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The Saucy Sailor

[ Roud 531 ; Laws K38 ; G/D 1:49 ; Ballad Index LK38 ; trad.]

Peter Bellamy sang The Saucy Sailor unaccompanied on his first solo LP, Mainly Norfolk (1968). He commented in the album's liner notes:

The songs which complete each side of the record are both “foreign” [i.e. not collected in Norfolk] — the reason for including them being that I like them too much not to. Both were collected by Cecil Sharp and published in his Folksongs from Somerset [1915]: The Turtle Dove from Mrs Glover of Huish Episcopi and The Saucy Sailor from Mr Thomas Hendy of Ilminster.

Frankie Armstrong sang The Saucy Sailor in 1972 on her album Lovely on the Water with word similar to Peter Bellamy's. She was accompanied by Jez Lowe on concertina.

Saucy Sailor was also collected by George Butterworth in Sussex in 1907 and published in the Journal of the Folk Song Society. This was the source for Steeleye Span's recording on their fourth album Below the Salt (1972). This recording also appeared in 1978 as B-side of their single Rag Doll. A live version from Steeleye Span's 1978 farewell tour—then with Martin Carthy and John Kirkpatrick—can be found on the album Live at Last!. The first album's sleeve notes introduced the song with the words:

Seven long years he strode the seven seas,
Seven league boots, salt-caked above the knees,
Seven bright stars, the road across the foam,
Seven light verses tell his coming home.

Steeleye Span's singer Maddy Prior also recorded this song in 1993 for her solo album Year. She commented in the album sleeve notes:

Saucy Sailor is a wonderful song to sing and I've sung it for many years with Steeleye and it is delightfully comfortable. Its cynical and spiteful lyrics simply trip off the tongue.

A live recording from Maddy Prior's Arthur the King tour at Castle Hall, Liverpool on May 8, 2003 was included in her anthology Collections: A Very Best of 1995 to 2005.

Bernard Wrigley sang Saucy Sailor on his 1974 album Rough & Wrigley.

Johnny Doughty sang The Saucy Sailor Boy on a 1976 home recording made by Mike Yates. This recording was published in 1977 on his Topic LP Round Rye Bay for More: Traditional Songs from the Sussex Coast. This song was included with the title Come My Own One, Come My Fond One in 1998 on the Topic antholoy My Ship Shall Sail the Ocean (The Voice of the People Series Volume 2).

Fred Jordan sang The Saucy Sailor on a 1982 recording by Sybil Clare. This was included on his Veteran 2CD anthology A Shropshire Lad.

And Leslie van Berkum recorded Saucy Sailor in 2003 with Steeleye Span's arrangement for her self-titled album Leslie van Berkum.

Mike Bosworth sang The Saucy Sailor on his 2004 CD By Chance It Was: Songs from the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould Collection. He was accompanied by John Kirkpatrick on accordion.

The Witches of Elswick sang The Saucy Sailor in 2005 on their second and last CD, Hell's Belles. They commented in their sleeve notes:

Bryony [Griffith] first heard a version of this on a borrowed Steeleye Span record at the age of 14 and was most impressed that a folk song had her name in it. This is a different version that she found in a Baring-Gould and Cecil Sharp book of English Folk Songs for Schools. Sadly no source details are given but the preface clearly states that the collection “meets the requirements of the Board of Education”, so we think the sailor might once have been a lot saucier.

Viv Legg sang Saucy Sailor on her 2006 Veteran CD Romany Roots. Mike Yates commented in the liner notes:

The earliest known versions of this song can be dated to the end of the 18th century. A number of mid-Victorian broadside printers kept the song in print (Disley, Fortey and Such in London, and Pratt in Birmingham, for example) and several Edwardian song collectors, including Cecil Sharp, George Butterworth, Ralph Vaughan Williams, George Gardiner and Percy Grainger (all in England), and Gavin Greig in Scotland, noted many sets. The song has also turned up in several locations along the eastern seaboard of North America (from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in the north, to as far south as Florida) and, on occasion, in Kentucky and West Virginia. Other recent English singers, including Walter Pardon of Norfolk and Johnny Doughty of Sussex, had the song in their respective repertoires.

Mawkin:Causley recorded The Saucy Sailor in 2009 for their CD The Awkward Recruit and sang it at Wat Tyler Folk Festival on September 5, 2009:

Jon Boden sang Saucy Sailor as the August 18, 2010 entry of his A Folk Song a Day, commenting, “The Steeleye version of this is one of my favourite of their tracks,” but goes on to name his source for this as The Witches of Elswick adding, “but this version is much more robust and most suited for massed voices.”

Andy Turner sang Saucy Sailor as the September 11, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week. He cited Steeleye Span's album as the one that turned him onto folk music, but referred to the Take Six website for further versions of Come My Own One collected by George Butterworth.

Lyrics

Peter Bellamy sings The Saucy Sailor Steeleye Span sing Saucy Sailor

“Come you dearest, come you fairest,
Come tell unto me.
Could you marry a poor sailor boy
Who has just come from sea?”

“Come my own one, come my fair one,
Come now unto me.
Could you fancy a poor sailor lad
Who has just come from sea?”

“I can't marry no poor sailor,
No poor sailor for me.
For to cross the wide ocean
Is a terror to me.

And you're ragged, love, and you're dirty, love,
And your clothes they smell of tar.
So be gone, you saucy sailor boy,
So be gone, you Jack Tar.”

“You are ragged, love, you're dirty, love,
And your clothes smell much of tar.
So be gone, you saucy sailor lad,
So be gone, you Jack Tar.”

“I may be ragged, love, I may be dirty, love,
And my clothes they smell of tar,
But I've got silver in my pocket
And gold in great store.”

“If I am ragged, love, and I'm dirty, love,
And my clothes smell much of tar,
I have silver in my pocket, love
And gold in great store.”

When she heard these words come form him
Down on bended knees she fell,
Saying, “I'll marry my dear sailor boy
'Cause I love him right well well.”

And then when she heard him say so
On her bended knees she fell,
“I will marry my dear Henry
For I love a sailor lad so well.”

“Do you think that I am foolish love?
Do you think that I am mad?
For to marry with some poor country girl
Where no fortune's to be had?

“Do you think that I am foolish love?
Do you think that I am mad?
For to wed with a poor country girl
Where no fortune's to be had?

I will cross the briny ocean,
When the meadows they are green,
Since you have had the offer, love,
Another may have the ring.

I will cross the briny ocean,
I will whistle and sing.
And since you have refused the offer, love,
Some other girl shall wear the ring.

For I'm young, love, and I'm frolicsome,
I am easy and I am free,
And I don't give a straw, love,
What the world may think of me.”

Oh, I am frolicsome and I am easy,
Good tempered and free,
And I don't give a single pin, my boys,
What the world thinks of me.”

The Witches of Elswick sing The Saucy SailorJon Boden sings Saucy Sailor

“Come my own love, come my true love,
Come and listen unto me.
Could you wed with a poor sailor lad
𝄆 Who has just returned from sea?” 𝄇

“Come my own love, come my true love,
Come and listen unto me.
Could you wed with a poor sailor lad
𝄆 Who has just returned from sea?” 𝄇

“I will indeed not wed a sailor lad
For his clothes smell strong of tar.
You're a dirty, ragged, saucy sailor lad,
𝄆 Now begone, you Jacky Tar!” 𝄇

“Oh indeed I'll not wed a sailor lad
For his clothes smell strong of tar.
You're a dirty, ragged, saucy sailor lad,
𝄆 So begone, you Jacky Tar!” 𝄇

“Although I'm dirty and though I'm ragged
And my clothes of tar do smell,
I have silver in my pocket
𝄆 And a store of gold as well.” 𝄇

“Although I'm dirty, love, and I'm ragged
And my clothes of tar do smell,
I have silver in my pocket, love,
𝄆 And a store of gold as well.” 𝄇

And when she's heard him say these words unto her
Down upon her knee she fell,
Saying, “Dirty, ragged, saucy sailor lads
𝄆 I love more than words can tell.” 𝄇

And when she's heard him say these words unto her
Down upon her knee she fell,
Saying, “Dirty, ragged, saucy sailor lad
𝄆 I love more than words can tell.” 𝄇

“Oh do you think me to be foolish?
Do you think that I am mad?
That I'd wed with the likes of you, my lass,
𝄆 When there's others to be had?” 𝄇

“Do you think me to be foolish?
Do you think that I am mad?
For to wed with the likes of you, my lass,
𝄆 When there's others to be had?” 𝄇

“For I shall cross o'er the briny ocean
And my ship shall spread her wings,
And there I'll find a better love than you, my lass,
It's 𝄆 not for you, this wedding ring.” 𝄇

“For I shall cross o'er the briny ocean
And my ship shall spread her wings,
And there I'll find a better love than you, my lass,
𝄆 It's not for you, this wedding ring.” 𝄇

“For you may cross all the briny ocean
And your ship shall spread her wings,
No more will I refuse a saucy sailor lad
𝄆 Lest he bears a wedding ring.𝄇
No more will I refuse a saucy sailor lad
Lest he bears a wedding ring.”

“Oh, you may cross all the briny ocean
And your ship shall spread her wings,
No more will I refuse a saucy sailor lad
𝄆 Lest he bears a wedding ring.” 𝄇

Viv Legg sings Saucy Sailor

“Come, my dear one, come, my fair one,
Come, my sweetheart unto me,
For soon we shall be married,
And my wife you shall be.”

“Be gone, my saucy sailor lad,
Be gone, my jack tar,
Be gone, you dirty sailor lad.
Your clothes they smell so strong of tar.”

“If I'm ragged, love,
Or if I'm dirty, love,
Or if my clothes they smell of tar,
There is silver in my pocket, love,
And gold in great store.”

When she did hear him say so,
On her bended knees she fell,
Saying, “I'll wed you, jolly Henry,
Love a sailor lad still.”

“Do you think that I am foolish, love?
Do you think that I've gone mad?
To be wed to a poor country girl,
Where there's no fortune to be had.”

“I'll travel across the briny ocean, love,
Where the meadows are growing green,
And since you've refused the offer, love.
Then another girl shall wear the ring.”