MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
The Spanish Main
Mrs. Ambrose Coombs NFLD 2 Tape 4A Track 2
Biscay Bay Audio:

Come all young girls l pray take warning
And young men too as l may say
It’s in this world each day and morning
It’s in this world we are led astray

I was scarce sixteen when l started roving
To the sinful world spread far and wide
My aged parents they fell a-weeping
And bitterly mourned as l knelt by their side

But all their mourning and all their weeping
Could not advise me to stay at home
I left contented and they lamented
Which leads me never to think on home

I sailed away to a foreign country
Till a pretty young girl came in my view
When love takes place in young men's attention
They don't mind what hardships they go through

I courted her for three long years
Till I saw her heart l could not gain
When one strong notion to my attention
To sail over the Spanish Main

I said my darling l now must leave you
To the briny ocean l take my stand
So farewell darling may God be with you
And let no sailor be at your command

She said no sailor or no tailor
Will have the privilege of my heart to gain
So farewell darling may God be with you
And write to me o'er the Spanish main

On January second these two were standing
His ship was ready and bound for sea
They shook hands together and kissed each other
And parted never to meet again

So this young girl sat broken hearted
Thinking on the vows they broke
As she sat lonely and discontented
And not a word to her parents spoke

Her parents knew there was something grieving
That very night as she went to bed
Early next morning straight to her chamber
They found that young girl lying dead

Beneath her pillow they found a letter
It would grieve your very heart for sure
It was wet with tears and dark with kisses
Saying farewell darling forever more

Though this young girl died broken hearted
Her sailor fell from his work at sea
Their secret they will have to answer
Before their maker on, (spoken) judgement day.


Sources: Greenleaf, 1968: 205 (“I Was Just Sixteen”); Karpeles, 1971: 153; Peacock, 1965: 720; Roud #17721. From the Memorial University Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA) Song Index and Song Annotation Collection: Halpert, Herbert MUNFLA 65-16; Halpert, Herbert and Nicholas Halpert MUNFLA 66-23; Wareham, W. MUNFLA 70-8; Simms, Bob MUNFLA 72-208; Goldstein, Kenneth and Wareham, Wilfred MUNFLA 79-002
History: Newfoundland ballad.
Text: A young fellow leaves his true love to sail “over the Spanish Main.”  Upon his departure, the young girl, sick with grief, dies of a broken heart.
Tune: This is an Ionian mode tune (the scale is the same as a major scale but there are several modal inflections).  The melody is characterized by a flattened seventh degree of the scale.  The singer stretches the metre at times but it is probably a tune mainly in 5/4 time.

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