“When I Was Young (Don't Never Trust a Sailor)”


A girl laments the loss of her virginity to a sailor, (who gives her half a dollar for "the damage I have done," and advises if she has a son to send him off to sea). She is found to be pregnant. Her parents throw her out. She warns girls against sailors

Supplemental text

When I Was Young (Don't Never Trust a Sailor)
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

Don't Never Trust a Sailor

From Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, Volume IV, pp. 328-329.
Collected from George E. Hastings of Fayetteville, Arkansas,
December 7, 1941.

Once I loved a sailor as dear as my life,
Oft-times he promised for to make me his wife.
But now he is sick for another one you see,
So he got me with child and he turned his back on me.

My parents they chastised me because I done so,
And now I am despised by the other girls I know,
My father and my mother they turned me from their door,
So now I go a-begging because I am poor.

Come all you pretty maidens wherever you may be,
Don't never trust a sailor an inch above your knee,
They'll kiss you and court you and swear they will be true,
Then get sick for another and bid you adieu.


Randolph-Legman has extensive historical notes, separating this "inch-above-the-knee" song from "Bell Bottom Trousers/Rosemary Lane." - EC

For discussion of this song and its ancestry, see the entry on "Rosemary Lane" [Laws K43]. The pieces here may not be a unity; one might describe this as bawdy remnants of that ballad. - RBW

Cross references


  • Dillard Chandler, "The Sailor Being Tired" (on OldLove)


  1. Cray, pp. 75-78, "When I Was Young" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  2. Randolph 806, "Don't Never Trust a Sailor" (1 text)
  3. Randolph-Legman I, pp. 74-80, "When I Was Young and Foolish" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  4. Greenleaf/Mansfield 58, "The Lass that Loved a Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Hugill, pp. 500-501, "Home, Home, Home" (1 text, 1 tune, with a chorus probably derived from "Ambletown" or some other member of the "Rosemary Lane" family) [AbEd, pp. 368-369]
  6. JHJohnson, p. 65, "The Lass That Loved a Sailor" (1 text)
  7. Sandburg, p. 219, "When I Was Young and Foolish" (1 short text, 1 tune, which appears to go with this piece although the ending is missing)
  8. Blondahl, p. 106, "The Lass That Loved a Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. ST EM075 (Full)
  10. Roud #954
  11. BI, EM075


Alternate titles: “The Night Hawk”; “The Sailor-Girl's Lament”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1929 (Greenleaf/Mansfield)
Found in: US(MW,So,SW) Canada(Newf)