The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #10822   Message #450470
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
27-Apr-01 - 12:21 PM
Thread Name: Love and Death on the Shore
While looking for something else entirely, I came across this song and remembered that there had been an inconclusive discussion of it.  Here it is, then, a mere two years on:


(Sung to Ruth L. Tongue in London, 1919, by "a sea captain born in Porlock".)

Three galleys come sailing to Porlock Side,
And stole me away a new-wed bride,
Who left my true love lying dead on the shore,
Sailing out and away.
I never shall see my dear home no more

Then up to her stepped the Danish King,
And her he would wed with a golden ring,
Who left my true love, etc.

The bride she made answer her tears between,
I never will wed with a cowardly Dene. ¹
Who left my true love, etc.

Then out of the galley they tossed the Bride,
And laughed as she drowned in the cruel tide.
Who left my true love, etc.

There came three small galleys from Porlock Bay,
They fought with the Danes for a night and a day.
Who left my true love, etc.

They fought till the decks with blood ran red,
And every man of the Danes was dead.
Who left my true love, etc.

¹  Dene: Dane. Local pronunciation.

From The Chime Child, or, Somerset Singers, Ruth L. Tongue (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968) © Ruth L. Tongue, 1967.

Miss Tongue had this to say about it:

"I had just finished a Folk Song Recital in London, and made my way back to sink exhausted into my dressing-room chair, when there came a hearty bang on my door which opened, and an elderly sea captain came in.  He was smart, grey-haired, scarlet-faced, and as full of enthusiasm as a young westerly gale -and he had a ballad for me.  His family had been Porlock folk right back to Drake's time and before, and they had treasured and kept strictly to themselves this ancient ballad.  Now having listened to that evening's Somerset wealth, he had decided regardless of family traditions that it must be brought to the free air of a singing world and that I was the one to do it.  Before the force of this Severn Gale, I found my weariness blown clean away, and was soon singing too.  He had a tremendous voice and it hit like hammer-blows into my memory.  He sailed tomorrow he said, so I must learn it then and now.  I did, every verse, and sang it back to him.  He gave me a delighted smile, a hearty farewell and a handshake that clamped my fingers for the rest of the evening, and went away, forgetting to leave his name.
The Danish raids on Porlock are mentioned in the AngloSaxon Chronicle, and The Three Danish Galleys is a very ancient ballad which has survived the alterations of singers of other centuries, and is surprisingly unspoiled."

Doubts have been expressed from time to time as to the authenticity of the songs contained in this book; almost all of them are unusual in musical structure and unknown anywhere else.  Certainly it would be unsafe to assume that this song is of any antiquity, or even traditional at all; even if Miss Tongue wrote it herself, though (which is not impossible, particularly as so many of these songs, supposedly from different sources, are so similar in style), it's a fine piece and worth knowing.  I've made a midi of the tune, which will go to the  Mudcat Midi Pages;  until then, as a temporary measure, it may be heard via the  South Riding Folk Network  site:


There are three other songs from Ruth L. Tongue in the Forum:

The Broomsquire's Bird Song  -With tune; from The Chime Child.
The Quaker's Wife  -With tune from another source.  Text from The Quaker's Wife and other Somerset Folk Songs, Ruth Tongue and Felton Rapley (Chappell & Co., 1965).
The Green Lady  -With tune; from The Chime Child.