The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #67277   Message #4137063
Posted By: GUEST,Julia L
17-Feb-22 - 09:41 PM
Thread Name: Origins: John Riley
Subject: RE: Origins: John Riley
Julia Lane here- Here is a version collected by Eloise Linscott in Maine from Hiram Virgin, Mexico, ME 11/13/941. I've included it in my book "Bygone Ballads of Maine Volume 1- Songs of Ships & Sailors"

George Reily

On a bright summer's morning the weather being clear   
I strolled for recreation down by a river clear
Where I overheard a damsel most grievously complain   
All for an absent lover that ploughs the raging main.

I being unperceived did unto her draw near
Where I lay down in ambush the better for to hear
Her doleful lamentations and melancholy cries
Whilst sparkling tears like crystal were streaming from her eyes

Crying, “O cruel fortune to me has proved unkind
As my true love has left me no comfort can I find!”
While she was thus lamenting and grieving for her dear
I saw a gallant sailor who unto her drew near.

With eloquence most complaisant he did address the fair
Crying, “Sweet and lovely fair one, why do you mourn here?”
“All for an absent lover,” the fair one did reply,
“Which causes me to wonder for to lament and cry.

Its three long years and more that his absence I have mourn'd
And now the war is ended he has not yet returned.”
“Why should you grieve for him alone?” the sailor he did say
“Perhaps his mind is alter'd or chang'd some other way.

If you will but forget him and fix your mind on me
Till death doth demand me to you I'll faithful prove!”
To which this fair maid answered, “Sir that can never be!
I never can admire any other man but he

He is the darling of my heart none else can I adore
So, take this as an answer and trouble me no more.”
Then said the gallant sailor, “What is your true love's name?   
Both that and his description I wish to know the same.”

“George Reily was his name sir, he was a man both neat and trim
So manly in proportion that few could equal him
With the ringlets down his shoulders, the fairest yellow hair
And his skin for whiteness exceeds the lily fair.”

“Fair maid, I had a messmate; George Reily was his name
I'm sure from your description that he must be the same.
It is really most surprising that he was so unkind
As to leave so fair a creature in sorrow here behind

Three years we spent together on board the old Belflew   
And such a gallant comrade before I never knew
It was on the twelfth of April near to Port Royal Bay
We had a tight engagement before the break of day

Between Rodney and DeGrasse where many a man did fall
Your true love he fell by a French cannon ball
Whilst weltering in his blood your generous lover lay
With fault'ring voice and broken sighs these words I heard him say-

“Farewell, my dearest Nancy were you but standing by
To gaze your last upon me contented would I die!”
This melancholy story it wounded her so deep
She wrung her hands in anguish and bitterly did weep

Crying, “My joys are ended if what you say be true
Instead of having pleasure I've naught but grief in view!”
On hearing which his person no longer he conceal'd
He flew into her arms and his person did reveal.

Now these constant lovers did each other embrace
He kiss'd the bright tears from her cheeks and wiped her lovely face Crying, “My dearest Nancy with you I'll ever stay
I'll never more depart till my mainmast's cut away!"

The lyrics here are as noted by Eloise Linscott in her unpublished manuscript for A Yankee Pedlar's Pack. Her recording of Mr. Virgin only includes verse 8 (italics) and is quite different from what she apparently intended to publish. It appears that her transcription may be adapted from the Forget-me-not Songster (1840). She has, however, combined several verses perhaps for clarity of the story. The action in verses 10 and 11 describes the Battle of the Saintes, April 12, 1782 in the West Indies where the British and French forces were vying for control of the islands there. The French Rear-Admiral Comte DeGrasse, who had helped George Washington to prevail at Yorktown in the Battle of the Chesapeake, September, 1781, was soundly defeated and taken prisoner by the British Admiral Sir George B. Rodney. Another song, "Rodney’s Glory", tells the story in full. An English ship-of-the-line called Barfleur (Belflew?) is mentioned in descriptions of naval military action in the Caribbean during this time.