From the album Two Ravens
From the singing of Roy Harris this English traditional song dating from around 1750 was first printed around 1780 as a ‘Broadside’ or ‘Broadsheet’. Broadsheets were the most common form of popular print, usually just a single sheet of cheap paper printed on one side, sold on the streets and containing various types of material, from ballads to political satire, sometimes with woodcut illustrations. They were one of the most common forms of printed material between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries in England and often became what we now know as the traditional ballad. The source of many indigenous English traditional ballads, this is a ‘Robber Ballad’ in which the robber has the tables turned on him with disastrous results. This version of the song survives thanks to a fisherman called Anderson from King’s Lynn in Norfolk who performed it for a song ‘collector’ to note down. Thankfully, this is one of the ‘nearly-lost’ traditional songs that avoided ending up in a private or academic collection.
Come all you good people as goes out a-tippling,
Pray give attention and listen to me song.
I'll tell you all a story of a saucy bold robber,
He stood seven feet high, & in proportion quite strong.
Well he robbed lawyer Morgan and old Lady Dawkins;
Five hundred bright guineas from each one of them;
Oh and as he was patrolling a sailor he come a-strolling,
And bold as a lion he slewed up to him.
"Hand over your money, me gallant young sailor.
Tha’s plenty of bulk in tha’s pockets, I know."
"Oh, aye," says the sailor, "I’ve got a bit o’ money,
But I'm damned if I see why I’d give it to you.
For I've just left my ship I’ve give the press-gang the slip,
And I'm bound down to London my sweetheart to see.
Seven shiny sovereigns will pay our sweet lodgings,
So I pray you, bold robber, please leave it to me."
Then the robber caught hold of that gallant young sailor;
With a blow like a pick-axe felled him to the ground.
"Oh aye," says the sailor, "You have struck me quite heavy,
And now I'll endeavour to repay you in kind."
Well it was then, boys, they stripped and like tigers they skipped,
And they fought blow for blow like two soldiers in the field.
At the ninety-seventh meeting it was the completing,
And the saucy bold robber by the sailor was killed.
Then the sailor looked down at that bloodstained bold robber.
"I hope you'll forgive me, dear fellow," says he,
"But if I had just lifted a thousand bright guineas,
Well I'm damned if I'd have stopped a poor sailor like me."