True Sailor Boy (British Traditional)

Love is the traitor of a sailor's life,
He causes the girls to loose their hearts' delight;
He causes them to sigh, he causes them to mourn,
All for my true love, never to return.

Father, father, build me a boat,
Out on the ocean I will float;
There I'll hail each ship as I pass by,
There I'll enquire for my true sailor boy.

She went a-sailin' on down the main,
She met three ships just out from Spain;
There she hailed each ship as she passed by,
There she enquired for her true sailor boy.

Captain, captain, tell me true,
Do my sweet William sail with you?
Oh, no, fair maid, he don't sail here,
He's drownded in the Gulf, my dear.

She ran her boat up against a rock,
Thought to all her soul she'd broke her heart;
She wrang her hands and tore her hair,
Just like some lady in despair.

She called for a chair to sit her down,
Pen and ink she wrote it down;
Oh, the end of every line she dropped a tear,
End of every verse was "Oh, my dear."

Father, father, dig my grave,
Place a marble stone at my head and feet;
Upon my breast a turtle dove,
To show to the world that I died for love.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a 19th-century British ballad, The Sailor Boy [Laws K12] American Balladry From British Broadsides (G Malcolm Laws, 1957). Also a variant of a 19th-century British broadside ballad, The Maid's Lament For Her Sailor Boy, published by J Catnach (London) sometime between 1813 and 1838, and archived at the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, shelfmark: Harding B 11(2298) ....####

A variant was collected by MacEdward Leach [1897-1967] and published as #9, The Sailor Boy, in Folk Ballads And Songs Of The Lower Labrador Coast by the National Museum of Canada (Ottawa,1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

A variant was also collected by Maud Karpeles [1885-1976] and published as #43, Sweet William, in Folk Songs From Newfoundland (Faber & Faber, London, 1971; also Oxford, 1934).


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