“Oh, Susanna (II)”


Shanty. Swedish version has a sailor leaving his true love and (for a change) actually returning after she has pined for a while. Another (English) fragment has two verses referring to "the Sovereign of the seas." Both use the familiar Foster tune.


Hugill got the Swedish version from _Sang under Segel_ (Sternvall, 1935), which has notes claiming that this text and melody can be traced to the 1750s. If that's true it would put a rather different light on both the Stephen Foster and the gold rush connection. - SL

I have to admit that I don't buy this. I don?t know what Sternvall's evidence is, but Foster exuded tunes the way a politician exudes falsehoods about what is mathematically possible. If he'd been better at writing lyrics, he'd have had probably twice as many hits. So I strongly doubt he would have had to steal a tune.

Could the dating somehow be related to _The Sovereign of the Seas_? There were sundry ships of that name, including an American clipper built in 1852 -- but the most famous ship of that name was Phineas Pett's great battleship of 1637. It was not a very successful ship -- it was too big for the shipbuilding techniques of the time, and as a result was very slow -- but it was so big that it established a reputation based on sheer size and gunpower. - RBW

Cross references


  1. Hugill, pp. 116-117, "Oh, Susanna," "Susannavisan (The Susanna Song)" (3 texts-Swedish & English, 1 tune)
  2. BI, Hugi116


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1961 (Hugill)
Found in: US Sweden