The Young Ship's Carpenter (Kenneth Peacock)

In England there lived a young ship's carpenter,
They tell me that he had a handsome wife,
When a sea captain he went from Newfoundland,
And soon he blighted both their tender lives.

He said,
"Come and leave your husband now, my dear,
And see some pleasure all of your life,
And we will both go back to Newfoundland,
And there we will pass for man and wife."

"If I should leave my husband dear," said she,
"Likewise my little family that's so small,
What have you got to maintain me,
To support my weary ones in with all?"

He said, "I have seven ships now all of my own,
It was one of them that brought me here on shore,
And one of them will be at your command
For to carry you about from shore to shore."

They had not been sailing long upon the sea,
Scarcely two days, or p'rhaps it was 'bout three,
Before that young ship's carpenter's handsome wife
She began to weep most bitterly.

"Do you weep for gold, my dear?" said he,
"Or do you weep for silver that is free,
Or do you weep for any other man
That you do like much better than me?"

"I do not weep for gold," then said she,
"And neither do I weep for silver that is free,
But I do weep for my own little family
That I ought to have brought on board along with me."

'Twas just a short time after that, I know,
This lady she was distracted and forlorn.
Then she soon ended her life into the sea
By jumping overboard at the height of the storm.

When that sad news to England it returned
The young ship's carpenter swore and tore his hair,
Saying, "My curse might lay on you, all mariners,
For you do live a sad and a wicked life;
My curse may lay on that sea captain, too,
For 'twas he that stole away from me my handsome wife."

####.... Author unknown. Variant of The Daemon Lover [Child ballad #243] The English And Scottish Popular Ballads (1882-1898) edited by Francis James Child (Dover, 1965). Also a variant of a 19th-century British broadside ballad, House Carpenter published by J H Johnson (Philadelphia) ca.1860, and archived at the Bodleain Library Broadside Ballads, shelfmark: Harding B 18(255) ....####
Collected in 1961 by Kenneth Peacock from Mrs Mary Ann Galpin [1872-1962] of Codroy, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.740-741, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that this ballad, usually known as The House Carpenter, especially in its North American variants, has lost most of its 'daemonic' character. If one reads the daemonism back into this Newfoundland variant, one finds that the woman was originally betrothed to the sea captain. However, when she jilts him for the young ship's carpenter he vows to have revenge and enlists the help of the devil. Appearing in the likeness of the captain, the devil woos her away from domestic bliss to her ultimate destruction. All these latter-day variants of the story are quite possibly descended from an archtypal legend of the remote past when sea daemons lured unsuspecting maidens into their submarine parlours.

See more Child Ballad variants from NL.


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