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Jonas and the Devil

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 168635 ; trad.]

Bob Roberts sang Jonas and the Devil on his 1981 album Breeze for a Bargeman. He noted:

I learned this from my father who died in 1944 aged 74. He learned it from his grandfather. Some experts like to believe that it is a primitive version of the theme of the opera “Faust”.

The Dollymopps from the Isle of Wight sang Jonas and the Devil in 2014 on their WildGoose CD Wight Cockade. They noted:

The origins of this song are shrouded in mystery. Following his retirement to the Island in the 1970s, the great East Anglian singer Bob Roberts recorded two albums at his home in Ryde. The latter of these, recorded only a few months before his death in 1982, included this song. Bob stated in the sleeve notes that he had learned it from his [father], however, we can find no trace of it elsewhere in the tradition.

This video shows Virgil Philpott singing Jonas and the Devil at a Dollymopps gig at Brading Town Hall on 4 March 2014:


The Dollymopps sing Jonas and the Devil

Jonas hated work and toil,
He could not his master please.
All that Jonas really wanted
Was to live a life of ease.

Weary of his constant ploughing,
Weary of his arduous toil,
Jonas felt a nudge: beside him
Was the Devil, horns and all.

“Come sell to me your soul, my Jonas,
For a hundred golden pounds.
No more work and no more toil,
Drink your wine and ride to hounds.”

Jonas shook hands with the Devil,
“Take my soul and have your joy.
I’ll be turned an English gallant
’Stead of just a farmer’s boy.”

“Give to me then hundred sovereigns,
I’ll no more this furrow tread.
No more work and no more toil,
You shall have me when I’m dead.”

Jonas bought a pure white palfrey,
Ordered flagons fine and rare.
But where’er he went, he noticed
Master Devil standing there.

Soon his hundred pounds was fading,
Thirty, fifteen, ten and nine.
Jonas felt the heat of Hades
Every time he took his wine.

Dark and drear remorse struck Jonas,
Wished he had not left his kind.
Master Devil always whisp’ring,
“Soon now Jonas you’ll be mine.”

“I have not spent all your money,
Can we not a bargain clasp?
Save me from the heat of Hades,
I will do whate’er you ask.”

“There is only one way, Jonas,
Give me back what doth remain.
You shall sail the stormy oceans,
Never to come home again.”

Jonas did as he was bidden,
With him once again shook hands,
Thought perhaps he’d pay him one day
With some gold from far off lands.

So sadly to the strand went Jonas
With the Devil at his side,
“There’s the lofty ship you’ll sail in
Dropping on the falling tide.”

Soon the longboat came for Jonas,
Took him from his native shore.
Once aboard the barque poor Jonas
Stared in terror and in awe.

’Cause all the crew were horned and ghastly,
Hauling on the tops’l sheet.
And from out their breeks he noticed
They had tails and cloven feet.

So come all you who tend the soil
Bend your backs and steer your plough,
Or you’ll end like wretched Jonas,
Sailing to the Gates of Hell.