“The Sea Crab”


A man stows a crab (lobster) in the chamber pot while his wife is asleep. She gets up to relieve herself; the crab grabs her "by the flue." He seeks to free her; the crab grabs his nose. Caught in this predicament, they send for a doctor to free them

Supplemental text

Sea Crab, The
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

The Sea Crabb

From Furnivall, Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscript [Volume 4], Loose
and Humorous Songs, pp. 99-100. Text from page 462 of the Percy Folio.

Itt: was a man of Affrica had a ffaire wiffe,
ffairest that euer I saw the dayes of my liffe:
with a ging, boyes, ginge! ginge, boyes, ginge!
tarradidle, ffarradidle, ging, boys, ging!

This goodwiffe was bigbellyed, & with a lad,
& euer shee longed ffor a sea crabbe
  ginge &c.

The goodman rise in the morning, & put on his hose,
he went to the sea syde, & ffollowed his nose.
  ginge &c.

Sais, "god speed, ffisherman, sayling on the sea,
hast thou any crabbs in thy bot for to sell mee?"
  ginge &c.

"I haue Cranns in my bote, one, tow, or three;
I haue Crabbs in my bote for to sell thee."
  ginge &c.

The good man went home, & ere he wist,
& put the Crabb in the Chamber pot where his wiffe pist
  ginge &c.

The good wiffe, she went to doe as shee was wont;
vp start the Crabfish, & catcht her by the Cunt.
  ginge &c.

"Alas!" quoth the goodwiffe, "that euer I was borne,
the devill is in the pispott, & has me on his horne."
  ginge &c.

"If thou be a crabb or crabfish by kind,
thoule let thy hold goe with a blast of cole wind."
  ginge &c.

The good man laid to his outh, & began to blowe,
thinkeing therby that they Crab wold lett goe.
  ginge &c.

"Alas!" quoth the good man, "that euer I came hither,
he has ioyned my wiffes tayle & my nose together!"
  ginge &c.

They good man called his neigbors in with great wonder,
to part his wiues tayle & his nose assunder.
  ginge &c.


This is one of the oldest of English language traditional ballads. F.J. Child deliberately excluded it from his canonical ESPB, presumably because of its indelicate nature. - EC

Kennedy says of this piece, "...it seems likely to be either French in origin or in imitation of French balladry (at any rate this is a chance to disown it as an English composition)." - RBW

Sharp's version differs from the canonical one in several ways, aside from having been cleaned up. The main theme of the song is that the woman is sick, and craves the crab, so the man goes and buys one. She goes to smell it, and it bites her, then him. Same song, very different emphasis. -PJS

Cross references


  1. Cray, pp. 1-4, "The Sea Crab" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  2. Randolph-Legman I, pp. 66-73, "The Sea Crab" (4 texts, 1 tune)
  3. Sharp-100E 77, "The Crabfish" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Kennedy 196, "The Crab-Fish" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Hugill, pp. 277-278, "Whiskey Johnny" (2 texts, version "D" of "Whiskey Johnny) [AbEd, p. 206]
  6. Logsdon 52, pp. 245-248, "The Sea Crab" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. ST EM001 (Full)
  9. Roud #149
  10. BI, EM001


Alternate titles: “The Crayfish”; “The Fishy Crab”; “The Lobster”; “The Old She-Crab”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: c. 1620 (Percy Folio Manuscripts)
Found in: Canada (Ont) Britain(England,Scotland) US (Ap,MA,MW,Ro,SE,So,SW)