The Ship's Carpenter (Kenneth Peacock)
(Pretty Polly)

In Dorseter city, in Dorseter square,
There lived a fair damsel I vow and declare,
A young man came courting her for to be his dear,
And he by his trade being a ship's carpenter.

It was early one morning oh long before day,
He came to his Polly those words he did say:
"Come arise, pretty Polly-O, and come along with me,
Before we get married our friends for to see."

He led her through bushes and valleys so deep,
Till at length pretty Polly began for to weep,
Saying, "Billy, oh Billy-o, you're leading me astray,
Your purpose my innocent life to betray."

"It's true, it's true, those words you do say,
For all this long night I've been digging your grave,
There's a grave lying open and a spade standing by,
Oh it's into the grave that your body shall lie."

"Come pardon, come pardon, come pardon my life,
And I'll never covet for to be thy wife,
Though sail the world 'round for to set you free,
If you will but pardon my baby and me."

"No pardon, no pardon, there's no time to stand!"
For instantly taking a knife in his hand,
He stuck her, he stabbed her till the blood from her flowed,
And into the grave her fair body he throwed.

Oh, he covered her over so neat and secure,
Not thinking this murder would be found he was sure,
Went on board of his ship for to sail the world 'round,,
Not thinking this murder would ever be found.

Now we had a brave steward of courage so bold,
One night happened late to go in the ship's hold,
When a beautiful damsel to him did appear,
And she in her arms held an infant so dear.

Being merry with liquor for to go embrace,
The transport of joy he beheld in her face
'Twas then in an instant she vanished away -
He then told our captain without more delay.

Our captain he summoned the ship's noble crew,
Saying, "Now, my brave boys, I'm afraid one of you
Have murdered some damsel 'fore we came away,
Her trouble goes 'gainst us now 'ere on the sea.

"Well now if he's here the truth he'll deny,
When found out shall hang on our yard-arm so high,
But if he confesses his life we won't take,
But land him all on the first island we meet."

Oh then up speaks a sailor saying, "'Deed it's not me."
And up spoke another, the same he did say,
When up jumps young Billy-o saying, ""Deed it's not me!"
And this they all said through the ship's company.

As Billy was returning from the captain with speed,
He met his dear Polly which made his heart bleed;
She ripped him, she stripped him, she tore him in three,
Because he had murdered her baby and she.

"Now your trouble's all over," this ghost she did say,
"For since I have taken your murder away,
May the heavens protect you that you all may agree,
And bring you safe home to your own countery."

####.... Variant of an 18th-century British broadside ballad, The Gosport Tragedy [Laws P36] American Balladry From British Broadsides (G Malcolm Laws, 1957). Also a variant of a British broadside ballad, Polly Love, or The Cruel Ship-Carpenter, published by J Pitts (London) sometime between 1819 and 1844, and archived at the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, shelfmark: Harding B 11(3053a). ....####

Collected in 1960 by Kenneth Peacock from Joshua Osborne of Seal Cove, White Bay, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 2, pp.404-406, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

A variant was collected in 1951 from Dennis (Din) Dobbin [1900-1976] of St Vincent's, NL, and published as Pretty Polly in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

A variant was also collected in 1962 from Leo Spoencer by Edith Fowke and published in 1973 in the Penguin Book Of Canadian Folk Songs, p.162.

Kenneth Peacock noted that three variants of this sea ballad were noted, all very similar, though Mr Willis knew the longest text. The earliest known text was printed in London about 1750 and was called The Gosport Tragedy, or Perjured Ship's Carpenter. It has been found in several areas in the United States, but the best and most complete texts come from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.


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