The Glen Alone (Lehr and Best)

It's only a rivel and just a puff
that's moving her old brown sail,
Like a sickly man with a fever and faint
she mutters awhile and stays;
In a short while after the wind it died,
and she rolled on the oily sea,
Like a sickly man with a fever and faint
she was moving uneasily.

There ain't no stir in our old barque now,
she might have been a log -
Three leagues away and land lay low
in a cold, grey bank of fog;
About three points on her starboard bow
one summer's night in June,
Where the sky and the water seemed joined
in one, lit up with a brightful moon.

Through bloody reds and silvery stars
on a faint and a glorious night,
Straight from our barque to the ocean
stood our wavering, burning lights;
There's something in that shiny bank
about one league away -
Like the dreary form of a stoutish rock
on the face of the water lay.

There ain't no rock in my east line now,
in my chart not here about -
I looked through my night-glass steadily
but I could not make it out;
I fixed my eye on that ugly form
'til it passed by our quarter-deck,
And I ordered the crew to lower a boat
for maybe it is a wreck.

We rowed aboard that ugly form
as it stood in the light of the moon -
I read from the bow of that mystic barque
her strange name, Glen Alone;
We hailed them but never a word was spoke,
there was no one on her deck.
We unshipped our oars, attached her side,
and climbed aboard the wreck.

Through rugged yards and splintered spars,
her mainmast and mizzen gone -
There's scattered boats on her blizzard deck,
but human forms were none;
Until we saw one human form
was crouched upon her deck,
With an old sou'wester and guernsey on,
shipmate, one of the wreck.

I gently raised that old chap's hat,
I remember the moon was full -
I was starting aft when the light fell
on his glimmering, ghostly skull;
In starting aft the deck seemed flushed,
all muddled with shady light,
And six more skeletons there we found
all bleached to a dawny white.

Through rugged yards and splintered spars
to her cabin we then made way -
Stretched on the locker in full length
her skeleton captain lay;
And in his bony fingers he held
the note I read next day -
'Shipwrecked we are and our food all gone,
we pray and fade away.'

O, we rowed away from that ugly form
as she stood against the moon -
I read from the bow of that mystic barque
once more, the Glen Alone;
When faster and faster into the deep
the blade of our stout oars fell -
Her deck seemed swarmed with shadows
and cries a-bidding their last farewell.

I will never look out of my night-glass again
by the pitiful light of the moon -
But I'll think on the horrors we once performed
in the wreck of the Glen Alone!

####.... Author unknown. Traditional Newfoundland shipwreck ballad ....####
Collected in 1983 by Genevieve Lehr and Anita Best from Phillip Pius Power, Sr [1912-1993] of South East Bight, NL, and published as #43 in Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook, pp.76-77, edited by Genevieve Lehr (University of Toronto Press ©1985/2003).

Genevieve Lehr noted: Mr Power learned this song from Mr George Follett [1877-1963] of Jerseyside, Placentia Bay, NL in the 1920s when Mr Follett was in his seventies. Lehr also noted that rivel is possibly the result of a sound change; its standard equivalent would be ripple.

See more Lehr and Best songs.

From the Dictionary of Newfoundland English:
Guernsey - also gansey or garnsey; heavy, closely-knit pull-over sweater worn by fishermen and sealers.
Rivel - also ravel, revel; a loose thread; a short piece of thread clinging to one's clothing.
Sou'wester - fisherman's waterproof hat with a broad brim, elongated and sloping at the back, with side flaps tied under the chin; also south-wester, southwester, cape ann, lincoln, oil hat.

See Ghostly Crew for another NL ballad of haunting at sea.

See more NL shipwreck songs.


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