The Spanish Main (Kenneth Peacock)

Come all young men I pray take warning,
And maidens too as I should say;
Your sinful hearts both night and morning
In the sinful world are led astray.

I was just sixteen when I first went roving,
Over the sinful world I strayed far and wide;
My old agèd parents fell bitterly weeping,
And bitterly mourned as I leaved their side.

But all their grieving and lamenting,
Could not advise me to stay at home;
So I lived contented while they lamented,
But it never caused me to think of home.

I sailed away to some foreign country
Till a pretty girl came in my view;
When love takes place in young men's attention,
They don't care what hardship that they go through.

Her beauty and pride were so enticing,
She was the flower and the pride of home;
And yet I knew that if I could gain her,
I would live contented and no more roam.

I courted her for three long years,
But still her love I could never gain,
Till one fine evening as the moon shone brightly,
All my secrets to her I did explain.

I says: "My darling, now I must leave you
Over the briny ocean to some foreign strand;
So good-bye, darling, and God be with you,
Leave no other sailor at your command."

She cried, "No sailor or no tailor
Will have the privilege my love to gain;
So good-bye, darling, and God be with you,
And write to me over the Spanish Main."

On January the second, these two were standing,
The ship was ready and fit for the main;
They shook hands together and kissed each other,
And parted never to meet again.

The night they parted as she sat lonely,
Thinking on the vows she made,
While she sat lonely and disconnected,
But not one word to her mistress said.

But still they knew there was something grieving
This young girl as she went to bed;
The very next morning straight to her chamber,
They found this poor girl was lying dead.

Beneath her pillow they found a letter,
A missile of grief from a foreign shore;
It was wet with tears and all dark with kisses,
"Farewell, my darling, forever more."

Three weeks after this poor girl's funeral,
A letter came addressed her name,
Saying, 'Your sailor fell from the yard-arm rigging
While sailing over the Spanish Main.'

This poor girl she died heart-broken,
And the sailor fell from his work at sea;
And for their sins they will have to answer
Before their Maker on the Judgement Day.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional ballad ....####

Collected in 1951 by Kenneth Peacock from John Francis Mahoney [1896-?] of Stock Cove, Bonavista Bay South, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.720-721, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that the preoccupation with sin would seem to suggest a zealous missionary influence, but in other respects the ballad is normal enough to pass the test of traditional authenticity.

A variant was also collected in 1951 from Mrs Ambrose James (Bride) Coombs [1922-2003] of Biscay Bay NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

A ten-verse variant was published as I Was Just Sixteen in Ballads And Sea Songs Of Newfoundland, #102, by Elisabeth Bristol Greenleaf and Grace Yarrow Mansfield (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1933; Folklore Associates, Hatboro, PA, 1968.)


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