“Captain Glen/The New York Trader (The Guilty Sea Captain A/B)”


A ship sets out to sea; many of the crew become ill. The captain has a dream which causes him to reveal his dreadful crimes to the boatswain. In the face of a severe storm, the boatswain reveals the captain's sins. He is tossed overboard; the storm abates

Supplemental text

Captain Glen/The New York Trader (The Guilty Sea Captain A/B) [Laws K22]
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

Captain Glen's Unhappy Voyage to New Barbary

As printed by W. H. Logan, The Pedlar's Pack of Ballads and Songs,
pp. 47-50. Collated from two printings, one from 1794 and the
other c. 1815.

There was a ship, and a ship of fame,
Launched off the stocks, bound to the main,
With a hundred and fifty brisk young men,
Well picked and chosen every one.

William Glen was our captain's name;
He was a brisk and a tall young man,
As bold a sailor as e'er went to sea,
And he was bound for New Barbary.

The first of April we did set sail,
Blest with a sweet and pleasant gale,
For we were bound for New Barbary,
With all our whole ship's company.

One night the captain he did dream,
There came a voice which said to him:
"Prepare you and your company,
Tomorrow night you'll lodge with me."

This waked the captain in a fright,
Being the third watch of the night,
Then for his boatswain he did call,
And told to him his secrets all.

"When I in England did remain,
The Holy Sabbath I did profane;
In drunkenness I took delight,
Which doth my trembling soul affright.

"There's one more thing I've to rehearse,
Which I shall mention in this verse:
A squire I slew in Staffordshire,
All for the sake of a lady dear.

"Now, 'tis his ghost, I am afraid,
That hath to me such terror made;
Although the king hath pardoned me,
He's daily in my company."

"O worthy captain, since 'tis so,
No mortal of it e'er shall know;
So keep your secret in your breast,
And pray to God to give you rest."

They had not gone a league but three,
Till raging grew the roaring sea;
There rose a tempest in the skies,
Which filled our hearts with great surprise.

Our main-mast sprung by break of day,
Which made our rigging all give way;
This did our seamen sore affright.
The terrors of that fatal night!

Up then spoke our fore-mast man,
As he did by the fore-mast stand, --
He cried, "Have mercy on my soul!"
Then to the bottom he did fall.

The sea did wash both fore and aft,
Till scarce one sail on board was left;
Our yards were split, and our rigging tore:
The like was never seen before.

The boatswain then he did declare
The captain was a murderer,
Which did enrage the whole ship's crew:
Our captain overboard we threw.

Our treacherous captain being gon,
Immediately there was a calm;
The winds did cease, and the raging sea,
As we went to New Barbary.

Now when we came to the Spanish shore,
Our goodly ship for to repair,
The people were amazed to see
Our dismal case and misery.

But when our ship we did repair,
To fair England our course did steer;
And when we came to London town,
Our dismal case we then made known.

Now many wives their husbands lost,
Which they lamented to their cost,
And caused them to weep bitterly,
These tiding from New Barbary.

A hundred and fifty brisk young men,
Did to our goodly ship belong;
Of all our whole ship's company,
Our number was but sevenry-three.

Now seamen all, where'er you be,
I pray a warning take by me;
As you love your life, still have a care
That you never sail with a murderer.

'Tis never more I do intend
For to cross o'er the raging main;
But I'll live in peace in my own country, --
And so I end my tragedy.


See also Creighton and MacLeod _Gaelic Songs in Nova Scotia_ 38, pp. 120-121, "Uilleam Glen (William Glen)" which alternates Gaelic and English verses. The English verses are close enough to Creighton-NovaScotia to be considered the same ballad.

The theme of the sailor thrown overboard to calm a storm sent by God is found in Jonah 1.1-16.

Ranson's version seems mangled with one four line stanza, three of five lines and three of six; no tune is supplied which, in Ranson's case, probably means the ballad was recited. Further, the contributor seems to be recalling the ballad as she remembers it from her late husband. The version has a few elements from the beginning of "Captain Glen": the number of the crew is mentioned (but only 34), and the captain is named (William Gore). From that point on couplets, rather than verses, and a few compressed single lines follow Catnach's "New York Trader" broadside at Bodliean Firth c.13(204). - BS

This may not be the only song about Captain Glen's misdeeds. The National Library of Scotland has an item, broadside NLScotland, L.C.Fol.70(46a), "Captain Glen" ("As I was walking to take the air, To see the ships all sailing O"), unknown, c. 1890, describes Captain Glen seducing Betsy Gordon and abandoning her -- but he returns to her later.

The idea of the sea raging against a criminal aboard a ship is, of course, a popular theme going back all the way to the Biblical book of Jonah. - RBW

Cross references

  • cf. "Brown Robin's Confession" [Child 57]
  • cf. "Cruel Ship's Carpenter, The (The Gosport Tragedy; Pretty Polly)" [Laws P36A/B]
  • cf. "Sir William Gower"
  • cf. "The Pirate"
  • cf. "The Sailor and the Ghost"
  • cf. "The Man and the Two Maidens"
  • cf. "Willie Was As Fine a Sailor" (Jonah theme)


  • Bodleian, Harding B 11(2902), "The New York Trader," T. Birt (London), 1828-1829; Harding B 11(2700), Johnson Ballads 220, Johnson Ballads 569, Harding B 11(2163), 2806 b.11(232), Harding B 11(2699), Firth c.13(204), "The New York Trader"


  1. Bronson (57 ? Appendix to "Brown Robyn's Confession"), 10 versions
  2. Laws K22, "Captain Glen/The New York Trader (The Guilty Sea Captain A/B)"
  3. Vaughan Williams/Lloyd, pp. 72-73, "The New York Trader" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's 10}
  4. Chappell-FSRA 35, "Captain Glen" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #3}
  5. Logan, pp. 47-50, "Captain Glen's Unhappy Voyage to New Barbary" (1 text)
  6. Peacock, pp. 396-397, "New York Trader" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Creighton-NovaScotia 55, "Captain Glen" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Mackenzie 90, "Captain Glen" (1 text); 91, "The New York Trader" (1 text)
  9. Leach, pp. 697-698, "William Glen" (1 text)
  10. Ranson, pp. 76-77, "The Cork Trader" (1 text)
  11. BBI, ZN2534, "There was a ship, and a ship of fame"
  13. ST LK22 (Full)
  14. Roud #478
  15. BI, LK22


Alternate titles: “William Guiseman”; “Sie William Gower”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1794
Found in: Canada(Mar,Newf) Britain(England,Scotland) US(MA,SE) Ireland