Monday, June 25, 2012

Music Monday: Pretty Maids of Greenwich

'Pretty Maids of Greenwich' is an old song in the 'don't marry a sailor' sub genre of English folk music. Sussex traditional singer Bob Lewis apparently learnt it from his mother.

You pretty maids of Greenwich of high and low degree
Pray never fix your fancies on the man that goes to sea
For seamen's wives lead careful lives when at their very best
For in my mind in stormy wind they can take but little rest.

Beside the many dangers that are upon the sea
When they are on the shore they will ramble where they please
It’s up and down in sea port town the seamen they do trade
And he that boast he spend the most, he’s a jolly blade.

I give you this advice now as you may understand
It being at the time when seamen come to land
For up and down in Greenwich town they’ll court both old and young
They will deceive, do not believe the sailors flattering tongue

Suppose you have a sailor who sails before the mast
If he’s best of husbands his breath is but a blast
The roaring waves their will have - there’s no man can with stand
And he may sleep in the ocean deep while you are on the land

Suppose you have a captain a person of great fame
And yet there is great danger in sailing on the main
For fate unkind and stormy wind might lay his honour low
And then his wife, with care for life laments his over throw

Give me an honest tradesman of high or low degree
I’ll never fix my fancies on a man who goes to sea
For a trades mans wife is a happy wife if he’s an honest man
He’ll take a share in all the care deny it if you can

In 1981 Tundra (Doug and Sue Hudson, with Alan Prosser) released a remarkable collection of songs linked with Greenwich, including a version of this song. The full track listing of Songs of Greenwich is as follows:

1. Greenwich Park
2. Pretty Maids Of Greenwich
3. The Rambling Sailor
4. Rebellion Of Watt Tyler
5. Admiral Benbow
6. The Greenwich Lovers' Garland
7. Homeward Bound
8. The Blackheath Burglar
9. The Jolly Sailor or The Lady Of Greenwich
10. So Handy
11. Jack At Greenwich
12. I'm Going To Leave Her Shallow Brown 

The album is currently unavailable - find out more at Gonzo's Music Cafe.

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