Come all you seamen bold and draw near, and draw near,
Come all you seamen bold and draw near,
It's of an admiral's fame, O brave Benbow was his name
How he fought all on the main, you shall hear, you shall hear.
Brave Benbow he set sail for to fight, for to fight
Brave Benbow he set sail for to fight
Brave Benbow he set sail with a fine and pleasent gale
But his Captains they turned tail in a fright, in a fright.
Says Kirby unto Wade: We will run, we will run
Says Kirby unto Wade: We will run
For I value no disgrace, nor the losing of my place
But the enemy I won't face nor his guns, nor his guns.
The Ruby and Benbow fought the French, fought the French,
The Ruby and Benbow fought the French.
They fought them up and down, till the blood came trickling down
Till the blood came trickling down where they lay, where they lay.
Brave Benbow lost his legs by chainshot, by chainshot,
Brave Benbow lost his legs by chainshot
Brave Benbow lost his legs And on his stumps he begs
Fight on my English lads, 'tis our lot, 'tis our lot.
The surgeon dress'd his wounds, cries Benbow, cries Benbow,
The surgeon dress'd his wounds, cries Benbow:
Let a cradle now in haste, on the quarterdeck be placed
That the enemy I may face, till I die, till I die.
abc | midi | pdf
Source: Sharp, C (ed),1916,One Hundred English Folksongs,Boston,Oliver Ditson Co
Cecil Sharp wrote:
CHAPPELL(Popular Music of the Olden Time, volume ii, pp. 642 and 678) gives two versions of this ballad. The first of these is entirely different from that given in the text; but the words of the second version. which are taken from Halliwell's Early Naval Ballads of England, are substantially the same, though set to a different air. The air "Marrinys yn Tiger," in Mr. Gill's Manx National Songs (P. 4), is a variant of our tune. Messrs. Kidson and Moffat publish a variant of the first of Chappell's versions in Minstrelsy of England(p. 25) with an instructive note. See also Ashton's Real Sailor Songs (p. 19).
John Benbow (1653-1702) was the son of a tanner at Shrewsbury. He was apprenticed to a butcher, from whose shop he ran away to sea. He entered the navy and rose rapidly to high command. The ballad is concerned with his engagement with the French fleet, under Du Casse, off the West Indies, August 19-24,1702. The English force consisted of seven ships, of from fifty to seventy guns. Benbow's ship was the Breda. Captain Walton of the Ruby was the only one of his captains to stand by him; the rest shirked. The Ruby was disabled on August 23, and left for Port Royal. Shortly afterwards Benbow's right leg was shattered by a chain shot. After his wound was dressed, he insisted on being carried up to the quarter-deck, as narrated in the ballad. On the following day, his captains, headed by Captain Kirkby of the Defiance, came on board and urged him to discontinue the chase. This they compelled him to do, and he returned to Jamaica, where he at once ordered a court-martial. Captains Kirkby and Wade were sentenced to be shot; Vincent and Fogg were suspended; while Captain Hudson of the Pendennis died before the trial. Kirkby and Wade were executed on board the Bristol, in Plymouth Sound, on April 16, 1703. Admiral Benbow succumbed to his wounds November 4, 1702, at Port Royal, and was buried at Kingston. His portrait is, or was, in the Painted Hall, Greenwich, to which it was presented by George IV. Mr. Ashton states that there is a tradition "that his body was brought to England and buried in DeptfordChurch."
It is a little difficult to account for the popularity Benbow excited. Personally brave he certainly was; but he has been described as "an honest rough seaman," who, it is alleged, treated his inferiors with scant courtesy. Their failure to stand by him in the French fight was, of course, a disgraceful act of cowardice; but it may also be attributed, to some extent, to their want of personal regard for their chief.
Roud: 277 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six
Related Songs: A Virgin Unspotted (melodic) Captain Kid's Farewell to the Seas (structural) Davy Lowston (structural) Death of Admiral Benbow (structural) Digger's Song (structural) Jack Hall (structural)