Young Ben he was a nice young man,
A carpenter by trade;
And he fell in love with Sally Brown,
That was a lady’s maid.
But as they fetch’d a walk one day,
They met a press-gang crew;
And Sally she did faint away,
Whilst Ben he was brought to.
The Boatswain swore with wicked words,
Enough to shock a saint.
That though she did seem in a fit,
’Twas nothing but a feint.
“Come, girl,” said he, “hold up your head,
He’ll be as good as me;
For when your swain is in our boat,
A boatswain he will be.”
So when they’d made their game of her,
And taken off her elf,
She roused, and found she only was
A coming to herself.
“And is he gone, and is he gone?”
She cried, and wept outright:
“Then I will to the water-side,
And see him out of sight.”
A waterman came up to her —
“Now, young woman,” said he,
“If you weep on so, you will make
Eye-water in the sea.”
“Alas! they’ve taken my beau, Ben,
To sail with old Benbow”;
And her woe began to run afresh,
As if she’d said Gee woe!
Says he, “They’ve only taken him
To the Tender-ship, you see”; —
“The Tender-ship,” cried Sally Brown,
What a hard-ship that must be!
“O! would I were a mermaid now,
For then I’d follow him;
But, oh! I’m not a fish-woman,
And so I cannot swim.
“Alas! I was not born beneath
‘The virgin and the scales,’
So I must curse my cruel stars,
And walk about in Wales,”
Now Ben had sail’d to many a place
That’s underneath the world;
But in two years the ship came home,
And all the sails were furl’d.
But when he call’d on Sally Brown,
To see how she went on,
He found she’d got another Ben,
Whose Christian name was John.
“O Sally Brown, O Sally Brown,
How could you serve me so,
I’ve met with many a breeze before,
But never such a blow!”
Then reading on his ‘bacco box,
He heaved a heavy sigh,
And then began to eye his pipe,
And then to pipe his eye.
And then he tried to sing “All’s Well,”
But could not, though he tried;
His head was turn’d, and so he chew’d
His pigtail till he died.
His death, which happen’d in his berth,
At forty-odd befell:
They went and told the sexton, and
The sexton toll’d the bell.
† These famous verses were first published as from an anonymous correspondent in the London Magazine. When Hood reprinted them, under his own name, in the first series of Whims and Oddities, he prefaced them with the following words:—
“I have never been vainer of any verses than of my part in the following Ballad. Dr. Watts, amongst evangelical nurses, has an enviable renown; and Campbell’s Ballads enjoy a snug, genteel popularity. Sally Brown has been favored perhaps with as wide a patronage as the Moral Songs, though its circle may not have been of so select a class as the friends of ‘Hohenlinden.’ But I do not desire to see it amongst what are called Elegant Extracts. The lamented Emery, dressed as Tom Tug, sang it at his last mortal benefit at Covent Garden; and ever since it has been a great favorite with the watermen of Thames, who time their oars to it, as the wherrymen of Venice time theirs to the lines of Tasso. With the watermen it went naturally to Vauxhall, and over land to Sadler’s Wells. The Guards — not the mail coach, but the Lifeguards — picked it out from a fluttering hundred of others, all going to one air, against the dead wall at Knightsbridge. Cheap printers of Shoe Lane and Cow Cross (all pirates!) disputed about the copyrights, and published their own editions; and in the meantime the authors, to have made bread of their song (it was poor old Homer’s hard ancient case!), must have sung it about the streets. Such is the lot of Literature! the profits of ‘Sally Brown’ were divided by the Ballad Mongers; — it has cost, but has never brought me, a halfpenny.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51