Lady Franklin's Lament (The Sailor's Dream) [Laws K9] -- Part 01
DESCRIPTION: A sailor has a dream (. He hears Lady Franklin) telling of the loss of her husband, who disappeared in Baffin's Bay as he sought the Northwest Passage. He never returned, and is presumed dead, but Lady Franklin would give a great fortune to be certain
EARLIEST DATE: 1861 (Journal of the Morning Light); broadside versions probably date from the period 1850-1853
KEYWORDS: sailor wife death exploration Eskimo
1845-1847 - Lord Franklin's final expedition
FOUND IN: Canada(Mar,Newf,Ont) Britain(Scotland) Ireland
REFERENCES (17 citations):
Laws K9, "Lady Franklin's Lament (The Sailor's Dream)"
Doerflinger-SongsOfTheSailorAndLumberman, pp. 145-147, "Lady Franklin's Lament" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Colcord-SongsOfAmericanSailormen, pp. 158-159, "Franklin's Crew" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke/Mills/Blume-CanadasStoryInSong, pp. 154-156, "The Franklin Expedition" (1 text, 1 tune)
Henry/Huntingdon/Herrmann-SamHenrysSongsOfThePeople H815, p. 103, "Franklin the Brave" (1 text, 1 tune)
Huntington-TheGam-MoreSongsWhalemenSang, pp. 178-179, "Lady Franklin's Lament for Her Husband" (1 text, 1 tune)
Greig-FolkSongInBuchan-FolkSongOfTheNorthEast #86, p. 2, "Lady Franklin's Lament" (1 text)
Greig/Duncan1 16, "Lady Franklin's Lament" (3 texts, 1 tune)
Palmer-FolkSongsCollectedBy-Ralph-VaughanWilliams, #14, "Franklin's Crew" (1 text, 1 tune, with the text mostly made from broadsides)
Greenleaf/Mansfield-BalladsAndSeaSongsOfNewfoundland 151, "The Franklin Expedition" (3 texts, 1 tune)
Blondahl-NewfoundlandersSing, pp. 65-66, "Franklin In Search of the North-West Passage" (1 text, 1 tune)
Creighton-MaritimeFolkSongs, p. 145, "Franklin and His Ship's Crew"; p. 146, "Franklin and His Bold Crew" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Creighton-FolksongsFromSouthernNewBrunswick 97, "Franklin and His Bold Crew" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
Palmer-OxfordBookOfSeaSongs 112, "Lady Franklin's Lament for her Husband" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-AmericanFolkSongsARegionalEncyclopedia2, pp. 672-673, "The Lady Franklin" (1 text)
DT 401, LADYFRAN* LADYFRN2 LADYFRN3
ADDITIONAL: Leslie Shepard, _The Broadside Ballad_, Legacy Books, 1962, 1978, p. 155, "Sir J. Franklin And His Crews" (reproduction of a broadside page)
Pat Maher, "Franklin" (on NFMLeach)
Alphonse Sutton, "Franklin" (on MUNFLA/Leach)
Murray, Mu23-y2:005, "Lady Franklin's Lament for her Husband," unknown, 19C [there is a hand-written date of "1851" on the sheet, but this appears to be a later addition; the text itself says it has been seven years since Franklin sailed, making the year at least 1852]
cf. "The Croppy Boy (I)" [Laws J14] (tune)
cf. "Bold Adventures of Captain Ross" (subject: the Northwest Passage)
NOTES [276 words]: This song is the chief musical relic of one of the saddest events in the history of arctic exploration: The last failed attempt in the nineteenth century to sail the "Northwest Passage" from the Atlantic to the Pacific north of Canada.
Curiously, it was not a particularly popular subject in popular culture until recently (Woodman, p. xxi, notes an explosion of novels on the theme starting in 1974, plus a "Doctor Who" episode). Most of its popularity in the 1840s and 1850s lay in broadsides, but most of the results were terrible (for an example of just how bad they can be, see "A Ballad of Sir John Franklin," in Sandler, pp. 96-98). It appears that none of these products survived in tradition -- except this song, which has proved enduringly popular.
Unfortunately, the song ends in the middle of the story, with an unsolved mystery. Most books about the Franklin Expedition simply describe the quest for the Northwest Passage, Franklin's part in it -- and then the quest to discover what happened to Franklin. I'm going to try to do it from the standpoint of the song, telling the history of the quests for the passage, then discussing Franklin, then looking what the song has to say on the subject -- and only then talking of the search for and fate of Franklin. It's not a very coherent story this way, but it avoids "cheating." If you want a more orderly exposition, try one of the books listed in the bibliography (I'd recommend Delgado or Fleming-Barrow).
The bibliography below is partially annotated, to tell you which books cover which events. For the rest of the story, see "Lady Franklin's Lament (The Sailor's Dream) [Laws K9]" -- Part 02.
Last updated in version 5.0
- Alexander: Alison Alexander, The Ambitions of Jane Franklin, Victorian Lady Adventurer, Allen & Unwin, 2013
- Battersby: William Battersby, James FitzJames: The Mystery Man of the Franklin Expedition, Dundurn Press, 2010
- Beardsley: Martyn Beardsly, Deadly Winter: The Life of Sir John Franklin, Naval Institute Press, 2002
- Beattie: Owen Beattie & John Geiger, Frozen in Time (revised edition by Greystone, 2004). This is specific to the fate of the Franklin Expedition, but primarily about Beattie's autopsies. It exists mostly to advance the lead theory.
- Berton: Pierre Berton, The Arctic Grail (Viking, 1988). This covers the whole history of Polar and Passage exploration. It has a very low opinion of most arctic explorers but which includes much useful detail. Because it predates Beattie's main publication, it does not address the lead issue in detail.
- Brandt: Anthony Brandt, The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage, 2010 (I use the 2011 Anchor paperback edition)
- Bryce: Robert M. Bryce Cook & Peary: The Polar Controversy, Resolved (Stackpole, 1997) is not about Franklin, or the Northwest Passage, but contains so much detail that some of it reflects on the Franklin expedition.
- Cookman: Scott Cookman, Ice Blink: The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklin's Lost Polar Expedition (Wiley, 2000). Franklin-specific. Although published as non-fiction, and including several useful appendices, this is really more of a historical novel. It advances the botulism theory -- and then basically invents a history of the expedition, right down to what Captain Crozier was thinking as he abandoned the ships and decided to engage in cannibalism.
- Delgado: James P. Delgado, Across the Top of the World (Checkmark, 1999). A good general overview of Passage exploration, apparently up to date on the state of research through 1999. It briefly cites this song (and Stan Rogers's "Northwest Passage" and is a good place to start studying Passage exploration. Incidentally, Rogers looked almost eerily like early engravings of Franklin; see, for instance, Delgado's modern edition of Franklin's own edition Journal to the Polar Sea -- there is a reproduction facing p. 160)
- DelgadoHunter: James P. Delgado, Adventures of a Sea Hunter: In Search of Famous Shipwrecks, Douglas & McIntyre, 2004
- Edinger: Ray Edinger, Fury Beach: The Four-Year Odyssey of Captain John Ross and the Victory, Berkley, 2003. Mostly about Ross, of course, rather than Franklin, but it has some useful background.
- Emsley-Elements: Emsley: John Emsley, The Elements of Murder: A History of Poison, Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp. 300-302 deal with medical findings about the Franklin Expedition.
- Emsley-Molecules: John Emsley, Molecules at an Exhibition: The Science of Everyday Life, Oxford, 1998 (I use the 1999 Oxford paperback). Has a significant section on lead poisoning.
- Fleming-Barrow: Fergus Fleming, Barrow's Boys, Grove, 1998. Covers the explorations undertaken at the behest of long-serving Admiralty Second Secretary John Barrow. It probably gives the feel of the period better than any of the other books.
- Fleming-North: Fergus Fleming, Ninety Degrees North: The Quest for the North Pole (Grove, 2001). In some ways, a companion volume to the preceding, devoted mostly to the quest for the North Pole with occasional side glances at other aspects of arctic exploration. It shares most of the characteristics of Fleming-Barrow.
- Fox: Stephen Fox, Transatlantic: Samuel Cunard, Isumbard Brunel, and the Great Atlantic Steamships, Harper Collins, 2003. Primarily about the evolution of steamships; no Franklin materials
- Guttridge: Leonard F. Guttridge, Icebound, Naval Institute Press, 1986 (I used the 2001 Berkeley edition). Not about Franklin, but about arctic travel.
- Hendrickson: Robert Hendrickson, The Ocean Almanac, Doubleday, 1984. This mentions Franklin only in connection with Franklin's Gull (p. 61), but has interesting notes about the sea in general.
- Hutchinson: Gillian Hutchinson, Sir John Franklin's Erebus and Terror Expedition, Adlard Coles Nautical, 2017
- Ingelow: Jean Ingelow, [The Poetical Words of Jean Ingelow] (N.B. Poems is the common title of this work, but my copy simply says Jean Ingelow on the cover and spine, and has no title page. Nor is there a copyright claim; the dedication is from 1863, but the book seems to have been published by T. Y. Crowell & Co. in the 1870s)
- Keating: Bern Keating, The Northwest Passage: from the Mathew to the Manhattan: 1497 to 1969, Rand McNally, 1970. Short and un-footnoted, but it is written by someone who actually sailed the passage in the Manhattan
- Lambert: Andrew Lambert, The Gates of Hell: Sir John Franklin's Tragic Quest for the North West Passage, Yale University Press, 2009. A peculiar defence of Franklin, based mostly on saying he was a scientist rather than an explorer.
- Lubbock: Basil Lubbock, The Arctic Whalers, Brown, Son, & Ferguson, 1937 (I use the 1955 reprint)
- MacInnis-Land: Joe MacInnis, The Land that Devours Ships: The Search for the Breadalbane (CBC, 1985). About a modern search for one of the Franklin rescue ships, with relatively little about Franklin himself -- but it gives a fair amount of detail about working on shipboard in the Arctic. On the other hand, one of Watson's sources calls the author a con man (Watson, p. 259), and he certainly brought up artifacts he shouldn't have.
- MacInnis-Poison: Peter MacInnis, Poisons (originally published as The Killer Bean of Calabar and Other Stories), 2004 (I use the 2005 Arcade paperback). More about lead.
- McClintock: Francis McClintock, The Voyage of the Fox, 1860(?); I use the 1998 Konemann edition which omits most of the extensive appendices but retains the main narrative. This is one of the key source documents, though it is unindexed and not particularly readable. NOTE: My edition spells the captain's name "McClintock," in accord with modern usage; the author and his contemporaries used the spelling "M'Clintock." In an interesting side note, the original edition of McClintock's book contained an advertisement for a new publication that would help start a different scientific revolution -- On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin.
- McGhee: Robert McGhee, The Arctic Voyages of Martin Frobisher: An Elizabethan Adventure, University of Washington Press, 2001. Documents the first-ever search for the Northwest Passage.
- McGooganFranklin: Ken McGoogan, Lady Franklin's Revenge: A True Story of Ambition, Obsession and the Remaking of Arctic History, Harper Perennial, 2005
- McGooganHearne: Ken McGoogan, Ancient Mariner: The Amazing Adventures of Samuel Hearne, the Sailor Who Walked to the Arctic Ocean, Harper Perennial Canada, 2003. Background on the whole nature of exploring northern Canada.
- McGooganRae: Ken McGoogan, Fatal Passage: The Untold Story of John Rae, the Arctic Adventurer Who Discovered the Fate of Franklin, Harper Perennial Canada, 2001. The title tells you most of what you need to know. It is an irritating volume; it claims that Rae completed the mapping the Northwest Passage, which is false (he discovered a key part but not the whole, and as a foot explorer he could not tell if it was navigable), and that he discovered the fate of Franklin, which is at best extraordinarily exaggerated; he was simply the first to learn something useful. But this is one of the few studies of a key character in the story.
- Mirsky: Jeannette Mirsky, To the Arctic: The Story of Northern Exploration from the Earliest Times to the Present, revised edition, Knopf, 1948. This inevitably shows its age. It also glosses over almost all errors while stressing the heroism of arctic explorers. But it covers all attempts at the Arctic, even those by Russians, which is rare.
- Moss: Sarah Moss, The Frozen Ship: The Histories and Tales of Polar Exploration, BlueBridge, 2006. Had I known what I was getting into, I would never have started citing this; I find that every one of my notes is to refute her views. She also spends a lot of time accusing scientists of being ghouls.
- MSmith: Michael Smith: Captain Francis Crozier: Last Man Standing (Collins Press, 2006). The first full biography of Franklin's second-in-command, it gives a different look at the whole Northwest Passage expedition. There are a number of mathematical gaffes (the author does not understand the difference between linear and area measure!), but it is useful as a counterweight to the usual books all about Franklin.
- Potter: Russell A. Potter, Finding Franklin: The Untold Story of a 165-Year Search, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016
- Sandler: Martin W. Sandler: Resolute (Sterling, 2006). This is, of all things, a book about a desk. But it's a desk made out of wood from one of the Franklin search ships. I ended up, by accident, with an uncorrected review copy. I've noticed several small errors, but I assume the pagination will be little changed.
- Satin: Morton Satin: Death in the Pot: The Impact of Food Poisoning on History, Prometheus, 2007. Only a few pages about Franklin, but good information about the history of canning.
- Savours: Ann Savours, The Search for the North West Passage (St. Martin's, 1999). Somewhat heavy going, and while it is footnoted it manages to quote the Stan Rogers song "Northwest Passage" as a "seafarer's song" (p. viii), but the appendices, with lists of Northwest Passages and artifacts from the Franklin Expedition, are useful, and it covers the ground thoroughly.
- Sobel: Dava Sobel, Longitude, 1995 (I use the 2007 Walker edition with a foreword by Neil Armstrong). Not about Franklin, but has useful information about scurvy and about navigation in unknown waters.
- StarTrib: Andrew A. Kramer and Andre C. Revkin, "A Troubling Bypass" -- article published in the [Minneapolis-Saint Paul] StarTribune, September 11, 2009, originally from the New York Times
- Stein: Glenn M. Stein, Discovering the North-West Passage:The Four-Year Odyssey of H.M.S. Investigator and the McClure Expedition, McFarland & Company, 2015
- Wallace: Hugh N. Wallace, The Navy, the Company, and Richard King: British Exploration in the Canadian Arctic, 1829-1860, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1980. Not exactly about Franklin, or the Northwest Passage, but because it has a different focus, it often gives information not found in the other sources.
- Walpole: Garth Walpole (edited by Russell Potter), Relics of the Franklin Expedition: Discovering Artifacts from the Doomed Arctic Voyage of 1845, McFarland & Company, 2017. Not about Franklin but about search expeditions. The author died before it was finished, and it is almost unreadable if you don't know most of the information already. But a useful compendium if you do.
- Watson: Paul Watson, Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition, Norton, 2017. The first book to really cover the discovery of Erebus and Terror, but it adds relatively little to the actual history. Maybe the next book about the discoveries will be better....
- Wilkinson: Douglas Wilkinson, Arctic Fever: The search for the Northwest Passage (Clarke Irwin, 1971). Written for a school-aged audience; footnotes are few, and there are a lot of minor slips. But it has some information not found elsewhere, mostly about the Arctic today.
- Williams-Delusion: Glyn Williams, Voyages of Delusion: The Quest for the Northwest Passage (HarperCollins, 2002; I use the 2003 Yale University Press edition). Despite what you might think from its title, this is not a history of all the Passage attempts; it ends c. 1800, and Franklin is mentioned only three times, briefly. But it's a good background book for the pre-Franklin period.
- Williams-Labyrinth: Glyn Williams, Arctic Labyrinth: The Quest for the Northwest Passage, 2009 (I use the 2010 University of California Press edition). This of course has much overlap with Williams-Delusion, but it extends the story to the Franklin era.
- Woodman: David C. Woodman, Unravelling the Franklin Mystery: Inuit Testimony, 1991; second edition with a new preface but no major changes to the main text, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2015. This was a revolutionary book, placing much more emphasis on Inuit testimony than anything that came before. It is often hard to understand for a Westerner, because there are simply too many Inuit names and words to track without detailed references that Woodman doesn't give, and the discovery of Erebus and Terror has shown that many of Woodman's conclusions were wrong. But it pointed the way to new discoveries.
- WoodmanR: Richard Woodman, A Brief History of Mutiny, Carroll & Graf, 2005. No mention of Franklin, but its insights on mutiny in the context of Arctic Madness are interesting.
- Zipes: Jack Zipes, editor, The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales: The Western fairy tale tradition from medieval to modern, Oxford, 2000
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 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.