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The Ship's Carpenter 'Twas in Lisburgh of late a fair damsel did dwell; Her wit and her beauty no one could e'er tell. She was loved by a fair one who called her his dear And he by his trade was a ship's carpenteer. He says, 'Molly, lovely Molly, if you will agree And give your consent, love, for to marry me. Your love it would cure me from all sorrow and care If you will agree to wed a ship's carpenter.' 'Twas changing and blushing like a rose in full bloom 'To marry you,' Willie, you know I'm too young. I'm afraid for to venture before I prepare; I never will marry a ship's carpenter.' Her talk was in vain as he straight took denial, And he by his coming soon made her reply. 'Twas by her exception he led her astray; O'er high hills and pathways he did her betray. Things passed on for awhile till at length we did hear A ship must be sailing all o'er the salt sea. It grieved this fair damsel and wounded her heart- To think from her darling how soon must she part. She says, 'Willie, lovely Willie' are you going on sea? Remember those vows that you once made to me. If at home you don't tarry I can find no rest, Oh how can You leave your poor darling at last ?' With tender expression those words he did say: 'I will marry you, Molly, before I go away. If it be tomorrow, and you will come down, A ring I will buy you worth one hundred pound.' With tender expression they parted that night; They promised to meet the next morning by light. Says Willie to Molly, 'You must come with me And before we are married my friends for to see.' He led her through pathways, o'er hills that were steep Till this pretty fair one began for to weep, Saying, 'False-hearted Willie, you've led me astray, Purpose my innocent life to betray.' He says, 'You have guessed right; on earth can't you see For all of last night I've been digging your grave.' When innocent Molly she heard him say so, Tears from her eyes like a fountain did flow. 'Twas a grave with a spade lying there she did spy Which caused her to sigh and to weep bitterly. O false-hearted Willie, you're the worst of mankind. Is this the bride's bed I expected to find? 'Tis pity my infant and spare me my life; Let me live full of shame if I can't be your wife. Take not my life, for my soul you'll betray And you (to perdition) soon hurried away.' There's no time to be waiting, disputing to stand. He instantly taking a knife in his hand, He pierced her bosom and the blood down did flow, And into the grave her poor body he throwed. He covered her over and then hurried home, Leaving none but the small birds her fate to be known. He then sailed on board without more delay; He sad sailed for Plowmount far o'er the salt sea. 'Twas a young man named Stewart with courage so brave, The night it was dark as he went to the wave. A beauty fair damsel to him did appear, She held in her arrums an infant most dear. Being merry with liquor, he ran to embrace, Transported with joy at her beautiful face, But by his amazement she vanished away. He told to the captain without more delay. The captain soon summoned his jolly ship's crew. 'Oh my brave young fellows, I fear some of you Has murdered that fair one and then come with me; Her poor spirit haunts you all o'er the salt sea.' Then false-hearted Willie he fell to his knees And the blood in his veins all like horror did freeze, Crying, 'Monster, oh lover, oh what have I done ? God help me, I fear my poor soul is undone.' 'You poor injured fair one, your pardon I crave; How soon must I follow you down to the grave! There's none but you, fair one, to see that sad sight.' And by her distraction he died the same night. Note: This is based on a garland, the Gosport Tragedy, printed in London ca. 1750. Its 35 verses were later condensed into a short 19 verse version called The Cruel Ship's Carpenter, very popular in Canada, England and the US around 1900. It seems to be the direct source for Pretty Polly, and is certainly related to many of the other murder ballads. From Penguin Book of Canada Folk Songs, Fowke. Collected from Leo Spoencer, 1962 DT #311 Laws P36 RG
Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!