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Fare Thee Well, My Dearest Dear

[ Roud 1035 ; Ballad Index VWL038 ; VWML RVW2/2/202 ; trad.]

This sad parting song was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1904 from Mrs Harriet Verrall of Monxgate near Horsham, Sussex, and published in his and A.L. Lloyd's Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Shirley and Dolly Collins recorded it in 1976 for their album Amaranth. This track was also included in their anthology Within Sound. There are also two live recordings available, one from Dublin 1978 can be found on the CD Harking Back, the other from the Folk Festival Sidmouth 1979 on the CD Snapshots.

Nic Jones sang Fare Thee Well, My Dearest Dear in a “concert, club or studio performance recorded prior to 1982” that was finally published in 2001 on his CD Unearthed.

Cyril Tawney sang Fare Thee Well My Dearest Dear on his 1992 Neptune Tapes cassette In Every Port. This track was also included in 2003 on his CD Nautical Tawney.

The Askew Sisters sang Fare Thee Well, My Dearest Dear in 2007 on their WildGoose CD All in a Garden Green. They commented in their liner notes:

We first fell in love with this song after hearing Nic Jones' version. Our adaption is from that given in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs by Harriet Verrall of Horsham. There are no other collected versions known, but the song is thought to have descended from the seventeenth century broadside The Two Faithful Lovers.

Andy Turner first heard Fare Thee Well, My Dearest Dear on Amaranth, learned it from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, and sang it as the January 19, 2014 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

Shirley Collins sings Fare Thee Well, My Dearest Dear

“Fare thee well, my dearest dear, fare thee well, adieu,
For I must go to sea for the sake of you.
Love, bear a patient heart, for you must bear the smart,
Since you and I must part, my turtle dove.

“You'll have silver and bright gold, houses and land,
What more can you desire, love? Don't complain.
And jewels to your hand, and maids at your command,
But you must think of me when I am gone.”

“Your gold shall count as dust when that you are fled,
Your absence proves me lost and strikes me dead.
And when you are from home, your servants I'll have none.
I'll rather live alone than in company.”

So nimbly then she's dressed all in man's attire,
All for to go to sea was her heart's desire.
She cut her lovely hair, and no mistrust was there
That she a maiden were, all at the time.

To Venice we were bound with our hearts' content,
No thought of ship being wrecked, away we went.
From London but one day, our ship was cast away,
Which caused our lives to lay in discontent.

For our ship was cast away, misfortune it did frown,
For I did swim to shore but she was drowned.
Now she lies in the deep in everlasting sleep,
Which causes me to weep for evermore.