Dreadful Ghost

from by Debra Cowan

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about

From the singing of Tony Barrand

This Jonah Ballad comes from Canada, collected by Helen Creighton. A jonah is someone who is blamed for any misfortune that might befall a ship in the course of a voyage. Usually this person is sacrificed so that the voyage may proceed. Tony says that the first time Jean Ritchie heard him sing the Dreadful Ghost” she remarked that it must have been written by a woman.

lyrics

From the singing of Tony Barrand

This Jonah Ballad comes from Canada, collected by Helen Creighton. A jonah is someone who is blamed for any misfortune that might befall a ship in the course of a voyage. Usually this person is sacrificed so that the voyage may proceed. Tony says that the first time Jean Ritchie heard him sing the Dreadful Ghost” she remarked that it must have been written by a woman.

It's of a sailor of whom I write,
Unto the seas he took great delight,
Two maidens fair he did beguile,
And those two maidens he had with child,

Oh, one of them, for public shame,
Unto some handsome grove she came,
And there, at length, to end all strife,
She cut it there, the thread of life.

She hung herself down from a tree,
Where two men a-hunting did her see,
They got a knife and they cut her down,
And on her bosom a note was found,

And this was writ in letters large:
"Don't bury me, I do you charge,
But leave me on the ground here to lie,
So that maids may see me as they pass by.

"Let them take warning by my fate,
And end this folly before it's too late."
And while on land she plagued him so,
Unto the seas at he was forced to go.

One morning on the topmast high,
A little boat he chanced to spy,
A little boat with a large crew of men,
And a female ghost who stood up then.

Down decks, down decks this young man goes,
And he greets the captain in his morning clothes,
He says, "Captain, Captain, stand my defense,
For I see a spirit a-coming hence."

So up on decks this captain goes,
And there he spies the dreadful ghost,
She says, "Captain, Captain, come tell me true,
Does such a man sail among your crew?"

"It was in St. Taliens this young man died,
And it’s in St. Taliens his body lies."
She says, "Captain, Captain, don't tell me so,
For he's sailing down in your ship below.

"And if you don't bring him up to me,
A mighty storm that you shall see,
It will cause both you and your gallant men to weep,
It will leave you slumbering in the deep."

Down decks, down decks this captain goes,
And he brings this young man up to his foes,
And when she fixed her grim eye on him,
It caused a trembling in every limb.

"Oh, don't you remember when I was a maid,
You caused my poor trembling heart to bleed;
Now I'm a spirit I’ve come for thou,
You baulked me once but I've got you now."

Down in her boat she forced him,
Down in her boat he was forced for to go,
And as he did, we all did admire,
For the boat went down in a flame of fire

And as it sunk, she rose again,
And aye she sang this mournful strain:
"You sailors all who are left behind,
Never prove false to young womankind."

credits

from The Long Grey Line, released January 23, 2001
Vocal: Debra Cowan

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about

Debra Cowan Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

Singer Debra Cowan performs a cappella and with guitar, interpreting a wide range of folk songs. Debra has two acclaimed solo recordings to her credit, and her third, “Fond Desire Farewell” was produced by former Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks. A former California resident, she now resides in Massachusetts and tours all over North America and the United Kingdom. ... more

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