MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

The Dark-Eyed Sailor

Mrs. T. Ghaney NFLD 2 Tape 14A Track 3
Fermeuse Audio:

As l roamed out one evening late
I met a maiden all on my way
I met a maiden all on my way
And she paid attention
And she paid attention
To hear what l would say

I says fair maiden why do you walk alone
For the night is coming on and the day near gone
She turned away and grew pale wit' woe
It's a dark-eyed sailor
It's a dark-eyed sailor
Proved the cause of all my woes

It was seven long years ago he took a ring from my band
He broke the token and gave half to me
While the other lies rolling
While the other lies rolling
In the bottom of the sea

He said fair maiden drive him from your mind
For as good a sailor as him you'll find
My love was tall but no rake like you
To advise a maiden
To advise a maiden
To slight her love for you

For to drink he-

My tarry sailor I would never disdain
All others like him I’ll treat the same
For to drink his health here’s a piece of coin
For that dark-eyed sailor

Young girls be true to your lovers away
For there’s many a dark and a cloudy morn
Brings forth a shin and lovely day

LEACH: That’s a hard song to sing
MRS. GHANEY: Yes sir it is hard.


Sources: Also known as The Broken Ring, and The Broken Token.; Laws N35 (The Dark-Eyed Sailor, Fair Phoebe and her Dar-Eyed Sailor); Roud 265; Creighton-Nova Scotia 29; Creighton/Senior,pp. 144-46; Lehr 1985, 46; Greenleaf, 1968: 81; Greenleaf/Mansfield 36; Karpeles, 1971:184; Mercer 1979: 112; Peacock, 1965: 513; An extensive bibliography of broadside sources is available from the Traditional Ballad Index (
From the Memorial University Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA) Song Index and Song Annotation Collection: Broderick, Tina MUNFLA 72-238; Goldstein, K., W. Wareham MUNFLA 79-002.

History: This song is dated prior to 1809 according to the Bodleian broadsides.

Text: A sailor meets a sad young maiden who is lamenting the death of her beloved at sea. Before leaving seven years prior, he gave her half a ring and kept the other half. Unlike other versions of this song in which the sailor is the beloved returned, it is unclear here. They instead drink to his health and a piece of coin is offered which may represent the ring. The final stanza encourages young women to keep their fidelity to their lovers as they will return someday.

Tune: The text is through composed with an internal refrain on line three and four of most verses. The melody is repeated with each verse. The singer uses a common tune and lots of vibrato and ornamentation. The meter is felt freely. The key is C major with a range of a major 9th from G to A.

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