Sally Brown roll and go

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In the sea shanties Sally Brown is the stereotype of the cheerful woman of the Caribbean seas, mulatta or creole, with which our sailor  tries to have a good time.

Probably of Jamaican origin according to Stan Hugill, it was a popular song in the ports of the West Indies in the 1830s.
The textual and melodic variations are many.


In this version the chorus is split into two short sentences repeated by the crew in sequence, after each verse of the shantyman, and is more properly a halyard shanty.

Paul Clayton “Sally Brown” from LP. “Sailing And Whaling Songs Of The 19th Century” 1954

Oh Sally Brown she’s a creole(2) lady,
Way, hey, roll(1) and go
Sally Brown’s a gay old lady,
spend my money on (with)(3) Sally Brown.
Sally Brown she has a daughter,
Sent me sailin’ ‘cross the water.
Oh seven long years I courted Sally,
Then she said she would not marry.
She wouldn’t have no tarry (4) sailor,
Wouldn’t have no greasy whaler.
Sally Brown I’m bound to leave you,
Sally Brown I’ll not deceive you.
Sally Brown she took a notion (5),
Sent me sailin’ ‘cross the ocean.

1)The term “Creole” can be understood in two exceptions: from the Spanish “crillo”, which originally referred to the first generation born in the “New World”, sons of settlers from Europe (Spain or France) and black slaves. The most common meaning is that which refers to all the black half-bloods of Jamaica from the color of the skin that goes from cream to brown and up to black-blue. In the nineteenth century with this term was also indicated a small elite urban society of light skin in Louisiana (resident mostly in New Orleans) result of crossings between some beautiful black slaves and white landowners who took them as lovers.
2) the term is generically used by sailors to say many things, in this context for example could mean “sail”.
3) change the article immediately makes the difference “I spend the money on” Sally implies that I pay for his sexual performance “I spend the money with” Sally is more bland ..
4) tarry is a derogatory term to distinguish the typical sailor. More generally Jack Tar is the term commonly used to refer to a sailor of merchant ships or the Royal Navy. Probably the term was coined in 1600, alluding to the tar with which the sailors waterproofed their work clothes.
5) the lady to get rid of the sailor (left without money) sends him back to work, probably on a whaler

Free Women of Color with their Children and Servants in a Landscape, Agostino Brunias

Jim Horne

I shipped on board of a Liverpool liner,
Way, hey, roll and go
bunked long side the 49 ers
spend my money on Sally Brown.
O, Sally Brown, of New York City(1),
O, Sally Brown you’re very pretty
O, Sally Brown’s a bright mulatter,
She drinks rum and chews tobaccer.
O, Sally Brown’shes a Creole lady, (2)
She’s the mother of a yellow baby(3).
Sally’s teeth are white and pearly,
Her eyes are blue, her hair is curly.
Seven long years I courted Sally,
Sweetest girl in all the valley.
Seven long years she wouldn’t marry,
And I no longer cared to tarry.
So I courted her only daughter,
For her I sail upon the water.
Now my troubles are all over,
Sally’s married to a dirty soldier

1) the shanty is also widespread on the packet ships in Liverpool-New York routes, so Sally lives in the city of New York
2)in this description the Creole girl is a mulatto from the skin in the clearest gradation, with blue eyes and wavy hair
3) or from the skin with a caramel tinge


WAY, HEY, ROLL AND GO (halyard shanty)
I ROLLED ALL NIGHT(capstan shanty)
ROLL AND GO (John Short)


Yonder comes a courteous knight (The Baffled knight ballad)

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John Byam Liston Shaw: “The Baffled Knight”

A young knight strolls through the countryside meets a girl (sometimes he surprises her while she is intent on bathing in a river) and asks her to have sex. In truth, the approaches in secluded places between noblemen and curvy country girls even if paludated with bucolic verses, they ended much more prosaically with rape (if the gentleman “stung vagueness”)

But in this ballad the girl is a lady, and the dialogue between the two protagonists becomes rather a gallant skirmish of love, a game of love to make it more appetizing; the knight, however, does not yet know the rules because of his young age and is therefore mocked by the lady, courtesan much more experienced and cynical, skilled maneuverer of her lovers!


Child ballad #112
The gallant knight is called “Baffled knight” as usual term in the Scottish dialect of 1540-1550: “bauchle”, here in the meaning of “bewildered”, “perplexed” but also “juggled”. Originally the ballad is transcribed in Deuteromelia (1609) by Thomas Ravenscroft with a melody that he attributes to the reign of Henry VIII.


The song is an exhortation to draw pleasure when the opportunity arises: the lady (as an expert courtesan) puts the young knight to the test by presenting the comforts of a bed that awaits them in the paternal home; so she enters first at home and closes off the naive (and inexperienced) knight. The lady does not hide her disdain for the knight who did not dare to get some among the branches!

Custer LaRue & Baltimore Consort from “Ladyes Delight: Entertainment Music of Elizabethan England”, 1998 ♪.
The Baltimore Consort give us a little musical jewel: the melody is performed in a cadenced manner and vaguely refers to the Dargason jig, as also reported in the first edition of “The Dancing Master” by John Playford (1651).

Lucie Skeaping & City Waits from” Lusty Broadside Ballads & Palyford Dances” 2011.
Sparkling and playful interpretation that I imagine salaciously mimed in the most fashionable living rooms of the time. A couple of verses are omitted from the original version. (they skip II, IV and VII )

Joel Frederiksen & Ensemble Phoenix Munich from “The Elfin Knight: Balads and Dances”

Yonder comes a courteous knight,
Lustely raking ouer the lay(1);
He was well ware of a bonny lasse,
As she came wandring ouer the way.
Then she sang downe a downe,
hey downe derry (bis)(2)
‘Ioue(3) you speed, fayre lady,’ he said,
‘Among the leaues that be so greene;
If I were a king, and wore a crowne,
Full soone, fair lady,
shouldst thou be a queen.
‘Also Ioue saue you, faire lady(4),
Among the roses that be so red;
If I haue not my will of you,
Full soone, faire lady,
shall I be dead.’
Then he lookt east,
then hee lookt west,
Hee lookt north, so did he south;
He could not finde a priuy place,
For all lay in the diuel’s mouth.
‘If you will carry me, gentle sir,
A mayde(5) vnto my father’s hall,
Then you shall haue your will of me,
Vnder purple and vnder paule(6).’
He set her vp vpon a steed,
And him selfe vpon another,
And all the day he rode her by,
As though they had been sister and brother.
When she came to her father’s hall,
It was well walled round about;
She yode(7) in at the wicket-gate,
And shut the foure-eard(8) foole without.
‘You had me,’ quoth she, ‘abroad in the field,
Among the corne, amidst the hay,
Where you might had your will of mee,
For, in good faith, sir, I neuer said nay.
‘Ye had me also amid the field(9)
Among the rushes that were so browne,
Where you might had your will of me,
But you had not the face to lay me downe.'(10)
He pulled out
his nut-browne(11) sword,
And wipt the rust off with his sleeue,
And said, “Ioue’s curse
come to his heart
That any woman would beleeue(12)!
When you haue you owne true-loue
A mile or twaine out of the towne,
Spare not for her gay clothing,
But lay her body flat on the ground.

1) ‘lay’ = lea, meadow-land
2)interlayer onomatopoeic and apparently non-sense of some ballads; also in the ballad The Three Ravens always reported by Ravenscoft this time in his Melismata. Vernon Chatman proposes as a translation for a sentence in the finished sense: We find in the Oxford Universal Dictionary (1955) that ‘down’ can be used as an adverb either attributively or by ellipsis of some participial word in the sense of “dejected.”” Also, we find that ‘a’ can be used as a preposition as in ‘a live’ or as an adjective in the sense of “all.” Further, we find that ‘hay’ can be used as an interjection in the sense of “thou hast (it)” and that it occurs in the phrase ‘to make hay’ this phrase meaning “to make confusion.” Thus, the sense of line two is something like the following: 1) Dejected all dejected, thou hast dejection [thou art dejected?], thou hast dejection; or 2) Dejected all dejected, confused and dejected, confused and dejected. Relative to line four we find in the Oxford Universal Dictionary that ‘with’ can be used to form adverb phrases denoting “to the fullest extent.” Thus, the sense of the fourth line is something like the following: Utterly (completely) dejected. Line seven presents the gravest difficulty; however, it can be surmounted. The problem here centers upon ‘derrie.’ Checking this time with Encyclopaedia Britannica (1956) we find that Londonderry was once named ‘Derry.’ Derry is an appropriate locale for the scene depicted in “The Three Ravens:” the Scandinavians plundered the city, and it is said to have been burned down at least seven times before 1200; it thus is a site of many battles. Line seven now “means” something like the following: Utterly dejected in Derry, in Derry, dejected, dejected.
3) Ioue = Jove; Jove you speed it is a kind of invocation of the type “Jupiter you assist”, but also a way of greeting. Jupiter is also the god famous for his love adventures and lust: in short, he did not miss one.
4) Lucie Skeaping sing ‘Ioue you speed, fayre lady,’ he said,
5) maid
6) purple and paule =  pomp and circumstance
7) ‘yode’ = went.
8) ‘foure-ear’d’ = ‘as denoting a double ass?’ (Child)
9) Lucie Skeaping sings’You had me, abroad in the field,
10) once safe, the lady mocks the inexperienced knight!
11)  the image is burlesque: the young man with a rusty sword because he never got to use it (swordsman inexperienced or clumsy as in the love duels) raises it to the sky pointing to Jupiter to attract lightning!
12) believe

TITLES: The Baffled Lover (knight),  Yonder comes a courteous knight, The Lady’s Policy, The Disappointed Lover, The (Bonny) Shepherd Lad (laddie), Blow away the morning dew, Blow Ye Winds High-O, Clear Away the Morning Dew
Child #112 A (Tudor Ballad): yonder comes a courteous knight
Child #112 B
Child #112 D ( Cecil Sharp)
Child #112 D (Sheperd Lad)
Blow Away The Morning Dew (sea shanty)