Monday, July 30, 2007

Child number 243

For those of you playing along at home, the ballad I couldn't get out of my head is formally known as "Child 243". Helpful, huh?

OK, it's also known as "The House Carpenter" or "Demon Lover"

The Most Popular version and here it is performed by Pentangle. I love Jacqui McShee's voice. Mmmm.

Steeleye Span did my favorite version -- weirdly upbeat on the chorus, which you can hear in a clip on Amazon.

Then there are the lyrics I had stuck in my head. It took my a full part of a day to stick the two together. (From the Oxford Book of Ballads, James Kinsley, ed., 1982 with changes by my aunt to reflect her changes in performance.)

A where have you been, my dearest dear,
These seven long years and more?
O I am come to seek my former vows
That ye promised me before.

Away wi' your former vows, says she,
Or else ye will breed strife
Away wi' your former vows, she says,
For I'm become a wife.

I am married to a ship's carpenter,
A ship-carpenter he's bound
I wouldna he ken'd my mind this night
For twice five hundred pound

I have seven ships upon the sea
Laden with the finest gold
And mariners to wait us upon
All these you may behold

And I have shoes for my love's feet
Beaten of the purest gold
And lined with velvet soft
To keep my love from the cold

She has put foot on ship board
And on shipboard she's game
And the veil that hung over her face
Was overlaid wi' gold.

O how do you love the ship, he said
Or how do you love the sea?
And how do you love the bold mariners
That wait upon thee and me?

O I do love the ship, she said.
And I do love the sea.
But woe be to the dim mariners
That nowhere can I see.

She had not sailed a league
A league, but barely two.
Till she did mind the husband she had left
And to her wee son also

O hold your tongue, my dearest dear.
Let all your follies be.
I'll show you where the white lilies grow
On the banks of Italy

She had not sailed a league
A league but barely three
Till grim, grim grew his countenance
And stormy grew the sea.

O hold you tongue, my dearest dear.
Let all your follies be
I'll show you where the white lilies grow
At the bottom of the sea.

He's tak'n her by her milk- white hand
And he's thrown her into the main
And full five and twenty hundred ships
Perish'd all on the coast of Spain.

Long song, eh?
Odd that in this version he tosses her over the side of the ship, which then causes other ships to go down. Some versions have them both going down in a whirlpool to the bottom of the sea together.

I've wondered if this "lost lover wandering the seas who is dead and who tempts the maiden to come away with him" and who perishes together in a whirlpool inspired that strange whirlpool scene in the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Anyway, I've now got the Steeleye Span version, AND the Pentangle version, AND my aunt's version all rumbling through my head. Started over the weekend, and it's still going. I think this means I need to (sigh) break out some Pete Seeger. He's so, um, earnest.

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