The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #16745 Message #157918
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
04-Jan-00 - 03:36 PM
Thread Name: Info Req: Polly's Love (Waterson-Carthy)
Subject: RE: Info Req: Polly's Love (Waterson-Carthy)
Polly's Love is also known as The Cruel Ship's Carpenter. There is a version of it, and of The Sailor's Tragedy a.k.a. The Ghost So Grim -they are separate songs- in Frank Purslow's The Wanton Seed, a selection of songs from the Hammond & Gardiner mss., collected in the 1900s in Southern England. Purslow has this to say about the first:
"Like many British songs, this has crossed the Atlantic and versions have been recorded in many places in North America, where it is especially popular as Pretty Polly. The superstition that a ship would refuse to sail if there was a wrong-doer on board is very ancient and wide-spread. For many references to this see Brown Robyn's Confession, No.57 of Child's Ballads. Other songs involving murderers in this situation which became popular in the English countryside are Captain Glen and The New York Trader. See also The Sailor's Tragedy later in this book for a song where a spirit threatens to destroy a ship unless the guilty man is handed over. The origin of the tune connected with this song is obscure but country singers seem to have had universal difficulty in reproducing it. The usual versions have been influenced to some degree by the ubiquitous Villikins an' 'is Dinah."
And of the second:
"(George Blake's) tune was clearly related to the Croppy Boy group of tunes... A very rare song, only two or three versions have been recovered from tradition. It is presumably of 17th century origin, although the texts of collected versions seem to stem from very late 18th century broadsides. The above tune belongs to a group of tunes in 3/2 rhythm which are indigenously 17th century English; most tunes in this rhythm seem, from their associated texts, to be of Irish origin and of the 18th century. With both groups there is disagreement among musicians as to whether the minim should be the first or second beat of the bar. The passing of these tunes into oral transmission almost certainly gave rise to the appearance of the 5/4 rhythm in English folk song: some singers found the pause of the minim unnatural and turned it into a crotchet. Less occasionally the 5/4 rhythm is the result of the adaptation of a 6/8 dance tune to a slow-moving text."
In both cases, the texts are pretty close to these already quoted, so I don't give them here. I haven't heard the Waterson Carthy recording, so I don't know if their tune is the same as the one I have; I'll happily post a midi for the second song if you don't have a tune for it. Two copies of a (presumably) earlier, and considerably longer version of Polly's Love, called The Gosport Tragedy or, The Perjured Ship-Carpenter, may be found at the Bodleian Library Online Broadside collection. One is undated; the other was printed in Coventry some time between 1797 and 1846. Click here for the small .gif image.