“The Glendy Burk”


The singer complains, "I can't stay here 'cause they work too hard; I'm bound to leave this town; I'll take my duds and tote 'em on my back when the Glendy Burk comes down." He describes the "funny" boat and promises to take his girl to Louisiana

Supplemental text

Glendy Burk, The
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From sheet music published 1860 by Firth, Pond & Co.
Title page inscribed
           Foster's Melodies
                 No. 48
               Glendy Burk
            Plantation Melody
         Written and Composed by
            STEPHEN C. FOSTER

De Glendy Burk is a mighty fast boat,
Wid a mighty fast captain too;
He sits up dah on de hurricane roof
And he keeps his eye on de crew.
I cant (sic.) stay here, for dey work too hard;
I'm bound to leave dis town;
I'll take my duds and tote 'em on my back
When de Glendy Burk comes down.

  Ho! for Lou'siana!
  I'm bound to leave dis town;
  I'll take my duds and tote 'em on my back
  When de Glendy Burk comes down.

De Glendy Burk has a funny old crew
And dey sing de boatman's song,
Dey burn de pitch and de pine knot too,
For to shove de boat along.
De smoke goes up and de engine roars
And de wheel goes round and round,
So fare you well! for I'll take a little ride
When de Glendy Burk comes down.

I'll work all night in de wind and storm,
I'll work all day in de rain,
Till I find myself on de levy dock
In New Orleans again.
Dey make me mow in de hay field here
And knock my head wid de flail,
I'll go where dey work wid de sugar and de cane
And roll de cotton bale.

My lady love is as pretty as a pink,
I'll meet her on de way
I'll take her back to de sunny old south
And dah I'll make her stay
So dont (sic.) you fret my honey dear,
Oh! dont (sic.) you fret Miss Brown
I'll take you back 'fore de middle of de week
When de Glendy Burk comes down.


This song, for some reason, seems to have done particularly well in Australia, with several localized versions ("The New York Boat," "The Bundaberg") known. These versions on their faces often bear little resemblance to Foster's song -- but in almost all cases (as the titles show), the errors are simple errors of hearing.

It's also worth noting that the tune I learned for this song (from Debby McClatchy) is not the same as Foster's sheet music. Thus this text has acquired at least two new tunes over the years. Highly unusual, given that Foster is credited with more tunes than texts, and that very many of his texts are in fact quite poor.

I have to suspect, in fact, that this song sat on a shelf somewhere for several years. Note that Saunders/Root firmly date the sheet music to 1860. And yet, there was a real ship, the _Glendy Burk_ which went into service on the Ohio and the lower Mississippi in 1851 (according to scattered Internet sources). But Bruce D. Berman's _Encyclopedia of American Shipwrecks_, p. 245, says that this _Glendy Burk_ was snagged and sunk at Cairo, Illinois in 1855. I find no record of a replacement built in the period after that. The logical conclusion -- though it is obviously not certain -- is that Foster wrote this song prior to the boat's sinking, or at least five years before the song was published. - RBW


  1. Meredith/Anderson, pp. 109-110, "When the New York Boat Comes Down" (1 text, 1 tune -- a heavily localized version sung to the tune of "Year of Jubilo"; also fragments of another version)
  2. Saunders/Root-Foster 2, pp. 93-96+427, "The Glendy Burk" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. ST MA109 (Full)
  5. BI, MA109


Author: Stephen C. Foster
Earliest date: 1860 (sheet music)
Found in: US Australia