It was down in yonder meadows I carelessly did stray;
There I beheld a lady fair with some young sailor gay.
He said, "My lovely Susan, I soon must leave the shore,
To cross the briny ocean in a British man of war."
Pretty Susan fell to weeping. "Young sailor," she did say,
"How can you be so venturesome to throw yourself away!
For it's when that I am twenty-one I shall receive my store;
Jolly sailor, do not venture on a British man of war."
"Oh, Susan, lovely Susan, the truth to you I'll tell,
The British flag insulted is, old England knows it well.
I may be crowned with laurels, so like a jolly tar,
I'll face the walls of China in a British man of war."
"Oh sailor, do not venture to face the proud Chinese,
For they will prove as treacherous as any Portuguese,
And by some deadly dagger you may receive a scar,
So it's turn your inclination from a British man of war."
"Oh, Susan, lovely Susan, the time will quickly pass,
You come down to the ferryhouse to take a parting glass;
For my shipmates they are waiting to row me from the shore,
And its for old England's glory in a British man of war."
The sailor took his handkerchief and cut it fair in two,
Saying "Susan, take one half from me, I'll do the same by you.
The bullets may surround me and cannons loudly roar,
I'll fight for fame and Susan in a British man of war."
Then a few more words together when her love let go her hand.
A jovial crew, they launched the boat and merrily went from land.
The sailor waved his handkerchief when far away from shore;
Pretty Susan blessed her sailor in a British man of war.
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Source: Purslow, F, (1968), The Wanton Seed, EDFS, London
Frank Purslow's notes are:
Gardiner H 325. Tune and text from George Blake, St Denys, Southampton. Although 78 years of age Blake was a very fine and intelligent singer and this song is worth including if only for its tune which I find rather "handsome." The words are typical broadside stuff but in the mouth of a good singer can sound impressive. I find that young singers, when faced with a long song, tend to hurry the song along in case their audience gets bored. I think this a great mistake because the listeners usually miss half the words, lose the thread of the narrative and do get bored; whereas if the full meaning is given to the text - and the singer sounds as if he is convinced at least - then the audience enjoy the performance. Incidentally, the tune is again a veritable patchwork of "folk-phrases."
See also the discussion thread for some American versions.
Roud: 372 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six
Related Songs: On Board of a Man-of-War [Susan's Adventures in a Man of War] (thematic)