978-793-1553 fitz@johnfitz.com

The Golden Vanity

There was a ship that sailed
all on the Lowland Sea,
and the name of our ship
was the Golden Vanity, and we feared she would be taken
by the Spanish enemy
as she sailed in the Lowland,
Lowland, low,
as she sailed in the Lowland sea.

Then up stepped our cabin boy
and boldly outspoke he
and he said to our captain
“what would you give to me
If I would swim along side
of the Spanish enemy
and sink her in the Lowland,
Lowland, low
and sink her in the Lowland, sea

“Oh, I would give you silver
and I would give you gold,
And my own fairest daughter
your bonny bride shall be,
If you will swim along side
of the Spanish enemy
and sink her in the Lowland,
Lowland low
And sink her in the Lowland sea.

The boy he made him read
And overboard sprang he
and he swam alongside
of the Spanish enemy
And with his brace and auger
in her side he bored holes three,
And he sunk her in the Lowland,
Lowland Low,
And he sunk her in the Lowland Sea.

Then quickly he swam back
to the cheering of the crew
But the captain would not heed him
for his promise he did rue,
and he scorned his poor entreatings
when loudly he did sue,
And he left him in the Lowland,
Lowland, Low
And he left him in the Lowland Sea.

Then quickly he swam round
to the port side
And up to his messmates
full bitterly he cried,
“Oh, messmates, draw me up
for I’m drifting with the tide,
And I’m sinking in the Lowland,
Lowland, Low
I’m sinking in the lowland sea.”

Then his messmates drew him up,
But on the deck he died,
And they stitched him in his hammock
Which was so fair and wide,
And they lowered him overboard
And he drifted with the tide,
And he sank in the Lowland,
Lowland, low
And he sank in the Lowland sea.

& Discussion


The Golden Vanity tells the story of a cabin boy who volunteers to sink three enemy ships.  In exchange the captain promises gold and silver, land, and his daughter’s hand in marriage.  The cabin boy then swims to the ships and sinks them by boring holes in the sides of the ship.  Exhausted, he swims back to the ship, but the captain breaks his promise and won’t help him up. When he is nearly drowned his shipmates haul him on deck where he soon dies.  They stitch him in his hammock and cast him overboard after a brief funeral service.  The cabin boy then drifts slowly away with the tide.
for form, structure and repetition

1. There was a ship that sailed (A) 6
2. all on the Lowland Sea, (B) 6
3. and the name of our ship (C) 6
4. was the Golden Vanity (B) 7
5. and we feared she’d be taken (D) 8
6. by the Spanish enemy (B) 7
7. as she sailed in the Lowland, (E) 7
8. Lowland, low (F) 3
9. as she sailed in the Lowland sea. (B) 8

(The last three lines repeat in every verse.)


Major Themes:

  • Hope: The cabin boy wants to better his place in life by sinking the enemy ships.
  • Courage: The cabin boy is brave to swim to the Turkish ships and sink them.
  • Deception/betrayal: When the captain goes back on his word.
  • Love & Respect: When the crew lifts him back on deck and gives him a proper burial after he dies.
  • Unfair loss:  The world loses a good decent person while evil triumphs.


Why this song survives:

This song tells a story that leaves me mad at the deception and betrayal of the captain, but I am moved by the respect, tenderness and love the crew shows to the cabin boy. I think the song survives because the themes remain powerful to this day and the story is both sweet and sad.


Gallow’s Pole 

Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while,
Think I see my friends coming, Riding a many mile.
Friends, did you get some silver?
Did you get a little gold?
What did you bring me, my dear friends, To keep me from the Gallows Pole?
What did you bring me to keep me from the Gallows Pole?

I couldn’t get no silver, I couldn’t get no gold,
You know that we’re too damn poor to keep you from the Gallows Pole.
Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while,
I think I see my brother coming, riding a many mile.
Brother, did you get me some silver?
Did you get a little gold?
What did you bring me, my brother, to keep me from the Gallows Pole?

Brother, I brought you some silver,
I brought a little gold, I brought a little of everything
To keep you from the Gallows Pole.
Yes, I brought you to keep you from the Gallows Pole.

Hangman, hangman, turn your head awhile,
I think I see my sister coming, riding a many mile, mile, mile.
Sister, I implore you, take him by the hand,
Take him to some shady bower, save me from the wrath of this man,
Please take him, save me from the wrath of this man, man.

Hangman, hangman, upon your face a smile,
Pray tell me that I’m free to ride,
Ride for many mile, mile, mile.

Oh, yes, you got a fine sister, She warmed my blood from cold,
Brought my blood to boiling hot To keep you from the Gallows Pole,
Your brother brought me silver, Your sister warmed my soul,
But now I laugh and pull so hard And see you swinging on the Gallows Pole
Swingin’ on the gallows pole!

Here is another version recorded by Leadbelly in 1940–the undisputed master of the 12 string guitar!


 Barbara Allen


All in the merry month of May,
When green buds they were swellin’
Young Willie Grove on his death-bed lay,
For love of Barb’ra Allen.

He sent his servant to her door
To the town where he was dwellin’
Haste ye come, to my master’s call,
If your name be be Barb’ra Allen.

So slowly, slowly got she up,
And slowly she drew nigh him,
And all she said when there she came:
“Young man, I think you’re dying!”

He turned his face unto the wall
And death was drawing nigh him.
Good bye, Good bye to dear friends all,
Be kind to Bar’bra Allen

When he was dead and laid in grave,
She heard the death bell knelling.
And every note, did seem to say
Oh, cruel Barb’ra Allen

“Oh mother, mother, make my bed
Make it soft and narrow
Sweet William died, for love of me,
And I shall of sorrow.”

They buried her in the old churchyard
Sweet William’s grave was neigh hers
And from his grave grew a red, red rose
From hers a cruel briar.

They grew and grew up the old church spire
Until they could grow no higher
And there they twined, in a true love knot,
The red, red rose and the briar.


Barbara Allen (coming soon)

sung by John Fitzsimmons


& Discussion



A diary entry by Samuel Pepys on January 2, 1666 contains the earliest extant reference to the song. In it, he recalls the fun and games at a New Years party:[3]

“…but above all, my dear Mrs Knipp whom I sang; and in perfect pleasure I was to hear her sing, and especially her little Scotch song of Barbary Allen.”

From this, Roud & Bishop inferred the song was popular at the time. They suggested that it may have been written for stage performance, as Elizabeth Knepp was a professional actress, singer, and dancer.[2]

One 1690 broadside of the song was published in London under the loquacious title “Barbara Allen’s cruelty: or, the young-man’s tragedy. With Barbara Allen’s [l]amentation for her unkindness to her lover, and her self”.[4] Additional printing were common in Britain throughout the eighteenth century, several of which were printed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne,Edinburgh or Aberdeen indicating that the song was of Scottish or northern English origin. The ballad was first printed in the United States in 1836.[citation needed] Many variations of the song continued to be printed on broadsides in the United States through the 19th and 20th centuries. It was also passed orally and spread by inclusion in songbooks and newspaper columns, along with other popular ballads such as “The Farmer’s Curst Wife” and “The Golden Vanity“.[5]

Illustration from 1840 printing in theForget Me Not Songster
Although renditions of the song can vary considerably in plot, they generally follow a common narrative. A young man lies dying for the love of Barbara Allen; he has a servant summon her to his bedside for solace, but she does little but scorn him. Denied his true love, the hero succumbs to illness; in some versions, he leaves her an inheritance before dying.[6] Upon hearing the church bells of his funeral, Barbara Allen regrets her decision and senses that her own death is near. She too dies of heartbreak, and they are buried beside one another.[7] The song often concludes with a “rose-briar motif” of several stanzas describing floral growth on the lovers’ neighboring graves, symbolising fidelity in love even after death.[8] This motif is shared with other ballads, including “Lord Thomas and Fair Annet“, “Lord Lovel“, and “Fair Margaret and Sweet William“.[9]

[Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Allen_(song)]

It fell upon a holy day, as many’s in the year,
Musgrave to the church did go, to see fine ladies there.

And some were dressed in velvet red, and some in velvet pale,
And then in came Lord Barnard’s wife, the fairest among them all.

She cast an eye on the Little Musgrave, as bright as the summer sun,
Said Musgrave unto himself, “This lady’s heart I’ve won.”

“I have loved you, fair lady, full long and many’s the day.”
“And I have loved you, Little Musgrave, and never a word did say.”

“I’ve a bower in Bucklesfordbury, it’s my heart’s delight.
I’ll take you back there with me if you’ll lie in me arms tonight.”

But standing by was a little footpage, from the lady’s coach he ran,
“Although I am a lady’s page, I am Lord Barnard’s man.”

“And milord Barnard will hear of this, oh whether I sink or swim.”
Everywhere the bridge was broke he’d enter the water and swim.

“Oh milord Barnard, milord Barnard, you are a man of life,
But Musgrave, he’s at Bucklesfordbury, asleep with your wedded wife.”

“If this be true, me little footpage, this thing that you tell me,
All the gold in Bucklesfordbury I gladly will give to thee.”

“But if this be a lie, me little footpage, this thing that you tell me,
From the highest tree in Bucklesfordbury hanged you will be.”

“Go saddle me the black,” he said, “go saddle me the gray.”
“And sound ye not your horns,” he said, “lest our coming be betrayed.”

But there was a man in Lord Barnard’s thrain, who loved the Little Musgrave,
He blew his horn both loud and shrill, “Away, Musgrave, away.”

“I think I hear the morning cock, I think I hear the jay,
I think I hear Lord Barnard’s men, I wish I was away.”

“Lie still, lie still, me Little Musgrave, hug me from the cold,
It’s nothing but a shepherd lad, a-bringing his flock to fold.”

“Is not your hawk upon it’s perch, your steed eats oats and hay,
And you a lady in your arms, and yet you’d go away.”

He’s turned her around and he’s kissed her twice, and then they fell asleep,
When they awoke Lord Barnard’s men were standing at their feet.

“How do ye like me bed,” he said, “and how do you like me sheets?”
“How do you like me fair lady, that lies in your arms asleep?”

“It’s well I like your bed,” he said, “and great it gives me pain,
I’d gladly give a hundred pound to be on yonder plain.”

“Rise up, rise up, Little Musgrave, rise up and then put on.
It’ll not be said in this country I slayed a naked man.”

So slowly, so slowly he got up, so slowly he put on.
Slowly down the stairs, thinking to be slain.

“There are two swords down by my side, and dear they cost me purse.
You can have the best of them, and I will take the worst.”

And the first stroke that Little Musgrave stroke, it hurt Lord Barnard sore,
But the next stroke Lord Barnard stroke, Little Musgrave ne’er stroke more.

And then up spoke the lady fair, from the bed whereon she lay,
“Although you’re dead, me Little Musgrave, still for you I’ll pray.”

“How do you like his cheeks,” he said, “How do you like his chin?”
“How do you like his dead body, now there’s no life within?”

“It’s more I like his cheeks,” she cried, “and more I want his chin,
It’s more I love that dead body, than all your kith and kin.”

He’s taken out his long long sword, to strike the mortal blow,
Through and through the lady’s heart, the cold steel it did go.

“A grave, a grave,” Lord Barnard cried, “to put these lovers in,
with me lady on the upper hand. She came from better kin.”

“For I’ve just killed the finest knight that ever rode a steed.”
“And I’ve just killed the finest lady that ever did a woman’s deed.”

It fell upon a holy day, as many’s in the year,
Musgrave to the church did go, to see fine ladies there.

“Matty Groves” is an English folk ballad that describes an adulterous tryst between a man and a woman that is ended when the woman’s husband discovers and kills them. It dates to at least the 17th century, and is one of the Child Ballads collected by 19th-century American scholar Francis James Child. It has several variant names, including “Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard.”

Contents  [hide

  • 1 Synopsis
    • 1.1 Standard references
    • 1.2 Textual variants
    • 1.3 Literature
    • 1.4 Recordings
    • 1.5 Musical variants
    • 1.6 Other songs with the same tune
  • 2 See also
  • 3 References
  • 4 External links


Lady Arlen (other names include Daniel, Arnold, Donald, and Barnard), entices Matty Groves (or Little Musgrave), a servant or retainer of her husband, into an adulterous affair. Lord Arlen receives word of the betrayal; in some versions a foot-page hears them planning and warns Lord Arlen; the lord promises reward if he is telling the truth – to make him his heir, or marry him to his eldest daughter – and execution if he is lying. The nobleman returns home, where he surprises the lovers in bed. The death may be put off by Matty arguing for a weapon. Lord Arlen kills Matty Groves in a duel. When his wife spurns him and expresses a preference for her lover, even in death, over her husband, he stabs her through the heart. The ballad may end there, or with the lord’s death, by suicide or execution. Yet another version has him cutting off his wife’s head and kicking it against the wall in anger.

Some versions of the ballad include elements of an alba, a poetic form in which lovers part after spending a night together.

[SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matty_Groves

The Braes of Yarrow

‘I dreamed a dreary dream this night,
That fills my heart wi sorrow;
I dreamed I was pouing the heather green
Upon the braes of Yarrow.
‘O true-love mine, stay still and dine,
As ye ha done before, O;
‘O I’ll be hame by hours nine,
And frae the braes of Yarrow.’

I dreamed a dreary dream this night,
That fills my heart wi sorrow;
I dreamed my luve came headless hame,
O frae the braes of Yarrow!

‘O true-luve mine, stay still and dine,
As ye ha done before, O;’
‘O I’ll be hame by hours nine,
And frae the braes of Yarrow.’

‘O are ye going to hawke,’ she says,
‘As ye ha done before, O?
Or are ye going to weild your brand,
Upon the braes of Yarrow?’

‘O I am not going to hawke,’ he says,
‘As I have done before, O,
But for to meet your brother John,
Upon the braes of Yarrow,

As he gade down yon dowy den,
Sorrow went him before, O;
Nine well-wight men lay waiting him,
Upon the braes of Yarrow.

‘I have your sister to my wife,
‘Ye’ think me an unmeet marrow;
But yet one foot will I never flee
Now frae the braes of Yarrow.’

‘Than’ four he killd and five did wound,
That was an unmeet marrow!
‘And he had weel nigh wan the day
Upon the braes of Yarrow.’

‘Bot’ a cowardly ’loon’ came him behind, (10)
Our Lady lend him sorrow!
And wi a rappier pierced his heart,
And laid him low on Yarrow.