Sunday, December 13, 2009

*In Folklorist Harry Smith’s House-"The Spanish Merchant's Daughter" — The Stoneman Family (1930)

Click on the title to link to a presentation of the song listed in the headline.

The year 2009 has turned into something a year of review of the folk revival of the 1960s. In November I featured a posting of many of the episodes (via “YouTube”) of Pete Seeger’s classic folk television show from the 1960s, “Rainbow Quest”. I propose to do the same here to end out the year with as many of the selections from Harry Smith’s seminal “Anthology Of American Folk Music,” in one place, as I was able to find material for, either lyrics or "YouTube" performances (not necessarily by the original performer). This is down at the roots, for sure.

The Spanish Merchant's Daughter

Tarry Trousers
Download Midi File
John Renfro Davis

Information Lyrics

This version is from Sam Henry's Songs of the People. He relates it to sixteen different songs and cross references it to fourteen others! One of the songs it is related to is Oh No, John! Other versions of the song are a conversation between a mother and her daughter.
Tarry trousers refers to the sailor's practice of waterproofing their trousers with tar. This may be among the reasons sailors were referred to as "tars," a term used since 1676. Between 1857 and 1891 sailors also wore black 'tarpaulin' hats (boater-shaped with ribbon around the crown). The term "Jack Tar" has been in use since the 1780s.

A song with a theme similar to Oh No, John!, The Dumb Lady, Or, No no not I, I'le answer, was printed on a broadside circa 1672-84. It also appears in an earlier manuscript (circa 1635-40) but the lyrics are unreadable due to waterstains. It was published as Consent at Last in Thomas D'Urfey's Wit and Mirth or Pills to Purge Melancholy in 1700. It is also known as The Spanish Merchant's Daughter.

Yonder stands a pretty maiden,
Who she is I do not know,
I'll go court her for her beauty,
Let her answer yes or no.

'Pretty maid, I've come to court you,
If your favour I do gain
And you make me hearty welcome,
I will call this way again.'

'Sit you down, you're heart'ly welcome,
Sit you down and chat a while,
Sit you down, you're heart'ly welcome,
Suppose you do not call again?'

'Pretty little maid, I've gold and riches,
Pretty little maid, I've houses and lands,
Pretty little maid, I've worldly treasures.
And all will be at your command.'

'What do I care for your worldly treasures?
What do I care for your houses and lands?
What do I care for your gold and riches?
All that I want is a nice young man.'

'Why do you dive so deep in beauty?
It is a flower will soon decay,
It's like the rose that blooms in summer
When winter comes, it fades away.'

'My love wears the tarry trousers,
My love wears the jacket blue,
My love ploughs the deep blue ocean,
So, young man, be off with you.'

Variants at this site:
Oh No, John (1) (A set of bawdy lyrics)
Oh No, John (2) (Sanitized lyrics from Cecil Sharp)


  1. The song you've got in your post has little in common with the Stoneman Family song from the Anthology: the title, and the fact that there's a dialog in it. The stoneman Family one goes like this (I just now transcribed it for my own reasons, while listening to it at we7 which I found while searching for it:

    Father was a Spanish Merchant and before he went to sea
    made me promise to say "No Sir" to all you say to me
    --No sir, No Sir, No Sir, No Sir

    I know your father was against me. Should he not return from sea
    And they say you have no mother, would you then say no to me?
    --No sir, No Sir, No Sir, No Sir

    Yes I know I have no mother, should father not return from sea
    Then you see I have a brother who would take good care of me
    --No sir, No Sir, No Sir, No Sir

    If we were walking in the garden, plucking roses wet with dew
    Would we be in any way offended if I walk and talk with you
    --No sir, No Sir, No Sir, No Sir

    I know the world is very cruel if you have no one to care
    But I always will say no sir until from father I do hear
    --No sir, No Sir, No Sir, No Sir

    As we tarry in the garden and we linger side by side
    would you tell me I must leave you and refuse to be my bride
    No sir, no sir, no sir, no sir,
    No sir, no sir, no sir, no no!

  2. Thanks for the correction- As I noted in the comment to the series I was not able to find all the exact recordings either of the lyrics or of the singers. Your version is a welcome addition. Thanks, again.

  3. love geeking out on old songs.

  4. For some reason the comment window cut off most of my reply. It was "Any old time. I love geeking out on old songs."

    Now I think of it, I can probably sometimes be of aid before the fact if you're having trouble tracking something down.