52 Folk Songs: Yellow

by Phil Edwards

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Seventeen songs about conscription, warfare and senseless violence. Includes album-only bonus tracks The Crow on the Cradle and Whitsun Dance (a.k.a. Dancing at Whitsun).

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released April 22, 2012

Phil Edwards: vocals, English concertina, melodica, zither, drums, recorder, D and C whistles, flute (on Whitsun Dance)

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Phil Edwards Manchester, UK

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Track Name: Son Davie
"What's that blood on your shirt sleeve?
Son, come tell to me."
"It is the blood of my old hawk
And the truth I've told to thee."

"The blood of a hawk was never so red.
Son, come tell to me."
"It is the blood of my greyhound,
She would not hunt for me."

"A greyhound's blood was never so red.
Son, come tell to me."
"It is the blood of my youngest brother
We two could not agree."

"What were you two quarrelling about?
Son, come tell to me."
"It was all about a little willow wand
That never would have made a tree."

"What will you do when your father comes to know?
Son, come tell to me."
"I'll set my foot in a little sailing boat
And I'll sail beyond the sea."

"What will you leave for your own poor wife?
Son, come tell to me."
"Grief and sorrow all her life,
She'll get no more from me."

"What will you leave for your own bonny babe?
Son, come tell to me."
"I'll leave him the wide world to wander up and down,
He'll get no more from me."

"When will you return again?
Son, come tell to me."
"When the sun and the moon dance in yonder tree,
And that will never be."
Track Name: Two pretty boys
Two pretty boys were going to school,
Going to the very same school
Then one to the other said
"O can you throw a stone?"

"Well, I can either throw a stone
Or a little play at the maul
But if you come with me to the merry green woods
I will try you a wrestle and fall."

So they went down to the merry green woods,
To try a wrestle and fall.
Then big brother John took his little penknife
And stabbed William to the ground.

"Do you take off my white linen shirt
And tear it from gore to gore
And wrap it round my bloody wound
That the blood may flow no more."

He took off his white linen shirt
And he tore it from gore to gore
And wrapped it round the bloody wound
But the blood came ten times more.

"What will I tell your father dear
Tonight when I go home?"
"Tell him I'm away to a London school
And a good boy I'll return."

"What will I tell your step-mother
Tonight when I go home?"
"Tell her the last prayer she prayed for me
Was that I would never return."
Track Name: The valiant sailor
Come all you wild young men
And a warning take by me
And see you go no more, my brave boys,
Into some strange foreign country

As I myself have done
The very last day of May
It was then that I parted from all my friends
For I could no longer stay

From Portsmouth Town I went
To London t'was my intent
But by the press masters I was pressed
And to the sea I was sent

We sailed all that long night
And part of the very next day
And the first ship we spied was a French man o' war
And at length we were forced to draw nigh

We bore her head upright
And our bloody flag we let fly
And then every man he was prepared
But the Lord knows who should die

Our captain was wounded full sore
With seventy more of our men
Our yards and mast and rigging they were all shot away
And at length we were forced to give in

Our decks were all covered with blood
And so loudly the great guns they did roar
And many is the thousand times I've wished myself on land
All along with my Polly on the shore

She's a tall and a slender girl
With a black and a rolling eye
And here I lie a-bleeding on the deck
And it's all for her safety I shall die
Track Name: The Dolphin
Our ship she lay in harbour
In Liverpool Dock she lay
Awaiting for fresh orders
And our anchor for to weigh
Bound down for the coast of Africa
Our orders did run so
O we're going to sink and destroy, me boys,
No matter where we go.

Well, we had not been sailing
Scarce fifty leagues and more
When we espied a tall lofty ship
Come down on us she bore
O she hailed us in French colours
And she asked us from whence we came
O we've just come down from Liverpool town
And the Dolphin is our name.

"Are you a man of war, sir?
Pray tell me what you be."
"I am no man of war, sir,
But a pirate ship you see,
Come heave up your fore and your main yards
And let your ship come to
For our tackle's overhauled and our boats are all lowered,
Or else we will sink you."

Our captain stood on the quarterdeck
He was brave and fearless too.
"It's three to one against us," he cried
All to our jovial crew
And if it had been my younger brother
This battle would still have been tried,
Let every man stand true to his guns
And we'll give to them a broadside.

Now broadside to broadside,
Which caused us all to wonder
For to see them lofty tall ship's masts
Come rattling down like thunder
We shot them from our quarterdeck
Until they could no longer stay
Our guns being smart and we played the best part
And we showed them Liverpool play.

Now that lofty tall ship was taken
And in Liverpool Dock was moored
We fired shots with our own sweethearts
And them fancy girls on shore
We lowered down the French colours
And we hoisted the red, white and blue
Now let's drink success to the Dolphin
And all her jovial crew.
Track Name: The lofty tall ship
As we were out sailing five cold frosty nights,
Five cold frosty nights and four days,
That's when we did spy a lofty tall ship,
She come bearing down on us, brave boys.

“Oh where are you going, you lofty tall ship?
What makes you to venture so nigh?"
"I am a rich merchant for fair England bound
So I pray you allow me to pass by."

"Oh no, oh no," cried Henry Martin,
"Such a thing it never can be,
For I am turned robbing all on the salt sea
To maintain my two brothers and me.”

“Then haul in your courses and let go your main sheets
And bring yourself under my lee.
And I will take from you your rich merchant's goods,
And I'll point your bow guns to the sea.”

“We'll not heave up my courses nor let go our main sheets
Nor let her come under your lee.
Nor you will take from me my rich merchant's goods,
Nor you'll point my bow guns to the sea.”

So broadside and broadside these vessels they went,
They were fighting four hours or more.
Till Henry Martin gave that ship the death shot
And she sank and she never rose more.

Bad news, Henry Martin, bad news I do say
Bad news it is coming to town.
Of a lofty tall ship and she's cast away
And the whole of her merry men drowned.
Track Name: The ghost song
Now the queen she wants sailors to sail on the sea
Which made pretty Polly stood up for to plead,
Sayin', “William, dearest William, don't you go off so sea;
Please remember the vows that you made unto me.”

But 'twas early next morning before it was day
When he went to his Polly, these words he did say,
Sayin', “Oh Polly, pretty Polly, you must come 'long with me,
Before we are married my friends for to see.”

So he led her through groves and through valleys so deep
Which made pretty Polly to sigh and to weep,
Sayin', “William, dearest William, you have led me astray
On purpose my innocent life to betray.”

“Oh yes, dearest Polly, 'tis true all you've said,
For all this long night I've been digging your grave.”
And the grave it being open and the spade standing by,
Which made pretty Polly to weep and to cry.

“Oh pardon, dear William, my innocent life.
And I'll never regret for to be your dear wife.
I'll travel old England over all to set you free,
Please remember the vows that you made unto me.”

“But no pardon, no pardon, no pardon I'll give.”
And with that he drew out a long daggered knife.
He stabbed her to the heart and the blood did down flow,
And into a grave her fair body did throw.

Now be buried her securely in Upwall quite sound
He's not thinking the body would ever be found.
Then he went on board for a sailor to go,
Not thinking this murder would ever o'erthrow.

But 'twas early one morning before it was day
Then our captain came up and these words he did say,
“Our ship she is in mourning and cannot sail on,
There's a murder on board what has lately been done.”

Then up jumped one sailor, “And indeed, that's not me”,
Then up jumped another and likewise said he,
Then up jumped bold William to sigh and to swear,
Saying, “Indeed, that's not me, sir, I'll vow and declare.”

Then he hastened to the forecastle with speed
There he met pretty Polly which made his heart bleed.
She ripped him, and she stripped him, and she tore him in three,
Because he had murdered her baby and she.
Track Name: William Taylor
William Taylor was a brisk young sailor
He who courted a lady fair
Bells were ringing, sailors were singing
As to church they did repair.

Thirty couples at the wedding;
All were dress'd in rich array;
But instead of being married
He was press'd and sent away.

She dress'd up in man's apparel
Man's apparel she put on
And she follow'd her true lover;
For to find him she is gone.

Then the Captain stepp'd up to her
Asking her: What's brought you here?
I am come to seek my true love
Whom I lately loved so dear.

If you've come to see your true love,
Tell me what his name may be
O, his name is William Taylor
From the Irish ranks came he.

You rise early tomorrow morning
You rise at the break of day;
There you'll see your true love William
Walking with a lady gay.

She rose early the very next morning;
She rose up at break of day;
There she saw her true love William
Walking with a lady gay.

Sword and pistol she then order'd
To be brought at her command;
And she shot her true love William
With the bride on his right hand.

If young folks in Wells or London
Were served the same as she served he,
Then young girls would all be undone
Very scarce young men would be.
Track Name: Lowlands
I dreamed a dream the other night
- Lowlands, lowlands away, my John
Dreamed a dream the other night
- Lowlands away

I dreamed I saw my own true love,
He stood so still, he did not move,

So pale his skin, so dim his eye,
I knew he'd come to say goodbye.

He stood so pale and damp and cold
Around his form green weeds had hold.

'I'm drowned in the Lowland Seas,' he said,
'You and I will ne'er be wed.'

'I'll never kiss you more,' he said,
'Ne'er kiss you more, for I am dead.'

I'll cut away my bonnie hair,
No other man will think me fair.

I'll bind the weeper round my head,
That all will know my love is dead.

My love is lost in the misty Lowlands,
- Lowlands, lowlands away, my John
My love is lost in the misty Lowlands.
- Lowlands away
Track Name: Shirt and comb
Now I came home downcast that day
The bearer of bad news
She smiled at me as I came in
As I stood there in my muddy shoes

I loved her so my poor heart cracked
To tell her what I told,
Her smile froze, her mouth went slack
And my grief oppressed me doublefold

I said “I’m not the master of my fate
As I would wish to be
I’m leaving now and I can’t be late
They ship out tonight and they’re taking me

“Our mission’s still a mystery
I’m just one of many men
Who must leave their homes and their families
And might not pass this way again.”

“Then I will join your company
I’m not afraid nor weak,
I'll bind my breasts and crop my hair
And I’ll speak low just like a boy would speak.”

“You cannot come with me, my love
They don't take volunteers
But there’s one thing I'll promise you
Though I may be gone for many years

“No shirt shall ever touch my back
Nor comb go through my hair
But I’ll think about the bed you’re in
And wish that I was lying with you there.”
Track Name: High Germanie
“Oh Polly, dearest Polly, the rout it has begun,
And I must go a-marching to the beating of the drum.
Come dress yourself all in your best and come along with me;
I'll take you to the war, my love, in High Germanie.”

“Oh Willy, dearest Willy, come list what I do say,
My feet they are so tender, love, I cannot march away.
Besides, my dearest Willy, I am with child by thee,
Not fitted for the war, my love, in High Germanie.”

“I'll buy Polly a pony, and on it you shall ride
And all my delight shall be a-riding by your side.
We'll stop at every alehouse and drink when we are dry,
We'll be true to one another, and get married by and by.

"And when we get to Plymouth town, I'll make for youa bed,
It shall be covered in roses and the roses shall be red.
And when your babe is born, my love, and smiling on your knee,
Then you'll think about your own true love in High Germanie."

Oh, cursed be the cruel wars that ever they should rise
And out of Merry England press many a man likewise.
They took my true love from me, likewise my brethren three,
And they sent them to the cruel wars in High Germanie.

My friends I do not value nor my foes I do not fear,
Now my love has left me I do wander far and near.
And when my babe is born and sits a-smiling on my knee
Then I'll think about my own true love in High Germanie.
Track Name: The weary cutters
Oh, the weary cutters and oh, the weary sea,
Oh, the weary cutters have stolen my laddie from me.
They've pressed him far away foreign
With Nelson beyond the salt sea.

Oh, the lousy cutters and oh, the weary sea,
Oh, the lousy cutters have taken my laddie from me.
They always come in the night,
They never come in the day,
They come at night and steal the laddies away.

Oh, the weary cutters and oh, the weary sea,
Oh, the weary cutters have taken my laddie from me.
I'll give the cutter a guinea,
I'll give the cutter no more,
I'll give him a guinea to steal my laddie ashore.
Track Name: I would that the wars were all done
In the meadow one morning when pearly in dew
A fair pretty maiden plucked violets blue.
She sang as she walked, made the woods all to ring:
"O my love is in Flanders to fight for the king,
And I would that the wars were well over
I would that the wars were all done."

"I'll pluck the red robin so jaunty and gay;
I have my Robin, but he's far away.
His jacket is red - and his cheeks like the rose;
He sings of his love as to battle he goes.
And I would that the wars were well over
I would that the wars were all done."

"Now thousands of bluebells do welcome the spring;
O when will the church bells for victory ring?
Then the men will come home and all England rejoice
And then I'll be wed to the lad of my choice.
And I would that the wars were well over
I would that the wars were all done."
Track Name: 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,
“'Tis 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 rolling at the bottom of the sea.”

Said William, “Chase him from your mind,
Far better sailors than him you'll find.
Love 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.”

"O 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.”
Track Name: Sweet Jenny of the moor
One morn for recreation I walked by the seaside,
Oh the sun was a gently rising bedecked in his pride,
I beheld a lovely fair maid standing by her cottage door,
Oh her cheeks were like roses, was sweet Jenny of the moor.

I said, “My pretty fair maid, why so early do you rise?”
“To take the sweet air whilst the lark soars in the sky.
And it's here I love to wander where the breakers do roar,
A-gathering of seaweed,” said sweet Jenny of the moor.

So we both sat down together by some pleasant shady side,
I said, “With your consent I will make you my bride,
For of wealth I have plenty brought from a foreign shore,
I'd be proud to win the heart of sweet Jenny of the moor.”

“I've a true love of my own, though long he's been from me,
It is true I'll be to him while he is on the sea,
For his vows were fondly spoken as he parted from my door,
And I'll wait till his return,” said sweet Jenny of the moor.

“If your true love was a sailor pray tell to me his name.”
“Oh his name was Dennis Riley and from Newry town he came.
And with laurels I'll entwine him when he returns to shore
And we'll join our hands in wedlock,” said sweet Jenny of the moor.

“If Dennis was your true love I knew him right well,
Whilst fighting in battle by an angry ball he fell;
So behold your true love's token, which upon his hand he wore.”
And she fell into my arms, did sweet Jenny of the moor.

“Oh since you've proved so faithful, my true love,” I cried,
“Now behold it is your Dennis, he is standing at your side.
So come let us be united and live happy on the shore,
And the bells shall ring merry and I'll go to sea no more.”