The Spanish Captain (MacEdward Leach)

Ye muses nine now do combine
and listen to my song,
It's a mournful lamentation
and it won't detain you long;
It's about the Spanish captain,
as you might understand,
Who left his native country
to sail for Newfoundland.

His wife she stepped on board with him,
dressed up in silks so fine,
She had a dark and rolling eye,
like diamonds they did shine;
Her skin was like the snow blossom
that falls before the rain,
And her hair in ringlets hanging down,
Rosanna was her name.

Her daughter followed after her
just like some angel bright,
She had a tall and slender waist,
dressed up in muslin white;
Her cheeks they bloomed like roses,
from a Spanish town she came,
She was fairer than Rosanna,
whom they called the flower of Spain.

On the fourteenth day of July last,
from Lisbon we set sail,
With the headland in our company
with a sweet and pleasant gale;
But the headland in our company
no longer could she stay,
For she got in that very night
that we were cast away.

The Marguerite was our ship's name,
she was a splendid boat,
With lofty yards and pitch pine spars,
she was scarce nine years afloat;
With a reckoning and good conduct
our due course we did steer,
Till the boatswain cried,
"There's land ahead,
I think it is Cape Spear."

The farmers on the southern shore,
as you might understand,
Were burning turf upon the ground
to fertilize their land;
The heavy smoke from out the town
filled all those bights and bays,
Said our captain in a flowing voice,
"We leave our ship in stays."

Then we squared our yards,
ran across the bay
that dark and stormy night,
Every man was in his station,
but no one saw the light;
The night was dark with heavy smoke,
and dismal looked the sky,
When in a place called Barren Rock
we ran her high and dry.

Oh the fourteenth of September last,
it was a dismal sight,
All hands were in the water
at twelve o'clock that night;
But the captain's wife and daughter
no longer can remain,
To enjoy their wealth and happiness
left after them in Spain.

Our captain was a Spaniard,
a man of note and fame,
With courage bold undaunted
to cross the raging main;
And may the realms of glory
their precious souls receive,
Make a place for them in heaven
where St Peter holds the keys.

####.... Author unknown. Original Newfoundland ballad listed as item dD33 [Laws appendix II] Native American Balladry (G Malcolm Laws, 1950/1964) ....####
This variant was sung in 1950 by James Maher [1885-1969] of Flatrock, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

A variant was also published on pp.38-39 of Old-Time Songs And Poetry Of Newfoundland: Songs Of The People From The Days Of Our Forefathers, 2nd Ed, 1940, printed by the publishers of The Family Fireside for Gerald S Doyle, St John's. Doyle noted that his variant was sung in 1929 by Stephen John Lewis [1876-?] of Fleur de Lys and published as #137 on pp.275-276 of Ballads And Sea Songs Of Newfoundland by Elisabeth Bristol Greenleaf and Grace Yarrow Mansfield (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1933; Folklore Associates, Hatboro, PA, 1968).

Yet another variant was collected in 1976 by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best from Elsie Best (Anita Best's mother) of St John's, NL, and published as #101 in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.176-177, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press, ©1985/2003).

See more Lehr and Best songs.

Anita Best noted that the Margrietta [Marguerite] referred to is very likely the Mayaquezanna, a Spanish brig lost at Blackhead, near Cape Spear, on 14 August 1876. Both the captain and his wife were drowned. Anita Best also noted this has always been one of her favourite songs to sing. It is typical of the heave-it-out-of-ya type of singing so favoured by many Placentia Bay singers. The images in the fifth verse are quite arresting, albeit somewhat mystifying. Anita Best concluded by noting that her mother learned this song from her grandparents in Tack's Beach, Placentia Bay.

See more Anita Best songs.

Per the Northern Shipwrecks Database: Mayaquezana/Maguezana stranded in smoke with two or three lost.


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