To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
14 messages

Lyric/Info req: The Colour of Amber

13 Sep 08 - 06:12 PM (#2439488)
Subject: The Colour of Amber
From: RTim

I have just heard Sylvia Barnes's wonderful version of The Colour of Amber (on Boston USA radio WUMB!), and note that it has many more verses that the Mary Ann Haynes version (VotP 11) that I am familiar with (which is also Wonderful)
Looking at the Roud index, I only see Mary Ann's version listed.

So....My question is - Where do the extra verses come from and what are they?? Please!!

Tim Radford

13 Sep 08 - 06:23 PM (#2439494)
Subject: RE: The Colour of Amber
From: Leadfingers

I know people who know Sylvia ! The question will be asked !

13 Sep 08 - 10:32 PM (#2439677)
Subject: RE: The Colour of Amber
From: RTim


14 Sep 08 - 02:36 AM (#2439793)
Subject: ADD Version: The Colour of Amber
From: Joe Offer

You'll find this version (recording clip and lyrics) on MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada:

The Colour of Amber

Oh the colour of Amber is my love's hair
And her rosy cheeks do my heart ensnare
Her ruby lips so meek and mild(?)
Ofttimes I have pressed them to those of mine

As I sailed down the London Shore
Where the loud and the cannon balls they roar
In the midst of danger oftimes I've been
Ofttimes I have thought on you Mary Green

As l sailed down the London Shore
I kept writing letters o'er and o'er
I kept writing letters to you my dear
Out of all of them I received but one

If you wrote letters back to this town
Out of all of them I received but one
You're false oh false love is none of mine
Don't speak so hard of a sailmaker(?)

Straightway I went to her father's house
And it's on this fair maid I did call
Her father spoke me this reply
Sayin' daughter dear don't you love the boy

I asked this father what he did mean
Or ___________ would his daughter married be
To some other young man to be a wife
For I will go farther and take a life(?)

Now since my love has a man received
A single life I will still remain
I will plough the seas till the day I die
I will split the waves __________________**

Singer: Nicholas Davis Nicholas Davis of St. Shott's, Newfoundland, 1951

GEST has I will split the waves till 'neath them I lie.

Text: A sailor writes often to his sweetheart with the amber hair.   She replies only once.   Upon his return his fears of betrayal are confirmed as his love has married another. He swears to remain single and a sailor all his life.
Tune: The text is through composed and the melody repeats with each verse. The last few words are spoken. Speaking, instead of singing a final word or phrase is generally thought to indicate Irish influence on the singer or song. The meter is 5/4.   This is a major tune based around F/F# with an octave range.

14 Sep 08 - 02:52 AM (#2439797)
Subject: ADD Version: The Colour of Amber
From: Joe Offer

Here's the Mary Ann Haynes version

The Colour of Amber

Oh, the colour of amber was my love's hair,
And his two blue eyes they enticed me,
And his ruby lips, they being soft and fine,
Oh, many a time they've been pressed to mine.

Oh, I'll go a-fishing in yonder's brook
There I'll catch my love with a line and a hook,
And if he loves me, oh, like I love him,
No man on earth shall part us two.

Now, I wish, I wish, now this is all in vain.
Oh, I wish to God I was a maiden again.
Oh, a maid again I shall never more be,
Whilst apples growed on a orange tree.

singer: Mary Ann Haynes
recorded by Mike Yates in the singer's home in Brighton, Susses, 7 July 1974

from The Voice of the People, CD #11

Here's the (very limited) entry on this song from the Traditional Ballad Index:

    Colour of Amber, The

    DESCRIPTION: "The colour of amber was my true love's hair." "Many a time [his lips] they've been pressed to mine. I'd fish and catch him "with a line and hook" and never part. It's in vain. I'll never be a maid again.
    AUTHOR: unknown
    EARLIEST DATE: 1974 (recording, Mary Ann Haynes)
    KEYWORDS: courting love betrayal hair floatingverses nonballad fishing lyric
    FOUND IN: Britain(England(Lond))
    Roud #1716
    Mary Ann Haynes, "The Colour of Amber" (on Voice11)
    Notes: "The Colour of Amber" is the reverse of "Black Is the Color" with the usual floating verse from the woman's point of view. It is tempting to lump this with, say, "Fair and Tender Ladies," but the amber and fishing verses make it stand aside for me. Yates, Musical Traditions site Voice of the People suite "Notes - Volume 11" - 11.9.02, refers to John Ashton's Real Sailor Songs "The Sailor Boy" [Ashton/Sailor *63] as another version; that does have the amber verse but is a version of "The Sailor Boy"(I) [Laws K12]. "Fair and Tender Ladies" would be a closer match than that. - BS
    File: RcColAmb

    Go to the Ballad Search form
    Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
    Go to the Bibiography
    Go to the Discography

    The Ballad Index Copyright 2007 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.

14 Sep 08 - 03:33 AM (#2439809)
Subject: ADD: The Sailor Boy
From: Joe Offer

Look at this:

The Sailor Boy

The sailing trade is a weary life,
It's robb'd me of my heart's delight,
And left me here in tears to mourn,
Still waiting for my love's return.

Like one distracted this fair maid ran,
For pen and paper to write her song,
And at ev'ry line she drop't a tear,
Crying alas! for Billy my dear.

Thousands, thousands all in a room,
My love he carries the brightest bloom,
He surely is some chosen one,
I will have him, or else have none.

The grass doth grow on every lea,
The leaf doth fall from every tree,
How happy that small bird doth cry,
That her true love doth by her lie.

The colour of amber is my true love's hair,
His red rosy cheeks doth my heart ensnare,
His ruby lips are soft, and with charms,
I'd fain lay a night in his lovely arms.

Father, father, build me a boat,
That on the ocean I may float,
And every ship that doth pass by,
I may enquire for my sailor boy.

She had not sail'd long upon the deep,
Till a man of war she chanc'd to meet :
O, sailor, sailor, send me word,
If my true love William be on board.

Your true love William is not here,
For he is kill'd and so I fear,
For the other day as we pass'd by,
We see'd him last in the Victory.

She wrung her hands and tore her hair,
Crying, alas! my dearest dear,
And overboard her body threw,
Bidding all worldly things adieu.

The Sailor Boy, #LXXXVI
from Sea Songs and Ballads By Christopher Stone, Cyprian Bridge, Cyprian Arthur George
Published by The Clarendon Press, 1906

Looks like three completely different songs, except that they have one verse in common.

Can somebody please post the Sylvia Barnes lyrics? The recording apparently isn't available in the U.S. - yet.


14 Sep 08 - 08:59 AM (#2439912)
Subject: RE: Lyric/Info req: The Colour of Amber
From: RTim

Thanks Joe for what you have posted (some of which I already knew)
- However, Thanks also for the link to the Leach Info. - this I didn't know about and it is very interesting.


14 Sep 08 - 09:13 AM (#2439919)
Subject: RE: Lyric/Info req: The Colour of Amber
From: Vic Smith

Sylvia heard my wife, Tina, sing it at the Whitby festival a couple of years ago and she was knocked out by the song. She then contacted Tina and her for a recording of the song. Tina replied saying that she would do much better to go to the recording of Mary Ann Haynes and gave her the reference.

Tina and I were some of the very few people associated with the folk scene that got to know Mary Ann. Mike Yates was staying with us in Brighton and took us round to her flat to introduce us to her. After that we tried many times to get her to come along to our folk club explaining that we would pay her and arrange lifts, but she would not come.

One time when we had Belle and Alex Stewart staying with us, we were telling them about Mary Ann and they asked us to take them round to meet her. She was not on the phone so we just turned up at her door... but she was out.

14 Sep 08 - 01:17 PM (#2440078)
Subject: Lyr Add: THE COLOUR OF AMBER (from Sylvia Barnes)
From: RTim

Well, Well - I have discovered that Sylvia Barnes has a MySpace page - as do I.

So I have friended her and at the same time transcribed her version of the song as on her MySpace page. I hope that is OK Sylvia??

Readers should notice that Sylvia's version contains the Mary Ann Haynes 3 verse version - i.e. verses 1, 2 and 4, while the remaining verses are new - they look familiar to me - but I don't know from where? - Any suggestions?

Sylvia's tune is also as from Mary Ann Haynes.

THE COLOUR OF AMBER - Sylvia Barnes version
(Transcribed by Tim Radford)

The colour of amber was my true love's hair,
And his two blue eyes enticed me,
And his ruby lips, were soft and fine,
And it's many's the time they've been pressed to mine.

For it's I'll go a-fishing all in yonder brook
And I'll catch my love with a line and a hook,
And if he loves me, as I love him,
Then no man on earth shall me and my love twine.

For the laurel grows green, so soft the dew falls down
I met my love as he came to town,
But he turned his head and he did not see
O the tears I shed all for the love of he.

For it's when my apron once it comes so low,
He followed me wherever I might go,
But now it's up and high before,
He passes by and says he loves me no more.

And I wish, I wish, now this is all in vain.
I wish I was a maiden again.
But a maid again that never more be,
When an apple grows on a orange tree.

And I wish I wish my own sweet babe was born,
And smiling on my mammy's knee,
And I was dead and in grave lain,
The long green grass a-growing over me.

14 Sep 08 - 01:57 PM (#2440110)
Subject: RE: Lyric/Info req: The Colour of Amber
From: Malcolm Douglas

Floating verses, frequently found in 'Died for Love' and similar songs; but really they could have come from anywhere.

Are you using a non-standard character set? All your apostrophes display as Õ, which is a bit distracting.

14 Sep 08 - 03:24 PM (#2440193)
Subject: RE: Lyric/Info req: The Colour of Amber
From: RTim

That's odd Malcolm - my post looks perfectly ok to me? I am writing this while signed in using Firefox - and I have found in the past that this DOESN'T do page endings, etc.. So generally I use Safari when I write on the Mudcat - that seems to work - we will see how this posting looks. I often write in Mirosoft Word and then transfer into the posting space - it has ALWAYS worked on Safari, but Not using Firefox. I am running on a Mac using OS X (10.3.9) By the way - any news with Wanton Seed? Tim R.

14 Sep 08 - 03:56 PM (#2440216)
Subject: RE: Lyric/Info req: The Colour of Amber
From: Malcolm Douglas

It's probably the combination of Word (which uses what html checkers describe as 'illegal characters' for some of its punctuation) and the Mac platform. It won't happen if you type the words in directly here, or if you prepare them first in a 'plain text' editor. A small thing, of course, but a bit strange to look at.

Wanton Seed progresses, though it isn't ready for press yet. I've located the Stansbridges in the 1861, 1871 and 1901 censuses now, by the way; spelled Stanbridge, which is why I missed them before. I was meaning to email you about that, to see if you wanted copies.

14 Sep 08 - 05:32 PM (#2440302)
Subject: RE: Lyric/Info req: The Colour of Amber
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Belden has several versions of "Sailor Boy," three have a 'hair' verse, but the hair is brown. One, collected in 1914, may date from the time of the Forty-Niners.

D, p. 189. "The Sailor Boy," H. M. Belden, 1940, "Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society, Univ. Missouri Press.

Brown is the color of my true love's hair,
His cheeks resemble the roses fair,
If he'll come back and give me joy,
None will I have but my California boy.

Many versions of "Sailor Boy" lack the 'hair' verse, which may have floated in from another song.
Looking at Randolph and others, there seem to be more than one "Sailor Boy" song.

A ballad at the Bodleian, "The Sailor Boy," 'before 1839,' Harding B11(2298), noted in Trad. Ballad Index.
Can't open the ballads today, just the indices.

14 Sep 08 - 06:03 PM (#2440354)
Subject: RE: Lyric/Info req: The Colour of Amber
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Looking at old threads, Three years ago I posted the "Sailor Boy" with the amber hair verse (from Stone, see Joe's post), and one from Belden (brown hair), in thread 32248, Origin, Black is the color.
My memory is gone.
Black is the Color