Golden Vanity, The [Child 286]

DESCRIPTION: A ship is threatened by a foreign galley. The ship's cabin boy, promised gold and the captain's daughter as wife, sinks the galley. He comes back to his ship; the captain will not take him from the water. (The ending is variable)
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: c. 1685 (broadside)
KEYWORDS: sea battle death promise lie abandonment
c. 1552-1618 - Life of Sir Walter Raleigh (one of whose ships was named "The Sweet Trinity")
FOUND IN: Britain(England(All),Scotland(Aber,Bord)) Ireland US(All) Canada(Mar,Newf,Ont)
REFERENCES (90 citations):
Child 286, "The Sweet Trinity (The Golden Vanity)" (3 texts, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #52, #55}
Bronson 286, "The Sweet Trinity (The Golden Vanity)" (111 versions+1 in addenda)
BronsonSinging 286, "The Golden Vanity" (7 versions: #2, #27, #43, #71, #74, #94, #102)
Greig #116, p. 1, "The Lowlands O"; Greig #119, p. 2, "The Lowlands Low" (2 texts)
GreigDuncan1 37, "The Golden Vanity" (5 texts, 4 tunes) {D=Bronson's #13}
Ord, pp. 450-451, "The Lowlands Low" (1 text)
Broadwood/Maitland, pp. 182-183, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text, 1 tune)
Williams-Thames, pp. 199-200, "The Golden Vanitee" (1 text) (also Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 444)
Reeves-Circle 51, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text)
Purslow-Constant, pp. 37-38, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text, 2 tunes)
RoudBishop #9, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text, 1 tune)
OShaughnessy-Lincolnshire 7, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text, 1 tune)
BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 339-347, "The Golden Vanity" (4 texts plus 2 fragments, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #108, #66}
Flanders-Ancient4, pp. ,188-263 "The Sweet Trinity or the Golden Vanity" (39 texts plus 11 fragments, 18 tunes) {E=Bronson's #71, HH=#64}
Ford-Vagabond, pp. 103-106, "The Goulden Vanitee" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #53}
Belden, pp. 97-100, "The Golden Vanity" (3 texts)
Randolph 38, "The Lowlands Low" (4 texts plus a fragment, 3 tunes) {A=Bronson's #69, D=#48, E=#51}
Randolph/Cohen, pp. 56-59, "The Lowlands Low" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 38A) {Bronson's #69}
AbrahamsRiddle, pp. 142-146, "The Golden Willow Tree" (1 text, 1 tune, plus some excerpts)
Davis-Ballads 47, "The Sweet Trinity (The Golden Vanity)" (4 texts plus 2 fragments, 1 tune entitled "The Turkish-Rogherlee and the Yellow Golden Tree, or Lowlands Low") {Bronson's #109}
Davis-More 43, pp. 339-343, "The Sweet Trinity (The Golden Vanity)" (1 text, 1 tune)
BrownII 47, "The Sweet Trinity (The Golden Vanity)" (3 texts plus mention of 2 more)
BrownSchinhanIV 47, "The Sweet Trinity (The Golden Vanity)" (6 excerpts, 6 tunes)
Chappell-FSRA 21, "The Green Willow Tree" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #50}
JonesLunsford, pp. 196-197, "Merrie Golden Tree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Morris, #174, "The Sweet Trinity (The Golden Vanity)" (2 texts)
Hudson 25, pp. 125-127, "The Sweet Trinity (The Golden Vanity)" (1 text)
Moore-Southwest 56, "There Was a Little Ship" (1 text, 1 tune)
Owens-2ed, pp. 38-40, "The Merry Golden Tree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Bronner-Eskin1 5, "Golden Willow Tree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Boswell/Wolfe 20, pp. 37-39, "There Was a Ship Sailing" (1 text, 1 tune)
Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 184-189, "The Sweet Trinity; The Golden Vanity" (2 texts; the first, with no title, is from Randolph; the second has local title "The Golden Willow Tree"; 1 tune on pp. 406-407) {Bronson's #107}
Shellans, pp. 62-63, "The Lonesome Sea Ballad" (1 text, 1 tune)
Rosenbaum, p. 10, "The Little Shipi" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brewster 25, "The Sweet Trinity (The Golden Vanity)" (3 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #68}
Gardner/Chickering 82, "The Lowlands Low" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #110, related to "The Arkansas Traveller"}
Flanders/Brown, pp. 230-231, "The Green Willow Trees" (1 text)
Linscott, pp. 136-137, "The Gallant Victory or Lowlands Low" (1 short text, with no hint of the Captain's refusal to save the boy; he is hauled aboard and dies, 1 tune)
Creighton/Senior, pp. 101-106, "The Sweet Trinity, or The Golden Vanity" (3 texts plus 2 fragments, 4 tunes) {Bronson's #44, #17, #19, #18}
Creighton-NovaScotia 10, "Sweet Trinity; or The Golden Vanity" (1 text, called "Golden Vallady" by the singer, 1 tune) {Bronson's #21}
Creighton-SNewBrunswick 6, "The Golden Vanity" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Greenleaf/Mansfield 19, "The Golden Vanitie" (2 fragments)
Colcord, pp. 154-156, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #45}
Harlow, pp. 35-36, "Golden Vanitee" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hugill, pp. 62-64, "Lowlands Low" (3 texts, 3 tunes) [AbEd, pp. 58-60]
Logan, pp. 42-46, "The Goulden Vanitie (Golden Vanity, or the Low Lands Low)" (2 texts)
Leach, pp. 667-670, "The Sweet Trinity or The Golden Vanity" (3 texts)
Leach-Heritage, pp. 89-90, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text)
Leach-Labrador 8, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wyman-Brockway I, p. 72, "The Mary Golden Tree, or The Lonesome Low" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #37}
Cambiaire, pp. 93-94, "The Merry Golden Tree" (1 text)
Ritchie-Southern, pp. 74-75, "Lonesome Sea" (1 text, 1 tune) {cf. Bronson's #41, which is also by Jean Ritchie and uses the same tune but a different title and slightly different words}
McNeil-SFB1, pp. 34-36, "The Green Willow Tree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Frank-Pirate 7, "Sir Walter Raleigh Sailing in the Lowlands" (1 text; #7 in the first edition); also 8, "The Sweet Trinity" (2 texts, 1 tune, with texts and tunes from different sources; #4 in the first edition)
Friedman, p. 409, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text)
FSCatskills 67, "The Bold Trellitee" (1 text, 1 tune)
OBB 132, "The 'Golden Vanity'" (1 text)
Warner 104, "Lowland Low (or, The Golden Willow Tree)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Warner-Eastern, p. 51-52, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text)
Peters, pp. 108-109, "A Ship Set Sail for North America" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #85}
SharpAp 41, "The Golden Vanity" (7 texts plus 3 fragments, 11 tunes) {Bronson's #94, #93, #88, #104, #43, #46, #78, #90, #99, #39, #106}
Sharp-100E 14, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #1}
Niles 61, "The Sweet Trinity (The Golden Vanity)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sharp/Karpeles-80E 28, "The Weeping Willow Tree (The Golden Vanity)" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #94}
Vaughan Williams/Lloyd, pp. 46-47, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #35}
Scott-BoA, pp. 138-139, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke/Mills/Blume, pp. 38-40, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke/MacMillan 82, "The 'Green Willow Tree'" (1 text, 1 tune)
Karpeles-Newfoundland 23, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text fragment, 1 tune)
Fowke-Ontario 4, "The Golden Vanity"; Fowke-Ontario 61, "The Green Willow Tree" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Lomax-Singing, pp. 210-212, "The Low-Down, Lonesome Low" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 95, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text, 1 tune) {should be Bronson's #73, but heavily reworked}
Chase, pp. 120-121, "The Merry Golden Tree" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #74}
Abrahams/Foss, pp. 79-80, "Golden Willow Tree" (1 text, 1 tune)
LPound-ABS, 10, pp. 24-26, "The Lowlands Low" (1 text)
JHCox 32, "The Sweet Trinity (The Golden Vanity)" (2 texts plus a fragment)
JHCoxIIA, #15A-C, pp. 64-69, "The Golden Vanity," "The Mary Golden Lee," "The Green Willow Tree" (3 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #38, which -- despite Cox -- he calls "The Weeping Willow Tree"; this version has two American ships "The Weeping Willow Tree" and "The Golden Silveree"}
Gainer, pp. 96-97, "The Golden Willow Tree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Coleman/Bregman, pp. 16-17, "The Golden Willow Tree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hubbard, #18, "The Golden Vanity" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Ashton-Sailor, #75, "Sir Walter Raleigh Sailing in the Low-lands" (1 text)
Darling-NAS, pp. 64-66, "The Sweet Trinity"; "The Golden Willow Tree" (1 text plus a fragment)
Fireside, p. 172, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 213, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text)
BBI, ZN2370, "Sir Walter Rawleigh ha's built a Ship"
ADDITIONAL: John Ashton, _A Century of Ballads_, Elliot Stock, London, 1887; reprinted 1968 by Singing Tree Press, pp. 201-204, "Sir Walter Raleigh Sailing in the Low-Lands" (1 text)
James P. Leary, Compiler and Annotator, _Wisconsin Folklore_ University of Wisconsin Press, 2009, article "Kentucky Folksong in Northern Wisconsin" by Asher E. Treat, pp. 229-230, "A Ship Set Sail for North America" (1 text, 1 tune, sung by Mrs. M. G. Jacobs, Maud Jacobs, Pearl Jacobs Borusky) {Bronson's #85}
Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #411, "The Golden Vanity" (1 text)
Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, p. 58, "Lowlands" (a two-verse fragment, on of which is from "The Golden Vanity" and the other about "Pompey" although it's too short to know which Pompey song is meant)

ST C286 (Full)
Roud #122
Almanac Singers, "The Golden Vanity" (General 5016B, 1941; on Almanac02, Almanac03, AlmanacCD1)
Horton Barker, "The Turkish Rebilee" (on Barker01) {Bronson's #74}
Justus Begley, "Golden Willow Tree" (AFS, 1937; on KMM)
Bill Cameron, "The Golden Vanity" (on FSB5) {Bronson's #10}
The Carter Family, "Sinking In The Lonesome Sea" (Conqueror 8644/Okeh 03160, 1936; Columbia 37756) {Bronson's #73}
Dodie Chalmers, "The Golden Victory (The Golden Vanity) (on FSBBAL2) {Bronson's #33}
Johnny Doughty, "The Golden Vanity" (on JDoughty01, HiddenE)
Warde Ford, "The Lowlands Low" [fragment] (AFS 4194 A2, 1938; in AMMEM/Cowell) {Bronson's #20}
Sam Hazel, "The Golden Willow Tree" (AFS 2095 B2, 3096 A, 3096 B1, 1939)
[Mrs.?] Ollie Jacobs, "A Ship Set Sail for North America" (AFS, 1941; on LC58) {Bronson's #86}
Paul Joines, "Green Willow Tree" (on Persis1)
Joe Kelly, "The Golden Vanity" (on Ontario1)
James Maher, "The Golden Vanity" (on MUNFLA/Leach)
Paralee McCloud, "The Little Ship" (on FolkVisions1)
Jimmy Morris, "The Golden Willow Tree" (AFS, 1937; on LC58) {Bronson's #105}
New Lost City Ramblers, "Sinking in the Lonesome Sea" (on NLCR06, NLCR11)
Frank Proffitt, "Lowlands Low" [excerpt] (on USWarnerColl01)
Almeda Riddle, "Merry Golden Tree" (on LomaxCD1707)
Jean Ritchie, "The Merry Golden Tree" (on JRitchie01) {Bronson's #41}
Pete Seeger, "The Golden Vanity" (on PeteSeeger16) (Commodore 3006, n.d. -- but this may be the same recording as the General disc by the Almanac Singers)
Rob Walker, "The Lowlands Low" [fragment] (AFS 4194 A3, 1938; in AMMEM/Cowell) {Bronson's #49}
Doug Wallin, "The Golden Vanity" (on Wallins1)

Bodleian, Harding B 11(1086), "The Golden Vanity" or "The Low Lands Low," H. Such (London), 1849-1862
NLScotland, L.C.Fol.70(122a), "Lowlands Low," Poet's Box (Glasgow), 1877; also L.C.Fol.70(103b), "Lowlands Low"

cf. "Louisiana Lowlands" (lyrics)
Sinking of the Great Ship (BrownII, #287, pp. 662-663, the "A" text)
The Lonesome Low
The Merry Golden Tree
The Sweet Kumadee
The Weep-Willow Tree
The Turkish Revoloo
Cabin Boy
Lowland Sea
Ye Gowden Vanitie
NOTES [334 words]: Connecting this song with actual events is impossible even if one accepts Sir Walter Raleigh as the murderous captain. The following dates may, however, provide some guidelines:
1453 - Fall of Constantinople gives the Turks good access to the Mediterranean (Lowland) Sea.
1571 - Battle of Lepanto cripples the Turkish navy.
1588 - Voyage of the Spanish Armada. Spanish navy crippled.
As far as I know, every version lists the enemy as Spanish, Turkish, or French. It should be noted, however, that the Barbary pirates were often called "Turks," since the Ottoman Empire had (often nominal) soveriegnty over them.
Incidentally, while this song does not have a historical setting, the plot has historical antecedents; Bowers, p. 24 and note, mentions a 1605 pamphlet, "Two most unnatural and bloodie Murthers: The one by Maister Cauerly... the other by mistris Browne and her servant Peter." Apparently Peter, a servant, had been promised land and the girl's hand; when her father reneged, the young couple turned to murder.
The sinking of a ship by a youth is also apparently attested: Rodger, p. 46, says that a Saracen vessel threatened the fleet of Richard I on his way to the Third Crusade, but that one report claims it was sunk by a boy with an auger. Unfortunately, Rodger does not cite any primary sources for this account, and I don't believe sinking a ship with an auger is actually possible (by that time, ships had pumps and carpenters to plug leaks). I suspect that one of Rodger's sources actually heard a distorted version of this song.
Somewhat later, at the Battle of Sluys in 1340, the English fleet of Edward III "even [had] divers who tried to sink the enemy ships by boring holes in their hulls below water," according to Seward, p. 44. Sluys was a great English victory, but if the divers accomplished anything, I haven't heard of it. - RBW
In Fowke-Ontario 4 the drowned cabin boy returns as a ghost and -- never having said he would not sink it -- sinks the captain's ship. - BS
Bibliography Last updated in version 4.3
File: C286

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.