“The Ocean Burial”


The dying sailor speaks of his loved ones and pleads with his shipmates not to be buried at sea. They do it anyway

Supplemental text

Ocean Burial, The
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From sheet music published 1850 by Oliver Ditson.
Title page inscribed
                 OCEAN BURIAL
          Favorite and touching Ballad
               GEORGE N. ALLEN

"O! bury me not in the deep, deep sea;"
The words came low and mournfully,
From the pallid lips of a youth who lay,
On his cabin couch at the close of day.
He had wasted and pined 'till o'er his brow,
The death-shade had slowly passed, and now,
Whene (sic.) the land and his fond loved home were nigh,
They had gathered around him to see him die.

"O bury me not in the deep, deep sea,
Where the billowy shroud will roll over me,
Where no light will break through the dark, cold wave,
And no sunbeam rest upon my grave.
It matters not, I have oft been told,
Where the body shall lie when the heart is cold,
Yet grant ye O! grant ye this boon to me,
O! bury me not in the deep, deep sea."

"For in fancy I've listened to the well known words,
The free, wild winds, and the songs of the birds;
I have thought of home, of cot and bower,
And of scenes that I love in childhood's hour.
I had ever hoped to be laid when I died,
In the church-yard there, on the green hill-side;
By the bones of my fathers' my grave should be,
O! bury me not in the deep, deep sea.

"Let my death slumbers be where a mother's prayer,
And a sister's tear shall be mingled there;
O! 'twill be sweet, ere the heart's throb is o'er,
To know when its fountains shall gush no more,
That those it so fondly hath yearned for will come
To plant the first wild-flower of spring on my tomb;
Let me lie where those loved ones will weep over me,
O! bury me not in the deep, deep sea.

"And there is another; he rears would be shed,
For him who lay far in an ocean bed;
In hours that it pains me to think of now,
She hath twined these locks, and hath kissed this brow,
In the hair she hath wreathed, shall the sea snake hiss!
And the brow she had pressed, shall the cold wave kiss!
For the sake of that bright one that waiteth for me,
O! bury me not in the deep, deep sea.

"She hath been in my dreams" -- his voice failed there;
They gave no heed to his dying prayer;
They have lowered him slow o'er the vessel's side,
Above him has closed the dark, cold tide;
Where to dip their light wings the sea-fowls rest
Where the blue waves dance o'er the ocean's crest;
Where the billows bound, and the winds sport free;
They have buried him there, in the deep, deep sea.


The 1850 sheet music of this piece credits the entire thing to George N. Allen. Since the poem was published under Edwin H. Chapin's name (as "The Ocean Buried!"), this must mean that Allen set the music. Allen's tune, however, is NOT what we know as "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie." Nor is it the related tune Gordon Bok calls the "Texas Song" (see the index entry on "Going to Leave Old Texas (Old Texas, Texas Song, The Cowman's Lament)."

To add to the confusion, Belden lists the author as William H. Sanders, based apparently on Fulton and Trueblood's _Choice Readings_.

The singer Ossian Dodge is reported to have been performing the piece as early as 1845. I have been unable to determine the tune he used.

On the whole, I think we must list the author of the music to this piece as "unknown."

Laws does not include this piece as one of his ballads, but gives a text (from oral tradition!) in NAB, pp. 80-81. - RBW

And just to add to the confusion, see the sheet music for "The Sailor Boy's Grave" in the Lester Levy collection, where the boy asks *not* to be buried on land, but rather "let me sleep 'neath the silent waves/The sea-nymphs watching over me." That is credited to "J. Martin, Esq. (of Clifton)," and carries a date of 1841; it seems to be an "answer song" to "The Ocean Burial," although the latter had apparently not yet been set to music. The tune is not the same as "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie," and is in fact rather dull. - PJS

References for "The Sailor Boy's Grave":

LOCSheet, sm1841 381040, "The Sailor Boy's Grave," F. D. Benteen (Boston), 1841; also sm1841 381050, sm1845 401960, "The Sailor Boy's Grave" (tune)

LOCSinging, as112080, "The Sailor Boy's Grave," Thos. G. Doyle (Baltimore), 19C - BS

Cross references


  • LOCSheet, sm1850 470190, "The Ocean Burial," Oliver Ditson (Boston), 1850 (tune)


  • Eugene Jemison, "The Ocean Burial" (on Jem01)


  1. Doerflinger, pp. 162-163, "The Ocean Burial" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Friedman, p. 437, "The Ocean Burial" (1 text)
  3. RJackson-19CPop, pp. 139-143, "The Ocean Burial" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. JHCox 55, "The Ocean Burial" (1 text)
  5. BrownII 261, "The Ocean Burial" (1 text)
  6. Linscott, pp. 245-248, "The Ocean Burial" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Peacock, pp. 151-152, "Bury Me Not in the Deep Deep Sea" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. cf. Fuld, pp. 396-398, "Oh, Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie"
  9. ST FR437 (Full)
  10. Roud #3738
  11. BI, FR437


Author: Words: Rev. Edwin H. Chapin
Earliest date: 1839 (Southern Literary Messenger; set to music 1850)
Keywords: burial death dying sailor
Found in: US(Ap,MW,NE,SE,So) Canada(Mar,Newf)