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Lyr Add: Jonas and the Devil

27 Sep 20 - 04:15 PM (#4073378)
Subject: Lyr Add: Jonas and the Devil
From: Richard Mellish

I recently posted here the words of The Nore Sand Light, one of several songs that I had learnt many years ago from Bob Roberts. In this afternoon's session of the virtual Frank Harte Festival I sang another of them, which Bob had introduced as the Suffolk version of the Faust story, the story of Jonas the Suffolk ploughboy who sold his soul to the Devil. I was asked about it and offered to post the words here.

I have a folk club recording and it is on one of Bob's LPs, I think with slightly different sets of verses. Anyway here is how I sing it, except that this afternoon I accidentally left out one verse.


Jonas hated work and toil.
He could not his master please.
All poor Jonas really wanted
Was to live a life of ease
Devil, Devil, a life of ease

Weary of the autumn ploughing
Weary of his arduous call
Jonas felt a nudge: beside him
Was the Devil, horns and all.
Devil, Devil, horns and all.

"Sell to me your soul, my Jonas
For a hundred golden pounds.
No more work and no more toil,
Drink your wine and ride to hounds."
Devil, Devil, ride to hounds.

Jonas shook hands with the Devil.
"Take my soul and have your joy.
I'll be turned an English gallant
'Stead of just a farmer's boy."
Devil, Devil, a farmer's boy.

"Give me then the hundred sovereigns.
I'll no more this furrow tread.
No more work and no more toil.
You can have me when I'm dead."
Devil, Devil, when I'm dead.

Jonas bought a pure white palfrey,
Ordered flagons rich and rare.
But where're he went, he noticed
Master Devil, he was there.
Devil, Devil, he was there.

Soon the hundred pounds were fading,
Forty, twenty, ten and nine.
Jonas felt the heat of Hades
Every time he drank his wine.
Devil, Devil, drank his wine.

Dark and drear remorse struck Jonas.
Wished he had not left his kind.
Master Devil always whisp'ring
"Soon now Jonas you'll be mine."
Devil, Devil, you'll be mine.

"I have not spent all your money.
Can we not a bargain clasp?
Save me from the heat of Hades.
I will do whate're you ask."
Devil, Devil, whate'er you ask.

"There is only one way Jonas.
Give me back what doth remain.
You must sail the boundless ocean,
Never to come home again.
Devil, Devil, home again.

Jonas did as he was bidden.*
With the Devil he shook hands,
Thinking he might pay him some day
With some gold from far off lands.
Devil, Devil, far off lands.

Sadly to the strand went Jonas
With the Devil at his side.
"There's the lofty ship you'll sail in
Dropping on the falling tide."
Devil, Devil, the falling tide.

Soon the longboat came for Jonas
To take him from his native shore.
But once aboard the barque poor Jonas
Stared in terror and in awe.
Devil, Devil, and in awe.

All the crew were horned and ghastly
Hauling on the tops'l sheet.
And from out their breeks he noticed
There were tails and cloven feet.
Devil, Devil, cloven feet.

So all you who till the soil
Bend your back and steer your plough.
Or you'll end like wretched Jonas
Sailing to the Hell below.
Devil, Devil, the Hell below.

*This is the verse that I forgot this afternoon.

28 Sep 20 - 02:59 PM (#4073502)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Jonas and the Devil
From: cnd

Sounds like a very interesting song, Richard.

Not much online about this song but you can see a good summary here

28 Sep 20 - 03:31 PM (#4073508)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Jonas and the Devil
From: Reinhard

You're fast in finding this page, cnd -- I only created it yesterday after seeing Richard's posting.

28 Sep 20 - 05:08 PM (#4073525)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Jonas and the Devil
From: Anglo

It's on Bob's LP Breeze For A Bargeman. His notes read: I learned this from my father who died in 1944 aged 74. He learned it from his grandfather. Some experts like to believe that it is a primitive version of the theme of the opera “Faust”.

(Richard, I enjoyed your rendition of this over the weekend. Thanks for posting the lyrics.}

28 Sep 20 - 06:52 PM (#4073538)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Jonas and the Devil
From: Joe Offer

Written by Bob Roberts????

29 Sep 20 - 05:47 AM (#4073577)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Jonas and the Devil
From: Richard Mellish

> Written by Bob Roberts????

As I said on the ADD: Nore Sand Light thread, it is only in later years that I began to understand that some of Bob's versions were probably his own work. It seems unlikely that we will ever know for certain whether Jonas and the Devil came from his family.

I have long been a bit suspicious of the word "breeks" in the last-but-one verse, which suggests Scots, and the dodgy rhyme of "plough" and "below" in the last verse, which with "ploo" would be closer to a rhyme in Scots, though still not a good rhyme.

One further thought: the name Jonas seems unusual in Britain but is commoner in Sweden (pronounced something like Younas).