The Jolly Young Waterman
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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This English tune was written by Charles Dibdin (1740-1814). It was written for his opera The Waterman (also known by the name My Poll and my Partner Joe), which was first performed at Haymarket Theatre in 1774. The opera also featured Then Farewell My Tridonotuse-Built Wherry. It was very successful, and made Dibdin's publisher more than two hundred pounds. Later, during a period of financial difficulties, he was forced to sell the rights for two guineas.

Charles Dibdin was the eighteenth son of a poor silvermaker. He was born in Southampton in 1740 and died in London in 1814. He became one of the most successful songwriters of his generation.

For other tunes by Charles Dibdin at this site, enter Charles Dibdin in the search engine or see The Contemplator's Short Biography of Charles Dibdin.

And did you not hear of a jolly young waterman,
Who at Blackfriar's Bridge used for to ply;
And he feather'd his oars with such skill and dexterity
Winning each heart and delighting each eye;
He look'd so neat and row'd so steadily,
The maidens all flock'd in his boat so readily,
And he eyed the young rogues with so charming an air,
He eyed the young rogues with so charming an air,
That this jolly young waterman ne'er was in want of a fare.

What sights of fine folks he oft row'd in his wherry,
'Twas clean'd out so nice and so painted withal:
He always first oars when the fine city ladies,
In a party to Ranelagh went, or Vauxhall:
And often times they would be giggling and jeering,
But 'twas all one to Tom their gibing and jeering;
For loving or liking he little did care,
For loving or liking he little did care;
For this jolly young waterman ne'er was in want of a fare.

And yet, but to see how strangely things happen,
As he row'd along, thinking of nothing at all,
He was ply'd by a damsel so lovely and charming
That she smiled, and so straightway in love he did fall;
And would this young damsel but banish his sorrow,
He'd wed her tonight before tomorrow;
And how should this waterman ever know care,
And how should this waterman ever know care
When he's married and never in want of a fare.

Related Links
From One Hundred Songs of England
See Bibliography for full information.