> Martin Carthy > Songs > Polly on the Shore
> Shirley Collins > Songs > Polly on the Shore
> Trevor Lucas > Songs > Polly on the Shore

Polly on the Shore / The Valiant Sailor

[ Roud 811 ; Ballad Index Wa057 ; Wiltshire Roud 811 ; trad.]

George ‘Pop’ Maynard's sang Polly on the Shore to Mervyn Plunkett in West Hoathly, Sussex, in October 1956. This recording was included in 1961 on the Collector EP Four Sussex Singers. An earlier recording, made by Peter Kennedy in Pop's home in Copthorne, Sussex, on December 3, 1955, was published in 1976 on his Topic LP Ye Subjects of England: Traditional Songs from Sussex. In was also later included on the Topic anthologies Hidden English: A Celebration of English Traditional Music (1996), We've Received Orders to Sail (The Voice of the People Series, Volume 12, 1998), and English Originals (1999). His Topic album's sleeve notes commented:

Pop was obviously taken by songs which dealt with the sea and his version of The Valiant Sailor (Pop called it Polly on the Shore) became something of a masterpiece in his singing. His version differs somewhat from the broadside text that John Ashton included in his book Real Sailor Songs (1891) and from the set that Cecil Sharp collected in Cambridgeshire in 1911.

Martin Carthy sang Polly on the Shore on his 1969 album with Dave Swarbrick, Prince Heathen. It was also included in 1999 on his compilation A Collection. He commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

A song about that most beautiful and most precarious of emotions—resignation, and with a tune to match.

Shirley and Dolly Collins recorded Polly on the Shore one year later for their album Love, Death & the Lady; this was reissued in 2002 on their anthology Within Sound. She commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

From George Maynard, of Copthorne, Sussex. It was one of the great good fortunes in my life to hear George sing in the flesh, back in 50's. Even though he was then in his eighties, he was still able to sing tunefully and gracefully, and had a remarkable stock of songs. He was a complete countryman, and well-known as a marbles and shove ha'penny player. I loved George because he reminded me of my Grandad, who had died a couple of years before. This song epitomes George to me, with its sweetness and dignity.

Trees sang Polly on the Shore in 1970 on their CBS album On the Shore.

Trevor Lucas sang Polly on the Shore in 1973 on Fairport Convention's album Nine. This is probably Trevor Lucas' finest Fairport track. It was reissued on the double CD compilation Meet on the Ledge: The Classic Years 1967-1975. The version on the Fairport unConventioNal 4CD set is from a promotional video which, however, is the studio take compressed and in worse quality. A live version with Trevor Lucas from Cropredy 1982 was released on the cassette (and later on, CD) A.T. 2. Another—1993—Cropredy version with Ralph McTell singing is available on the CD 25th Anniversary Concert.

Cyril Tawney sang Polly on the Shore in 1992 on his Neptune Tapes cassette of songs of voyages, battles and shipwrecks, Seamen Bold.

Ian Giles sang Polly on the Shore in 1997 on his WildGoose CD The Amber Triangle. He noted:

Another song on the subject of lovers parted by war; this time the Navy claims the beau.

Brian Peters sang Polly on the Shore in 2001 on his CD Lines.

Martin Simpson sang Polly on the Shore in 2001 too on his Topic CD The Bramble Briar.

Roger Grimes sang Polly on the Shore on the 2005 Musical Traditions anthology Songs from the Golden Fleece.

Jack Crawford sang The Valiant Sailor in 2008 on his WildGoose CD Pride of the Season. He commented in his liner notes:

I learned this song from Roy Palmer's Oxford Book of Sea Songs (1986) long before first hearing George ‘Pop’ Maynard singing Polly on the Shore, which it closely resembles. Palmer took the text of The Valiant Sailor from John Ashton's Real Sailor-Songs (1891) and collated it with a related song, Lord Carter Is My Name, which was collected by George Butterworth from Mrs Cranstone of Billingshurst, Sussex, in July 1909 and published in the Journal of the Folk Song Society Volume 4 (1913).

Andy Turner learned Polly on the Shore from the singing of Pop Maynard and sang it as the May 24, 2015 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Tim Jones and the Dark Lanterns sang Polly on the Shore on their 2017 CD Blossom & Fruit.

Lyrics

Martin Carthy sings Polly on the Shore

Come all you wild young men
And a warning take by me,
Never to lead your single life astray
And into no bad company.

As I myself have done,
It being in the merry month of May,
𝄆 When I was pressed by a sea-captain
And on board a man-o-war I was sent. 𝄇

We sailed on the ocean so wide
And our bonny bonny flag we let fly.
Let every man stand true to his gun
For the Lord knows who must die.

Oh our captain was wounded full sore
And so were the rest of his men.
Our main mast rigging it was scattered on the deck
So that we were obliged to give in.

Oh our decks they were spattered with blood
And so loudly the cannons did roar;
𝄆 And thousands of times have I wished myself at home
And all along with my Polly on the shore. 𝄇

She's a tall and a slender girl,
She's a dark and a-rolling eye,
𝄆 And here am I lie a-bleeding on the deck
And for her sweet sake I would die. 𝄇

So farewell to me parents and me friends,
Farewell my dear Polly too.
𝄆 I'd ne'er would have crossed this salt sea so wide
If I had have been ruled by you. 𝄇

Shirley Collins sings Polly on the Shore

Come all you wild young men
And a warning take by me,
Never to lead your single life astray
And into no bad company.

As I myself have a-done,
It being in the merry month of May,
When I was pressed by a sea-captain
On board a man-o-war I was sent.

Now we sailed on the ocean so wide
And our bonny, bonny flag we let fly.
Let every man stand true to his guns
For the Lord knows who must die.

And our captain was wounded full sore
And so were the rest of his men.
Our main mast rigging was scattered on the deck
So that we were obliged to give in.

And the decks were all spattered with blood
And so loudly the cannons did roar;
And thousands of times have I wished myself at home
And all along with my Polly on the shore.

She's a tall and a slender girl,
She's a dark and a-roving eye,
But here am I lie a-bleeding on the deck
And for her sweet sake I shall die.

So farewell to me parents and me friends,
Farethewell, my dear Polly too.
𝄆 I never should have crossed this salt sea so wide
If I had have been ruled by her. 𝄇

Trevor Lucas sings Polly on the Shore

Come all you wild young men and a warning take by me
Never lead your single life astray or into bad company
As I myself have done, being all in the month of May
When I, as pressed by a sea captain, a privateer to trade
To the East Indies we were bound to plunder the raging main
And it's many the brave and a gallant ship we sent to a watery grave
Ah, for Freeport we did steer, our provisions to renew
When we did spy a bold man-of-war sailing three feet to our two

Oh, she fired across our bows, “Heave to and don't refuse
Surrender now unto my command or else your lives you'll lose”
And our decks they were sputtered with blood
And the cannons did loudly roar
And broadside and broadside a long time we lay
Till we could fight no more
And a thousand times I wished meself alone,
All alone with me Polly on the shore

She's a tall and a slender girl with a dark and a-rolling eye
And here am I, a-bleeding on the deck
And for a sweet saint must die
Farewell, me family and me friends, likewise me Polly too
I'd never have crossed the salt sea wide
If I'd have been ruled by you
And a thousand times I saw meself again,
All alone with me Polly on the shore

Acknowledgements

Transcribed from the singing of Martin Carthy by Garry Gillard.