“The H'Emmer Jane”


"Now 'tis of a young maiden this story I tell, and of her young lover...." Her love, a ship's captain, sails away and is presumed lost. H'Emmer Jane goes crazy and drowns herself. He finally returns; shown the grave of his beloved, he dies himself.


Satire on popular broadsides and ballads of the period that told such melodramatic tales in great seriousness. Lyrics are written in imitation of an exaggerated Newfoundland accent, [e.g.] "On a cold stormy mornin' all down by the sea, H'Emmer Jane sot a-waitin', sot a'waitin' for 'e. On a cold stormy mornin' her body were found, so t'was figgered pretty ginerally she'd gone crazy and got drowned."

[The] date from a broadside set by Golden Hind Press, Madison NJ, 1941. States that "Emmer Jane is a fold song from the south shore on Newfoundland here printed for the first time." - SL

The dead captain is recognized because he is carrying H'Emmer Jane's handkercheif. If a [broken] ring is a man's token to be kept by a woman then perhaps the woman's token is her handkercheif. That is true in "Jack Robinson" where Jack reveals himself to his old lover by showing her handkercheif. See also the French ballad "Arthur" [indexed here] where the heroine embroiders Arthur's name on her handkercheif. Maybe the question is: How much credit do we give H"Emmer Jane's author for familiarity with the broadside scene? Is Jane's name a reference to "Crazy Jane" [also indexed here, with allusions to its many parodies]?

H'Emmer Jane's handkercheif is found in the vest-pocket of the Captain's "cold carcass"; in a modern literal (?) reading of "The Suffolk Miracle," the daughter's "holland handkercheif" is found around her dead young man's head [but then there's the counter-example of "The Silvery Tide" in which the murdered Mary is found bound by the murderer's handkercheif].- BS

Cross references

  • cf. Vilikens and His Dinah (tune, meter and same satirical treatment of story) and references there


  • Omar Blondahl, "The H'Emm'r Jane" (on NFOBlondahl03)


  1. Fowke/MacMillan 50, "The H'Emmer Jane" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Blondahl, p. 105, "H'Emmer Jane" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Roud #4425
  4. BI, FowM050


Alternate titles: “Emmer Jane”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1941 (Fowke/MacMillan)
Found in: Canada(Newf)