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The Dark-Eyed Sailor

[ Roud 265 ; Laws N35 ; G/D 5:1037 ; Henry H232 ; Ballad Index LN35 ; Bodleian Roud 265 ; Wiltshire Roud 265 ; trad.]

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.

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 Hark! The Village Wait 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 alternate 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 commented in the album's sleeve notes:

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.

Tony Rose sang The Dark-Eyed Sailor in 1982 on his album Poor Fellows. As this album is now unavailable, he re-recorded it in 1999 for his CD Bare Bones. He commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

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.

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.

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.

Lyrics

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's version on Hark! The Village Wait

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.

The 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's version on Poor Fellows

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.”