Ship A-Sailing, A
DESCRIPTION: "I saw a ship a-sailing, A-sailing on the sea, And it was deeply laden with pretty things for me. There were comfits in the cabin and almonds in the hold." The sails are satin; the mast, gold; the sailors, white mice; the captain, a duck.
EARLIEST DATE: 1815 (Family album, according to Opie-Oxford2)
KEYWORDS: talltale playparty nonballad ship animal
FOUND IN: US(NE)
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Linscott, pp. 284-285, "A Ship A-Sailing" (1 text, 1 tune)
Opie-Oxford2 470, "I saw a ship a-sailing" (1 text)
Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #271, p. 163, "(I saw a ship a-sailing)"
ST Lins284 (Partial)
NOTES [72 words]: This seems to go back to Halliwell (1852), though Linscott connects it with a game called the "Duck Dance."
Katherine Elwes Thomas evolved the theory that the duck-Captain was Sir Francis Drake, while the "four-and-twenty white mice with chains about their necks" were slaves. I'd be more inclined to believe it if Thomas could bridge the more than two century gap between the actual song and the events it allegedly describes. - RBW
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The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.