Friday, January 31, 2014

Music Break - William Taylor

Here's a fun street ballad variously attributed to the first or second half of the eighteenth century. In it, the title character and sailor William Taylor is pressed into service by a bunch of lobsterbacks as he went to marry his love. In other versions William is pressed by a press gang.

Determined not to be left, his love dresses in slop clothes and signs aboard a ship to follow him. In the version linked to below, she fights in a battle and in the course her breasts are bared, revealing her sex. Other versions have her found out early on by the captain.

Most versions go from her discovery to the captain questioning why she tried to pass herself as a sailor. Informing him of her mission to find her stolen lover, the captain then reveals that William Taylor has already taken another woman!

His love does what you'd expect of a character in an eighteenth century street ballad: she murders him. In some versions she also murders the woman he's with. In some versions the song ends with a warning about virtuous behavior. In at least one version, she's rewarded with being made a commander by the captain!

No comments:

Post a Comment