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My Jolly Sailor Bold

[ Roud V15363 ; Bodleian Roud V15363 ; trad.]

Sandra Kerr sang My Jolly Sailor Bold in 1966 on The Critics Group' Argo anthology of London songs, Sweet Thames Flow Softly. The album's booklet commented:

The exploits of Jolly Jack at sea and of his solace and loves ashore occupy a major place in English folk music tradition. Taken from J. Ashton's Real Sailor Songs this is typical of many 19th Century songs in which a maiden of high degree defies her parents and forsakes a fortune in pursuit of her sailor love.

Danny Spooner sang My Jolly Sailor Bold in 2014 on his CD Sailor's Consolation. He noted:

Taken from John Ashton's True Sailor Songs (London 1891), reprinted Benjamin Blom Inc N.Y. 1972. My lovely Aunt Jess, a real cockney, used to really belt this song out.

My Jolly Sailor Bold is also a song from the repertoire of The Jovial Crew. They noted on their website:

This is a wonderful love song/ballad that relates to a sailor from the direction of the lady involved. It has gained much popularity of late due to its use in the fourth movie (On Stranger Tides) of the universally enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. […]

In any event, the earliest version in print that I am aware of is in the book Real Sailor Songs by John Ashton, 1891. This does not denote that the song dates from that period, for John Ashton makes it clear that he was collecting “old sailor songs” of a certain age rather than anything of recent vintage. However, much like many songs that enjoyed some time of oral tradition before finally being published, it is difficult to date; it has the hallmarks of a vaudeville or music hall composition and I can imagine it having been published in broadside bills. I have a friend who agrees with that, telling me that it is in the British Library, catalogue # C.116.i.1 “My Jolly Sailor Bold as published in London c.1850”. […]

A delightful version most recently released is sung in the third person by Danny Spooner in his CD Sailor's Consolation in which he sings it in D major instead of the darker minor keys most people seem to sing it in since it was featured in On Stranger Tides. It really is a sweeter song of love with no murder or disaster, so it seems to be better served in a brighter key.

Lyrics

John Ashton's My Jolly Sailor Bold

Upon one summer’s morning, I carelessly did stray,
Down by the Wall of Wapping, where I met a sailor gay,
Conversing with a bouncing lass, who seem’d to be in pain,
Saying, William, when you go, I fear you’ll ne'er return again.

His hair it did in ringlets hang, his eyes as black as sloes,
May happiness attend him wherever he goes,
From Tower Hill, down Blackwall, I will wander, weep, and moan,
All for my jolly sailor bold, until he does return.

My father is a merchant—the truth I now will tell,
And in great London City in opulence doth dwell,
His fortune doth exceed £300,000 in gold,
And he frowns upon his daughter, cause she loves a sailor bold.

A fig for his riches, and his merchandise, and gold!
True love is grafted in my heart; give me my sailor bold;
Should he return in poverty, from o’er the ocean far,
Onto my tender bosom, I'll fondly press my jolly tar.

My sailor is a smiling as the pleasant Month of May,
And oft we have wandered through Ratcliffe Highway,
Where many a pretty blooming girl we happy did behold,
Reclining on the bosom of her jolly sailor bold.

Come all you pretty fair maids, whoever you may be,
Who love a jolly sailor bold that ploughs the raging sea,
While up aloft in storm and gale, from me his absence mourn,
And firmly pray, arrive the day, he home will safe return.

My name it is Maria, a merchant’s daughter fair,
And I have left my parents and three thousand pounds a year,
Her heart is pierced by Cupid, I disdain all glittering gold,
There is nothing can console me but my jolly sailor bold.

The Jovial Crew sing My Jolly Sailor Bold

Upon one summer’s morning as I carelessly did stray,
Down by the wall of Wapping, where I met a sailor gay,
Conversing with a bouncing lass, who seem’d to be in pain,
Saying, “William, when you go I fear you’ll not return again.”

His hair it did in ringlets hang, his eyes as black as sloes,
May happiness attend on him wherever that he goes,
From Tower Hill, down to Blackwall, she’ll wander, weep, and moan,
All for her jolly sailor bold, until he does return.

Her father is a merchant and the truth to you I’ll tell,
And in great London City in opulence doth dwell,
His fortune doth exceed £300,000 in gold,
And he frowns upon his daughter, for she loves a sailor bold.

But a fig for his riches, all his merchandise, and gold!
True love is grafted in her heart; she loves her sailor bold;
Should he return in poverty, from o’er the seas so far,
Onto her tender bosom will she press her jolly tar.

Her sailor is as smiling as the pleasant month of May,
And ofttimes they have wandered all through Ratcliffe Highway,
Where many a pretty blooming girl they happy did behold,
Reclining on the bosoms of their jolly sailors bold.

So come all you pretty fair maids, whoever that you be,
Who love a jolly sailor bold that ploughs the raging sea,
While up aloft, in storm and gale, from you his absence mourn,
And firmly pray, God speed the day, he home will safe return.

Her name it is Maria, she’s a merchant’s daughter fair,
She’s left her home and family and three thousand pounds a year,
Her heart is pierced by Cupid’s dart; she shuns all glittering gold,
And there’s nothing can console her but her jolly sailor bold.