Three Danish Galleys
DESCRIPTION: "Three galleys came sailing to Porlock Side, And stole me away a new-wed bride. Who left my true love lying dead on the shore...." The Danish king offers to marry her. She refuses and is thrown into the sea. English ships destroy the Danes
EARLIEST DATE: 1919 (collected by Ruth Tongue, according to DallasCruel)
KEYWORDS: royalty death sea ship battle revenge rejection
FOUND IN: Britain(England)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
DallasCruel, pp. 187-188, "Three Danish Galleys" (1 text, 1 tune)
NOTES: This is instance #2037 or so of a song that someone claims as the oldest English ballad. DallasCruel suggests this describes events of the year 918. (Not 1918, 918.) And certainly the tenth and eleventh centuries were the primary period of Viking raids. The reference seems to be to the Winchester manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which in the year 918 reports, "Here in this year a great raiding ship-army came over the south from Brittany, and with them two jarls, Ohtor and Hroald... and raided in Wales.... [T]hen they were met by the men from Hereford and Gloucester... [who] killed the jarl Hroald and the other Jarl Ohtor's brother and a great part of the raiding army.... [T]hey then stole up by night on two certain occasions, on the one occasion east of Watchet, and on another occasion at Porlock; then on each occasion they were hit, so that few came away, except only those who swam out to the ships" (see The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, translated and edited by Michael Swanton, 1996 (I use the 1998 Routledge edition), p. 98).
Note that no other Chronicle manuscript seems to mention the event, and the raiders are said to have been Bretons, not Danes (and Bretons are a lot more likely to be raiding the Severn than the Danes were!), and there is no hint of a Danish king or of a proposal to a woman. The idea that a song in Modern English, which has never been reported elsewhere, refers to an event of 918, and preserves details not preserved in actual history, strikes me as farcical. - RBW
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