did contain
The well-extracted blood of Englishmen.
Which medley cantoned in a heptarchy,
A rhapsody of nations to supply,
Among themselves maintained eternal wars,
And still the ladies loved the conquerors.
The western Angles all the rest subdued;
A bloody nation, barbarous and rude;
Who by the tenure of the sword possessed
One part of Britain, and subdued the rest.
And as great things denominate the small,
The conqu’ring part gave title to the whole.
The Scot, Pict, Briton, Roman, Dane submit,
And with the English-Saxon all unite;
And these the mixture have so close pursued,
The very name and memory’s subdued;
No Roman now, no Briton does remain;
Wales strove to separate, but strove in vain;
The silent nations undistinguished fall,
And Englishman’s the common name for all.
Fate jumbled them together, God knows how;
Whatever they were, they’re true-born English now.
The wonder which remains is at our pride,
To value that which all wise men deride.
For Englishmen to boast of generation,
Cancels their knowledge, and lampoons the nation.
A true-born Englishman’s a contradiction,
In speech an irony, in fact a fiction.
A banter made to be a test of fools,
Which those that use it justly ridicules.
A metaphor invented to express
A man akin to all the universe.