Henry's Songbook

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The Golden Vanity

  • (Trad - Child #286)

    There was a lofty ship and they put her out to sea
    And the name of the ship was the Golden Vanity
    And they sailed her on the lowland lowland low
    And they sailed her on the lowland sea

    And she had not been sailing but two weeks or three
    When she was overtaken by a Turkish revelry
    As she sailed along the lowland lowland low
    As she sailed along the lowland sea

    Then boldly up spoke our little cabin boy
    Saying, What would you give me if the galley I destroy
    If I sink them in the lowland lowland low
    If I sink them in the lowland sea

    To the man that them destroys, our captain then replied
    Five thousand pounds and my daughter for his bride
    If he'll sink them in the lowland lowland low
    If he'll sink them in the lowland sea

    The boy he made ready and overboard went he
    And he swam to the side of the Turkish enemy
    As she lay along the lowlands lowlands low
    As she lay along the lowland sea

    And he had a brace and auger made for the use
    And he bored nine holes in her hull all at once
    As she lay along the lowland lowland low
    As she lay along the lowland sea

    And some were playing poker and some were playing dice
    And some were in their hammocks and the sea as cold as ice
    And the water rushed in and it dazzled to their eyes
    They were sinking in the lowland sea

    He swam back to his ship and he beat upon the side
    Crying, Shipmates take me up for I'm wearied with the tide
    And I'm weary of the lowlands lowlands low
    I'm weary of the lowland sea

    Well, I'll not pick you up, the captain then replied
    I'll shoot you, I'll drown you, I'll sink you in the tide
    I will sink you in the lowland lowland low
    I will sink you in the lowland sea

    If it was not for the love that I bear for your men
    I'd do unto you as I did unto them
    I would sink you in the lowland lowland low
    I would sink you in the lowland sea

    And the boy bowed his head and down sank he
    And he said farewell to the Golden Vanity
    As she lay along the lowland lowland low
    As she lay along the lowland sea

    Repeat 1

    (as sung by Gordon Bok)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1912:] Golden Vanitee (Sir Walter Raleigh sailing in the Lowlands; showing how the famous ship called the Sweet Trinity was taken by a false galley; and how it was recovered by the craft of a little sea-boy, who sunk the galley; as the following song will declare: - Old Broadside by I. Conyers.) This ballad is reprinted in the 'Pepys Ballads', 1682-85, Ashton's 'Century of Ballads', and many collections of songs. A traditional version may be found in the 'Songs of the West', and Long's 'Isle of Wight', and a corrupt abridgement is printed by [the publisher of broadsheets] Mr. Such, who tells me that he is still constantly asked for it. In one version (possibly written up by Christopher North) the little boy secures his reward by threatening to scuttle his own ship. (Johnson, Ballads xxii)

  • [1959:] In some versions of this favourite ballad, the enemy is Turkish; in others, he is Spanish or French. Rarely, the song has a happy ending, with the brave boy saved and rewarded. Occasionally it concludes with the boy drowned, and his ghost returning to sink his own ship. More usually it ends as here, with the boy rejected by the cruel captain and pulled aboard too late by his shipmates. Samuel Pepys preserved a seventeenth-century broadside version in which the hero was Sir Walter Raleigh, but later singers seem to have cast aside this detail. [...]

    [The text of the EFS version] comes in the main from the version collected in 1900 by W. P. Merrick from Henry Hills, of Shepperton, Sussex. Mr Bolton explained that the 'black bear-skin' was the cabin-boy's covering at night, and that he wished to wear it as a disguise in the water. Other versions have been reported from Wiltshire and Cornwall. (EFS115)

  • [1964:] [The Sweet Kumadie] This very favourite ballad seems to have reached the height of its popularity in the seventeenth century, but English country singers went on singing it for another two hundred years, and during that time it crossed the border into Scotland and spread at least as far as Aberdeen in sundry shapes and to various tunes. Among his collection of ballad sheets, Samuel Pepys had a broadside of it, printed in the 1680s. In his version, the villainous captain is identified as Sir Walter Raleigh, and the ballad starts:

    Sir Walter Raleigh has built a ship in the Netherlands
    Sir Walter Raleigh has built a ship in the Netherlands
    And it is called The Sweet Trinity
    And was taken by the false gallaly sailing in the Lowlands

    In his time, Raleigh was no favourite with the common people, who considered him arrogant, selfish, an upstart, heartless to those beneath him.

    The ballad-story is sheer fiction but it corresponds to the popular view of Raleigh in his lifetime and for many decades after. Gradually, however, the character of Raleigh faded, his name dropped out of the ballad. Likewise the name of his ship, Sweet Trinity, became altered to Holy Trinity, Golden Vanity, Golden Victory (in Nelson's time), Yellow Golden Tree, Sweet Willow Tree, Sweet Kumadie, and others. The enemy is sometimes unspecified, sometimes French, sometimes Turkish. The fate of the brave little cabin-boy is also various, according to the emotional preference of the singer. Sometimes the boy is well-rewarded; in other versions he is left to drown; in others still he is picked up, dies on deck, is sewn in cowhide and thrown overboard. In the present version, the cow-hide motif is misplaced and the cabin-boy wears it as a kind of bathing costume. In some English versions, the boy dives overboard in his 'stark bare skin'. This got changed by one sailor singer into 'black bear-skin'. The singer explained that this was the boy's covering at night and he wished to wear it as a disguise while in the water. (A.L. Lloyd, notes 'English and Scottish Folk Ballads')

  • [1964:] Under more than twenty different titles and in hundreds of variants, this traditional ballad has long been one of the most popular on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Child traces the song back to a broadside of 17th century England which says that Sir Walter Raleigh was the owner of the ship (in that version known as The Sweet Trinity). The popular American version printed here [as sung by Gordon Bok] (learned from the singing of the Carter Family) enacts its drama as a piece of high tragedy. In various other versions, ship- mates rescue the cabin-boy (or seaman), or the captain gives the gold and fee but holds back the daughter, etc. One theme remains constant in all versions of the ballad, however: the perfidy of the ship's captain in reneging on his promise. Perhaps this is one reason why the folk, with a great wealth of experience to confirm the untrustworthiness of nobility, gentry and the like, have kept the song alive. (Reprint Sing Out 6, 332)

  • [1982:] Nach Francis James Child ist die Ballade The Golden Vanity um 1700 entstanden. [Eine Version] wurde bereits 1682 auf einem Fliegenden Blatt in London gedruckt. Sir Walter Raleigh soll der Besitzer des Schiffes 'The Sweet Trinity' gewesen sein, woraus im Laufe von über 200 Jahren der Name 'The Golden Vanity' wurde. Von diesem bei den Seefahrern beliebten Lied, das den Mut des einfachen Matrosen, die Willkür des Kapitäns und die Weite des unergründlichen Ozeans gleichermaßen besingt, existieren über 20 Fassungen. (Linde 67)

  • [1992:] This has been in my family a long time. Two or three of my mother's people sang it to me and, as usual, each had a different version. I've sung it all my singing life, and I hope it never leaves me. This is probably the fourth tune I've sung to it; it's a derivation of a tune Bob Stuart thought he'd learned from a book ... he didn't know he couldn't read music at the time. The words are a mixture of various family versions. The only one I can place is the "some were playing poker" verse which is from my Aunt Ethewyn, but even that has probably changed. (Gordon Bok, notes Bok Muir & Trickett, 'The First 15 Years Volume II')

  • See also
    The Turkish Reverie

Quelle: England

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 Sammlung : Susanne Kalweit (Kiel)
Layout : Henry Kochlin  (Schwerin)

13.02.2000, aktualisiert am 22.10.2003