The Rambling Sailor
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

According to Cecil Sharp the words of this song on the early broadsides were about a soldier, not a sailor. In later stall sheets the occupation was predominately sailor.

According to Sam Henry this song was modelled on the Irish song The Rambling Suiler (which means the rambling beggarman). The Rambling Suiler, in turn, parallels several songs allegedly composed by or about James V of Scotland who used to wander his kingdom in the disguise of "Gudeman of Ballengeich." His amorous exploits while in disguise are the subject of many of those songs.

I am a sailor stout and bold,
Long time I've plough'd the ocean;
I've fought for king and country too,
Won honour and promotion.
I said: My brother sailor I bid you adieu,
No more to sea will I go with you;
I'll travel the country through and through,
And I'll be a rambling sailor.

If you should want to know my name,
My name it is young Johnson.
I've got permission from the king
To court young girls and handsome.
I said: My dear, what will you do?
Here's ale and wine and brandy too;
Besides a pair of new silk shoes,
To travel with a rambling sailor.

The king's permission granted me
To range the country over;
From Bristol Town to Liverpool,
From Plymouth Sound to Dover.
And in whatever town I went,
To court young maidens I was bent;
And marry none was my intent,
But live a rambling sailor.

Related Links
From One Hundred English Folksongs and
Sam Henry's Songs of the People
See Bibliography for full information.