The following broadside text of unidentified origin is quoted from John Ashton, Real Sailor-Songs, London: The Leadenhall Press, 1891, 44-45. The illustrations are from various, also unspecified sources. There is a broadside edition at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads which is only partly legible; it includes a final verse which is omitted in Ashton's transcription.
Ye Sailors Bold (J. Evans, No. 41, Long-Lane [London]: Harding B 22(357) ).
For a transcription of the final verse, see below *.
A further edition was issued by the printer M Randall of Stirling; there is a copy in the Robert White Collection at Newcastle University Library. The text is the same, beside a few small details, as the Ashton transcription (thanks to Steve Gardham of Hull for this information).
The Ship in Distress
sailors bold that plough the Ocean,
see dangers landsmen never know,
Some gain glory and promotion,
no tongue can tell what we undergo.
Through dismal storms, and heat of battle,
there's no back door to run away;
Where thundering cannons they do rattle,
mark well what happ'ned the other day.
A merchant ship, under Divers, captain,
long time had been bound to sea,
The weather being so uncertain,
we were drove to great extremity!
Nothing was left those poor souls to cherish,
for the want of food most feeble grown,
Poor fellows, they were almost perish'd,
nothing was left but skin and bone.
Their cats and dogs, O, they did eat them,
their hunger for to ease, we hear,
And in the midst of all their sorrow,
Captain and men had equal share;
But now a scant has come upon us,
a dismal tale, most certainly,
Poor fellows they stood in torture,
Casting lots to see who should die.
Now the lot it fell on one poor fellow,
Whose family was very great,
Which did the more increase his sorrow,
far to repent it was too late:
I'm free to die, but, messmate brothers,
unto the top mast head straightway,
See if you can a sail discover,
whilst I unto the Lord do pray.
I think I spy a sail to windward,
come bearing down for some relief,
These very words when I did hear,
O, they did quickly banish grief.
Captain and men, in one connection,
all sorts of food denied us not,
And by this great and friendly action,
safe into Lisbon harbour got.
Note: Verse 4, line 4: Ashton prints far, but this is presumably meant to be for.
* Dr Alexandra Franklin of the Bodleian Library has kindly transcribed the final verse of Harding B 22(357) for us, working from the library's copy.
As God's great mercy is always certain,
Frequently to him we pray,
Let us night and morning call upon him,
His blessings on our heads he will lay;
So God preserve all jolly sailors,
That venture on the raging main,
Never to meet with no such dangers,
That we never hear the like again.