#01675
The Sea Ghost (Kenneth Peacock - Variant A)
See also: The Dreadful Ghost (Roberts/Barrand)

Click to jump down to Variant B

Click to jump down to Variant C

I am a butcher bound by my right,
And on the ocean I took great delight,
Till two young females did me beguile,
And one of them they did prove with child.

The other one in discontent,
Down in some silent grove she went,
All for to finish and end all strife,
She cut the single sweet thread of life.

She hung herself up to a tree,
And two men hunting they did her see;
Her flesh with birds was beastly tore,
Which grieved this young man's heart full sore.

They took a knife and cut her down,
And in her bosom a note was found,
A note was found, it was wrote in large:
"Bury me not now I'll give you charge.

"I'll follow him on sea or shore,
I'll follow him wherever he goes."
She did torment him and trouble him so,
Unto the seas he was forced to go.

As he was up on the maintop high,
A small boat he chanced to spy;
A little small boat, a large crew of men,
And a female ghost she stood up between.

'Twas down below this young man goes,
To tell the captain all of his foes.
"Captain, captain, my life defend,
Or a mighty spirit will carry my end."

'Twas up on deck the captain goes,
All for to face this young man's foes.
"Captain, captain, come tell me true,
Do such a man sail along with you?"

"'Twas in St. Tilley your young man died,
'Twas in St. Tilley his body lies."
"Captain, captain, don't say you so,
He's alive and living in your ship below.

"If you do stand in his defense,
A mighty storm unto you I'll send;
It will cause you and your men to weep,
And leave you all sleeping in the deep."

'Twas up on deck they forcèd him,
To save the goodly ship and men;
She fixed her eyes on him so grim
Which made him tremble in every limb.

'Twas in the boat they forcèd him,
To save the goodly ship and men;
The boat went down in a flame of fire
Which caused those sailors much to admire.

Collected in 1958 from Isaac Freeman Bennett [1896-1981] of St Paul's, NL, by Kenneth Peacock and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Volume 2, pp.398-399, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Variant B

Click to jump down to Variant C

Oh, I am a sailor and home do write,
And on the seas I take great delight,
The females think they did me beguile,
Till at length by two fair maids had child.

I promised to be true to both,
And I bound them safely all by an oath,
I promised them if I had but life
That one of them I'd make my wife.

The other poor girl was left alone,
Her sad misfortune for to atone,
Saying, "You have done this dreadful thing,
And a public shame upon me you bring."

A public shame for to prevent,
To a shady grove this fair one went,
And there to end all earthly strife,
She cut the slender thread of life.

She hung herself down from a tree
Where men out hunting did her see,
They got a knife and they cut her down,
And in her bosom a note they found.

And this was written out in large:
"Oh bury me not, I do discharge,
But here on earth let my body lie,
For maids to see as they pass by.

"And to take a warning all by my fate,
For to quit this folly 'fore it's too late."
She swore that she'd torment him so,
And 'twas on the seas he was forced to go.

One day while climbing the main-top high,
A little boat he chanced to spy,
A little boat with a woman in,
May this young man tremble down every limb!

Collected by Kenneth Peacock in 1952 from Howard Leopold Morry [1885-1972] of Ferryland, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Volume 2, pp.400-401, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Variant C

One day, one day in the main-top high
A little white boat oh he chanced to spy,
A little white boat oh appeared to him,
A woman and two little men.

Down decks, down decks oh this young man goes,
Down decks, down decks oh to escape his foes,
Saying, "Captain, captain, stand my defence,
For there is a ghost oh a-coming in."

Down decks, down decks, oh the captain goes,
He ordered this young man unto his foes.
Where she fixed her eyes oh on him so grim
Which made him tremble in every limb.

"Once I was a maid as you have known,
And 'twas by you I was overthrown,
Now I'm a ghost oh just come for thou,
You balked me once but I'll have you now."

She took him oh all by the hand
Down in this boat oh she made him stand,
The boat went down in a flame of fire.
Which caused the captain for to admire.

When she sank oh she rose again,
And then she sang oh this mournful strain:
"Captain and sailors I'll leave behind,
Don't never prove false to young womankind."

Collected by Kenneth Peacock in 1960 from Joshua Osbourne [c1903-?] of Seal Cove, White Bay, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Volume 2, pp.402-403, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

####.... All three of the above are variants of early 19th-century British broadside ballads whose authors are unknown: The Sailor's Tragedy [Laws P34A] and The Sailor And The Ghost [Laws P34B]. They are also variants of an early 19th-century British broadside ballad, The Sailor And The Ghost, as sung by three London actors: John Moody [1727-1812], Richard Suett [1755-1805], and Robert Palmer [1757-1805?] and published by Laurie and Whittle (London) in 1805, and archived at the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, shelfmark: Harding B 10(68) ....####

Kenneth Peacock noted that this is another ballad dealing with supernatural agencies who uncover criminals at sea (See also New York Trader and The Ship's Carpenter). The English poet George Crabbe was obviously impressed with this tale, for he quoted the closing couplet (of variant A) several times throughout his lifetime. The ballad dates from the middle of the eighteenth century, and until the turn of the next century it appears to have enjoyed some popularity on the stage. Perhaps this is where Crabbe first heard it. At any rate, a fancy illustrated broadside appeared on March 25, 1805, entitled The Sailor And The Ghost, as sung by a trio of stage personalities. William Roy Mackenzie [1883-1957] collected a variant in Nova Scotia called The Sailor's Tragedy and is responsible for the above background information. Although, noted Peacock, variant A is the most complete of the Newfoundland versions, all have something to contribute to the ballad. The tune of B is the best, for example; and C has an extra closing verse not found in other variants. Those who wish to use a complete version of the ballad will no doubt make their own collation of the texts.

A variant was also collected by Helen Creighton [1899-1989] and published as The Dreadful Ghost in Maritime Folk Songs, pp.116-117, Ryerson Press, Toronto, 1962.

A variant was also recorded as The Dreadful Ghost by John Roberts and Tony Barrand on their Dark Ships In The Forest: Ballads Of The Supernatural (Folk Legacy Records, 1977).


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