Golden Vanity

Lyrics: Traditional
Music: Traditional

A fragment sung as part of a medley of murder ballads by Robert Hunter in a solo performance on 10 June 2003.

He swam back to the cheering of the crew
But the captain would not heed him for his promise he did rue
Brought him on the deck, and cruelly him did slew
And he sailed in the lowland, lowland low
He sank him in the lowland sea

There was a ship at sea, sailed on the lowland sea
And the name of our ship was the Golden Vanity
And we feared she would be taken by the Spanish enemy
As we sailed her on the lowland, lowland low
We sailed her on the lowland sea
There are many full versions, dating back to the Child Ballads and before, though I haven't found one where the captain kills the boy directly. A typical version is:
There was a ship that sailed all on the lowland sea
And the name of the ship was the Golden Vanity
And we feared she would be taken by the Spanish enemy
As she sailed upon the lowland, lowland, lowland
Sailed upon the lowland sea

Then up spoke our cabinboy and boldly out spoke he
And he said to our captain "What will you give to me
If I swim along the side of the Spanish enemy
And I sink her in the lowland sea?"

"Oh I will give you silver and I will give you gold
And my own fair daughter your bonny bride shall be
If you'll swim along the side of the Spanish enemy
And you'll sink her in the lowland, lowland, lowland
Sink her in the lowland sea

Then the boy he made him ready and overboard sprang he
And he swam to the side of the Spanish enemy
With his brace and auger in her side he bored holes three
And sank he her in the lowland sea

Then quickly he swam back to the cheering of the crew
But the captain would not heed him, his promise he did rue
And he scorned his poor entreatings when loudly he did sue
And left him in the lowland,lowland, lowland
Left him in the lowland sea

Then the boy he turned round and he swam to the port side
And up to his messmates full bitterly he cried
"O messmates, draw me up, for I'm drifting with the tide
And I'm sinking in the lowland, lowland, lowland
Sinking in the lowland sea"

Then his messmates drew him up, but on the deck he died
And they stitched him in a hammock which was so fair and white
And they low'red him overboard, and he drifted with the tide
And he sank into the lowland, lowland, lowland
Sank into the lowland sea

There was a ship that sailed all on the lowland sea
And the name of the ship was the Golden Vanity
And we feared she would be taken by the Spanish enemy
As she sailed upon the lowland, lowland, lowland
Sailed upon the lowland sea