The Dark-Eyed Sailor
Phil Tanner sang this well-known broken-token song as Fair Phoebe and the Dark-Eyed Sailor on a BBC recording made on April 22, 1949 at Penmaen. It was included in 1968 on his eponymous EFDSS album, Phil Tanner, and in 2003 on his Veteran anthology CD The Gower Nightingale.
A.L. Lloyd sang The Dark-Eyed Sailor, in 1956 on his Riverside LP English Street Songs. He noted:
Like The Indian Lass, this widespread ballad presents the idealised sailor in a situation which was a favourite with 19th century stall ballad printers. In it, a tear stained beauty encounters her sailor lover (long thought drowned) by the shores of the rolling sea. He identifies himself (with the aid of the much used ring-token) and they marry and live happily thereafter. So firmly did street balladeers’ leaflets fix this song in the minds of the people, that its many versions, collected over wide areas of Britain and America, hardly vary at all, and seem to have remained virtually unaffected by the processes of oral transmission usual with folk songs.
Peter Bellamy sang The Dark-Eyed Sailor, in 1969 on his second LP, Fair England's Shore.
Steeleye Span recorded this song for their first album, Hark! The Village Wait with both Gay Woods and Maddy Prior singing. A live version from St. David's Hall, Cardiff on December 6, 1994 can be found on the video 25 Live: The Classic Twenty Fifth Anniversary Tour Concert. Another live recording from The Forum, London on September 2, 1995 was released on the CD The Journey. The first album's sleeve notes commented:
A song after the fashion of John Riley commonly found on broadsides. Gay and Terry heard this version from Al O'Donnell, a friend and singer in Dublin. It must be remembered that sea voyages a few centuries ago could take years to complete and it is not surprising that the two lovers should each take one half of a ring as a token of their enduring love. Hutchings: “This was brought in by Terry & Gay, and it's a song I still perform today with The Albion Band.”
Walter Pardon sang The Dark-Eyed Sailor (recorded by Bill Leader, Peter Bellamy and Reg Hall in June 1974) on his Leader LP A Proper Sort and in an alternative recording on his Topic CD A World Without Horses.
Louis and Sally Killen sang The Dark-Eyed Sailor in 1975 on their LP Bright Shining Morning. Louis Killen noted:
This is the classic “broken token” song and can be found, almost without variant in tune or text, throughout the British Isles, Newfoundland, and the Maritime Provinces. I learned this from a good friend and source of songs, Brian Ballinger, in Oxford in 1956.
Perhaps the best known of all the “broken token” songs. The remarkable consistency of tune and text is largely due to the amazing popularity of the Catnach broadside of 1836.
John Bowden sang Fair Phoebe and the Dark-Eyed Sailor on his and Vic Shepherd's 1982 album A Motty Down. They noted:
Many years ago we heard Tony Rose sing some of Phil Tanner's song, and soon afterwards we bought the EFDSS record, which has remained a treasured part of our collection ever since. Although an old man when it was recorded, Phil Tanner was a marvellous stylist with the range and flexibility of voice of a man half his age. This lovely broke-token song has been one of John's favourites for many years.
June Tabor recorded The Dark-Eyed Sailor in 1990 with the Oysterband for their album Freedom and Rain; Kate Rusby and Kathryn Roberts sang it in 1995 on their eponymous album Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts, and Ruth Notman recorded it in 2007 for her first CD Threads.
Kelly Oliver sang Dark-Eyed Sailor on her 2018 CD Botany Bay. She noted:
Collected by Lucy Broadwood in Hertfordshire; taken from The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.
The moral of this story is to stay true to your love while they are away, but also to try and remember what your fiancée looks like.
Belinda Kempster and Fran Foote sang Dark Eyed Sailor on their 2019 CD On Clay Hill.
Compare to this Lal Waterson singing The Welcome Sailor on her and Norma Waterson's LP and CD A True Hearted Girl, to Joan Baez singing John Riley on her first, eponymous album (Vanguard VSD 2077), and to Nancy Kerr singing the same song as The Poor and Young Single Sailor on her and Eliza Carthy's second album Shape of Scrape.
Peter Bellamy sings The Dark-Eyed Sailor
It's of a charming young lady fair,
She went walking out for to take the air;
She met a sailor all on her way
𝄆 And I paid attention 𝄇 to hear what they did say.
He said, “Fair lady, why do you walk alone,
For the day is gone and the night is come?”
Said she while tears from her eyes did fall,
“𝄆 It is the dark-eyed sailor 𝄇 has caused me my downfall.”
“'Tis three long years since he left this land
He pulled a gold ring from off his hand.
We broke the token and this half's with me,
𝄆 And the other lies rollin' 𝄇 at the bottom of the sea.”
He said, “Fair lady, drive him from your mind,
For I'm as good as he, you'll find.”
But she drew a dagger and loud she did cry,
“𝄆 For my dark-eyed sailor 𝄇 I lived and now I'll die.”
The other token he then did show,
She was distracted midst joy and woe.
“Oh William doar, I have land and I have gold
And a store of silver
“𝄆 For my dark-eyed sailor 𝄇 so manly true and bold.”
Steeleye Span sing The Dark-Eyed Sailor
As I roved out one evening fair,
It bein' the summertime to take the air,
I spied a sailor and a lady gay
𝄆 And I stood to listen 𝄇 to hear what they would say.
He said “Fair lady, why do you roam,
For the day is spent and the night is on.”
She heaved a sigh while the tears did roll:
“𝄆 For my dark-eyed sailor 𝄇, so young and stout and bold.”
“'Tis seven long years since he left this land,
A ring he took from off his lily-white hand.
One half of the ring is still here with me,
𝄆 But the other's rollin' 𝄇 at the bottom of the sea.”
He said, “You may drive him out of your mind,
Some other young man you will surely find.
Love turns aside and soon cold has grown
𝄆 Like a winter's morning 𝄇, the hills all white with snow.”
She said, “I'll never forsake my dear,
Although we're parted this many a year.
Genteel he was and no rake like you,
𝄆 To induce a maiden 𝄇 to slight the jacket blue.”
One half of the ring did young William show,
She ran distracted, in grief and woe.
Sayin': “William, Will, I have gold in store,
𝄆 For my dark-eyed sailor 𝄇 has proved his honour true.”
And there is a cottage by yonder lea,
This couple's married and does agree.
So maids, be loyal when your love's at sea,
𝄆 For a cloudy morning 𝄇 brings in a sunny day.
Note: The live version on The Journey has only five verses in the order 1-5-4-6-7 and some small text differences; e.g. “might” instead of “would” at the last line of verse 1, “shun” instead of “slight” at the last line of verse 5 and “summer's day” instead of “sunny day” in the very last line. And I'm not sure about the end of verse 6 in both versions at all—it sounds more like “overthrow” than “honour true”. Can anyone help?
Tony Rose sings The Dark-Eyed Sailor
It's of a comely young lady fair
Was walking out for to take the air.
She met a sailor all on her way;
𝄆 So I paid attention 𝄇 to hear what they did say.
Said William, “Why do you walk alone,
For the day is done and the night is come?”
Said she as tears from her eyes did fall,
“𝄆 'Twas the dark-eyed sailor 𝄇 has provèd my downfall.”
“It's seven long years since he's left the land
When he took the gold ring from off his hand.
He broke the token in half with me,
𝄆 Now the other's rollin' 𝄇 at the bottom of the sea.”
Said William, “Chase him from your mind,
For a better sailor's than him you'll find.
Love a-turns aside and soon cold has grown
𝄆 Like a winter's morning 𝄇 when the land is white with snow.”
These words did Phoebe's fond heart inflame,
She said, “On me you shall play no game.”
She drew a dagger and then did cry,
“𝄆 For my dark-eyed sailor 𝄇 a maid I'll live and die.”
Oh his coal-black eyes and his curly hair,
His 'mazing tongue did my heart ensnare.
Upright he was, not a rogue like you
𝄆 To entice a maiden 𝄇 to slight the jacket blue.”
So William then did the token show,
She seemed distracted midst joy and woe.
“Welcome William, for I've land and gold
And a store of silver
For my dark-eyed sailor so manly true and bold.”