Song or Story
The Sailor Boy
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"The Sailor Boy" is a version of the 18th century British Broadside, "The Sailor's Tragedy" or "The Sailor's Ghost." It contains the motifs, "Murder will out," "Man thrown overboard to placate storm," and "Passenger brings bad luck to ship."
1. Willie was as fine a sailor as ever spliced a rope/ And Mary was his own true love, his only pride and hope./ And as they walked, they often talked of joining wedlock’s banns,/ But Willie’s ship, it was commissioned to sail for a foreign land.
2. The day before he went away, he met Mary on the strand./ He took her in his arms and kissed her trembling hand,/ Saying, “Mary, dearest Mary, if we are doomed to part,/ I’ll come once more before I go to pledge your loving heart.”
3. “Oh, Willie dear, you’re going away to plough those raging seas./ Those foreign faces that you’ll meet, you’ll never think of me.”/ “If I should prove untrue to you, in foreign lands or nigh,/ I pray to God your spirit will haunt me til I die.”
4. They kissed, shook hands, and parted; soon Willie was safe on shore./ And all the parties that come back the utmost part he bore./ They danced and sang in wild career till each one found his love./ Another fair face had Willie’s heart won, poor Mary was forgot.
5. Now our ship is loaded; she leaves again today/ She gets into deep waters beneath the calm blue sky./ When all at once dark clouds arose and a heavy storm is nigh.
6. The thunder roared tremendous and the lightning did appear./ And Willie, being our right hand man, was sent to guide the wheel,/ When like a flash of lightning, appeared before his eyes./ And when it spoke it sounded just like the graveyard cries.
7. “Oh, Willie, you false and faithless man; it’s Mary’s voice you hear./ Don’t you mind the promise that you made while parting along with me?/ You said if you proved untrue to me in foreign lands or nigh./ You prayed to God my spirit would haunt you til you die.
8. Your captain wrote and told me of those false vows you had made./ I drowned my body; my bones do lie to bleach on Kerry’s shore./ And at the very last hour, we’ll both sleep in one tomb.
9. When an unknown wave swept over our deck, and swept him over the side./ He thought she cried, “no more to rise,”/ and the crew all shrank with fear./ But when he disappeared from sight, the light grew calm and clear. [spoken]
ballad, sea, Laws P34, separation, infidelity, revenant, Jonah, S264.1, N134.5, N271, Miramichi, New Brunswick, Mrs. Earle J. Dickson, Sandy Ives
Atkinson, David. “Magical Corpses: Ballads, Intertextuality, and the Discovery of Murder.” Journal of Folklore Research 36.1 (1999): 1-29. JSTOR. Web. 8 Nov. 2013; Bethke, Robert D. Adirondack Voices: Woodsmen and Woods Lore. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981; Greig, Gavin. “Folk-Song of the North-East cxxx.” Folk-Song in Buchan and Folk-Song of the North-East. Hatboro, PA: Folklore Associates, 1963; Creighton, Helen and Doreen H. Senior. Traditional Songs from Nova Scotia. Tornoto: The Ryerson Press, 1950; Kittredge, G. L. “Ballads and Rhymes from Kentucky.” The Journal of American Folklore 20.79 (1907): 251-77. JSTOR. Web. 03 Apr. 2014; Laws, G. Malcolm. American Balladry from British Broadsides. Philadelphia: The American Folklore Society, 1957; MacKenzie, W. Roy. Ballads and Sea Songs from Nova Scotia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1928; Manny, Louise and James Reginald Wilson. Songs of Miramichi. Fredericton, N.B.: Brunswick Press, 1976; Thompson, Stith. Motif-Index of Folk-Literature: A Classification of Narrative Elements in Folktales, Ballads, Myths, Fables, Medieval Romances, Exempla, Fabliaux, Jest-Books, and Local Legends. Vol. 5. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1957.
Ethnomusicology | Folklore | Oral History
Dickson, Mrs. Earle J. 1962. "The Sailor Boy." NA2584, CD578.21. Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History, Raymond H. Fogler Library Special Collections Department, University of Maine.