36 - Handsome Cabin Boy

Words by Traditional
Tune by Traditional

Another traditional ballad about a woman disguised as a cabin boy. It's unusual for the coy attitude of the captain's wife and the unfortunate pregnancy, which is treated as a joke by everyone except the handsome cabin boy.

‘Tis of a lusty female, and you must understand
Her heart bein’ set on ramblin’ unto a foreign land
She dressed herself in sailor’s clothes or so it did appear
And she signed with a captain to serve him for a year.

The captain’s wife, her bein’ on board, her heart was filled with joy
To think the captain had engaged such a handsome cabin boy
And many’s the time she slipped a kiss and she would have liked to toy
But 'twas the captain discovered the secret of the handsome cabin boy.

Whose cheeks they were like roses, his hair was all in curls
Many’s the time the sailors said “Well he looks just like a girl”
But eatin’ of the captain’s biscuits her colour did destroy
And the waist did swell of pretty young Nell, the handsome cabin boy.

‘Twas off the Bay of Biscay our gallant ship did plow
One night amongst the sailors there arose a terrible row
It tumbled the men from out their bunks, their sleep it did destroy
Terrible cursin’ and a moanin’ from the handsome cabin boy.

It’s “Doctor dear, oh doctor!” the cabin boy did cry
“My time has come I am undone, and surely I will die!”
The doctor comes a runnin’ a smilin’ at the fun
For to think a cabin boy should have a daughter or a son.

The sailors, when they heard the news, they all did stand and stare
“The child belongs to none of us” they solemnly did declare
The captain’s wife, she says to him “My dear, I wish you joy”
“For 'twas either you or I betrayed the handsome cabin boy”.

So sailors take your tot of rum and drink good health to trade
And likewise to the sailor lad that was neither man nor maid
Here’s hopin’ the wars don’t rise again our sailors to destroy
And here’s hopin’ for a jolly lot more like the handsome cabin boy.