“A Song About a Man-of-War”


The singer and his love part as he prepares to go to sea. The captain convinces him to come "on board of a man of war," where he is bound, abused, and fed horrid food. At last he throws himself overboard, swims to shore, and returns to his love


The text in Brown seems confused; in the first two verses, the sailor seems about to voluntarily leave his love, then a captain cons him to come aboard ship. Then, once aboard, he is treated as if he had been pressed.

The most likely explanation is that several songs have been jumbled together. But the key element -- the third, in which the sailor makes his escape -- is unknown to me, and the editors of Brown confess ignorance also. - RBW


  1. BrownII 115, "A Song About a Man-of-War" (1 text)
  2. Roud #661
  3. BI, BrII115


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1952 (Brown, from a manuscript reportedly dated 1768)
Found in: US(SE)