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The Sailor from Dover / The Rich Irish Lady

[ Roud 180 ; Laws P9 ; G/D 6:1219 ; Henry H72 ; Ballad Index LP09 ; Bodleian Roud 180 ; trad.]

Cecil Sharp collected The Sailor from Dover in 1909 from Mrs Lucy Durston, Bridgwater, Somerset. and Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd published it in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Lloyd recorded it in 1956 for his and Ewan MacColl's project The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, Volume III and in 1960 for his album A Selection from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Like all tracks from the latter LP it was reissued in 2003 on the CD England & Her Traditional Songs. Lloyd commented in the album's sleeve notes:

An old ballad [The Brown Girl (Roud 180; Child 295) - ed.], seldom met with now, tells of a dark girl whose sweetheart sends words that he cannot fancy her “because she is brown”. Later he falls dangerously ill, and begs her to come to him. At the bedside, like Barbara Allen, she mocks him. Mysteriously, she strokes his breast with a white wand to give him peace, but says she can never forgive him, and that she'll gleefully dance on his grave. Writers of broadside ballads seemed to feel this subtle story might not appeal to their customers, so they changed the situation to one in which a snobbish girl slights a sailor, and it is the honest seaman who finally looks forward to dancing on her grave. Evidently the pot-poets understood their market, for the sailor version has survived far better than the brown girl set. Sharp obtained the song from Mrs. Durston of Bridgwater, Somerset.

Shirley Collins recorded Sailor from Dover during the sessions for her and her sister Dolly's album Love, Death & the Lady. But as three other ones, this track was left out and only found its way onto the 1994 and 2003 CD reissues. Shirley Collins commented in the sleeve notes:

Completed from a fragment sung to me by Mrs. Ollie Gilbert in Timbo, Arkansas. I met Ollie and her husband Oscar in 1959 when I joined Alan Lomax on a field recording trip in the Southern United States. They had lived a typical old-style mountaineer life. Oscar was reputed to be “the fightingest man in Arkansas”, having killed seven men, mostly “over women and moonshine”. After dinner Oscar told me to “go join the womenfolk” while the men drank whiskey. I didn't protest—and Ollie and I had a splendid evening swapping songs.

Shirley Collins also sang this song as The Rich Irish Lady on her 2016 album Lodestar. She commented in the album notes:

Another song recorded on the field trip of 1959, it's from Horton Barker, recorded by Alan Lomax, in Chilhowie, Virginia. Hurton was a gentle, subtle singer, which for me intensifies the vengeful outcome of the story. When we were playing it at a mastering session, the engineer James Johnson turned to me when it came to the “dance on your grave” verse and said, “He doesn't mean it, does he?” Then as the fiddle tune drove in at the end, he shook himself. “Oh yes, he does, doesn't he!”

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings The Sailor from Dover

There was a sailor from Dover, from Dover he came
He courted a fair young damsel, and Sally was her name;
And she being so lofty and her portion being so high,
All on a poor sailor love she scarce would cast an eye.

“O Sally, dearest Sally, o Sally,” then said he,
“I fear that your false heart my ruin it will be;
Without your present hatred is turned into love,
You'll make me broken-hearted and my ruin it will prove.”

“I cannot love a sailor, nor any such a man,
So keep your heart in comfort and forget me if you can.
I pray you keep your distance and mind your own discourse,
For I never intend to marry you unless that I am forced.”

But when a year was over and twelve months they was past,
This lovely young damsel she grew sick in love at last.
Entangled she was all in her love, she did not know for why,
So she sent for the young man on whom she had an eye.

“Oh, am I now now the doctor, that you have sent for me?
Pray do you well remember how once you slighted me?
How once you slighted me, my love, and treated me with scorn,
So now I will reward you for all that you have done.”

“For what is past and gone,” she said, “I pray you to forgive,
And grant me just a little longer time for to live.”
“Oh no, my dearest Sally, as long as I have breath,
Well I'll dance all on your grave, love, as you lie under the earth.”

Shirley Collins sings Sailor from Dover

There was a sailor from Dover, from Dover there came
He courted a lovely lady, and Sally was her name;
But she being so lofty and her fortune being so high,
All on a poor sailor love she'd scarcely cast an eye.

“O Sally, dearest Sally, o Sally,” then said he,
“I fear that your false heart my ruin it will be;
Unless your present hatred is turned into love,
You'll leave me broken-hearted and my ruin it will prove.”

“I cannot love a sailor, nor any such a man,
So keep your heart in comfort and forget me if you can.
I pray you keep your distance and mind your own discourse,
For I never intend to marry you unless that I am forced.”

But when a year was over and a twelve months they were past,
A lovely young Sally, she grew so sick at last.
Entangled she was all in her love and she couldn't tell for why,
She sent for the young man whom on she had an eye.

“O Sally, dearest Sally, o Sally,” then said he,
Pray don't you remember, love, how once you slighted me?
How once you slighted me, my love, and you treated me with scorn,
So now I will reward you for all that you have done.”

“For what is past and gone,” she said, “I pray you to forgive,
And grant me just a little longer on this old Earth to live.”
“Oh no, my dearest Sally, as long as I've had breath,
I'll dance all on your grave, my love, as you lay under the earth.”

Shirley Collins sings The Rich Irish Lady

There was a rich lady from London she came,
She was called Pretty Sally, Pretty Sally by name.
Her wealth it was more than a king could possess,
Her beauty was more than her wealth at its best.

There was a young doctor was living hard by
Who on this fair maiden in love cast his eye.
He courted her nightly a year and a day
But still she refused him and ever say nay.

“O Sally, dear Sally, Pretty Sally,“ says he,
“Can you tell me the reason our love can't agree?
Your cruel unkindness my ruin will prove
Unless all your hatred will turn into love.”

“I've no hatred to you nor to other man
But truly to marry you I never can.
Give over your courting, I pray you be still
For you I'll ne'er marry of my own free will.”

'Twas soon after this, scarce a year had gone by
Pretty Sally got sick and she feared she would die.
She tangled was in love and she knew not for why,
She sent for the doctor she once did deny.

“So am I the doctor whose skill you would try?
Or am I the young man you once did deny?”
“Yes you are the doctor, can kill or can cure,
Unless you can help me I'm dying I'm sure.”
“But Sally, Pretty Sally, O Sally,” said he,
“Don't you remember that you once slighted me?”

“For what's past and done, sir, I hope you'll forgive
And grant me some longer in this wide world to live.”
“That I'll ne'er do, Sally, while I do draw breath,
But I'll dance on your grave when you're laid in the earth.”

“Ten thousand times over my folly I see,
I freely forgive you although you won't me.”
Then off from her fingers gold rings she drew three,
Saying, “Take them and wear them when your dancing on me.”