“Sir Andrew Barton”


Merchants complain to the King that their trade is being disrupted. The King sends a crew to deal with Barton, the pirate. After a difficult battle marked by great courage and skill on both sides, Barton is defeated and killed


In the present state of our knowledge, it is almost impossible to distinguish "Sir Andrew Barton" from "Henry Martyn"; the pirates' names exchange freely, and the basic plot is similar. What is more, the ballads have clearly exchanged elements, especially in America, where mixed versions are the rule. Child did not have to contend with this.

In Child, the basic distinction might almost appear to be length; the versions of "Andrew Barton" are 82 and 64 stanzas, while the texts of "Henry Martyn" do not exceed 13 stanzas. Thus the former looks more literary and the latter more popular. In addition, there are hints of historical background, though much distorted (see the notes in Child; a Scottish pirate named Andrew Barton is said to have been killed by the English Lord Admiral Edward Howard in 1511). Still, it is best to check both ballads for a particular version.

See the notes to "Henry Martin" for a summary of opinions on the issue.

Many American texts refer to Barton fighing a Captain Charles Stuart (replacing the Lord Howard of earlier versions -- a reasonable name, even apart from the Barton battle cited above, since Earl Howard of Norfolk was Admiral of England at the time of the battle with the Armada). Gordon thinks this was Bonnie Prince Charlie, but Barry et al point to the American Charles Stewart (1778-1869) who commanded the U. S. S. _Constitution_ at the end of the War of 1812. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1509-1547 - Reign of Henry VII (mentioned as king in some texts of the ballad)

Same tune

  • My bleeding heart, with grief and care/A Warning to all Lewd Livers (BBI ZN1789)
  • As I lay musing all alone, Great store of things I thought upon/[Title trimmed. A comparison made upon the Life of Man? Stat. Register, July 16, 1634] (BBI ZN229)

Cross references


  1. Child 167, "Sir Andrew Barton" (2 texts)
  2. Bronson 167, "Sir Andrew Barton" (10 versions)
  3. Percy/Wheatley II, pp. 188-207, "Sir Andrew Barton" (3 texts, one from the folio manuscript and the other the completely rewritten version in the _Reliques_)
  4. BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 248-258, "Andrew Barton" (3 texts); p. 483 (1 tune) {Bronson's #9}
  5. Flanders-Ancient4, pp. 15-44, "Sir Andrew Barton" "but including Henry Martyn" (11 texts plus a fragment, 10 tunes; in every text but "L," the robber is Andrew Bardeen or something like that, but many of the texts appear more Henry Martin-like) {K=Bronson's #2 tune for Child #167; B=#46, C=#31 for Child #250}
  6. Leach, pp. 467-475, "Sir Andrew Barton" (1 text)
  7. Friedman, p. 348, "Sir Andrew Barton" (1 text)
  8. OBB 130, "Sir Andrew Barton" (1 text)
  9. Gummere, pp. 130-141+329-331, "Sir Andrew Barton" (1 text)
  10. BBI, ZN2850, "When Flora with her fragrant flowere"
  11. DT 167, ANDBART* HENRMRT4*
  12. ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; notes to #418, ("But when hee saw his sisters sonne slaine") (1 long but incomplete text)
  13. Roud #192
  14. BI, C167


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1723
Found in: US(MA,NE,NW,SE)