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The Robber's Song (Abe Carman)

[Peter Bellamy]

A.L. Lloyd sang the role of Abe Carman in Peter Bellamy's ballad opera The Transports. In the 1992 Whitby Folk Festival performance of The Transports, Martin Carthy took over the role of Abe Carman, and Joel Griffiths sang it on the 2004 re-recording of The Transports.

In 1985, Peter Bellamy re-recorded The Robber's Song as a much darker and meaner Abe Carman for his album Second Wind (together with The Black and Bitter Night). He commented in the sleeve notes that this song

…was deemed too lighthearted by the producers of the 1983 performance [of The Transports] at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, so I reworked most of the words and all of the tune for the occasion. The result is Abe Carman, which here appears on record for the first time. Substitute “Napoleon Bonaparte” for Abe's name in the first line and you will get a clue as to the methods we “traditional idiom” composers frequently employ. In this case it was unwitting, though, so don't call it Plagiarism, please? How about The Oral Tradition in Action? Thanks.

This reworked version was also included on the first CD of Peter Bellamy's anthology Wake the Vaulted Echoes. Jon Boden sang it as the June 9, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Lyrics

The Robber's Song on The Transports Abe Carman on Second Wind

My name is Abe Carman,
Me trade it is right charmin',
For you know there is no harm in
      A little burglaree;
I live by taking chances
Like the heroes of Romances
And taking what I fancies
      With bold audacitee!

My name it is Abe Carman,
You may find me alarming
If you think that there be harm
      In the trade of burglary;
I live by taking chances
Like heroes of romances
And taking what I fancies
      From those wealthier than me!

There's wealth all for the taking
And there is no mistaking,
Me fortune I am making
      With a little robberee;
No man shall be me master
As long as I run faster
Than those that would me blast for
      A-taking things for free!

Yes, there's goods all for the taking
And there is no mistaking,
There is little you'll be making
      On the straight and narrow path;
Like toiling for the masters
And bowing to the pastors,
Those cruel heartless bastards
      Who would see a poor man starve!

I've robbed the great and wealthy
In manner sly and stealthy.
But it's just to keep me healthy
      As you can plainly see;
No watch, no ring, no clock it
Is not safe within your pocket
And 'twill avail you naught to lock it
      From light-fingered genteree!

Old companions, I have seen 'em
Cast off all thought of freedom
As their wives and babies need 'em
      And the bread for which they slave;
So their pride they learn to humble,
Being never heard to grumble
But before I take that tumble
      You will find me in my grave!

Some they goes to be a soldier
With the muskets on their shoulder,
But they never grows no older
      Once the generals ride to war;
And the lads who plough the ocean
Wish they'd never thought the notion
When commanders seek promotion
      On a tide of sailors' gore!

But let those who will bow under,
Like a maid who hides from thunder,
But as long as I can plunder
      I will steer my course alone;
No wife shall ever mould me,
No tyrant shall control me.
No bridewell door will hold me
      And my soul will be my own!

When the night it comes a-falling
I tend unto my calling,
Along the wall a-crawling
      For petty larcenee;
There is no sweeter feeling
Than 'neath a window kneeling,
Then through the casement stealing
      With the spoils of thieveree!

So when the night come a-falling
I tend unto my calling,
You will never find me crawling
      To the lofty genteree;
With me pistols on the high road,
With me cudgels in the by-road,
Every road is my road
      When I walk it strong and free!

You should see how I do swagger
With me cudgel, gun and dagger
And safe within me saddle-bag
      A sum of bright monee;
To see me count me plunder,
It would make you gape with wonder
And I'm sure quite soon you'd under-
      Take some Break and Enteree!

While I've a mate to hold a candle
And an iron to break a handle
And a boy to spy the land then
      I will rob both great and small;
Till me luck it do forsake me
On the day when they do take me
And on the gallows break me
      And that'll pay for all!

While I've got a mate to hold a candle
And an iron to break a handle
And a boy to spy the land then
      I will rob both great and small;
Till me luck it do forsake me
On the day when they do take me
And on the gallows break me
      And that'll pay for all!

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Wolfgang Hell who kindly provided me with the sleeve notes of the The Transports LPs. I changed a few words to the actual singing of A.L. Lloyd.

Thanks to Kevin Sexton for the lyrics of Abe Carman on Second Wind.