(These lyrics were originally from Andrew Marvick's
Woman's Work page
"The Handsome Cabin Boy"
B-side of Hounds Of Love single
[Note: This is a traditional seafaring song from Irish sources. In
her recording Kate Bush made no significant alterations to the lyrics; but she
did omit two verses from the most "complete" version I have been able
to trace. These verses have been restored in the transcription below, and are
placed between brackets.]
- 'Tis of a pretty female
- As you may understand.
- Her mind being bent for rambling
- Unto some foreign land,
- She dressed herself in sailor's clothes,
- Or so it does appear,
- And she hired with a captain
- To serve him for a year.
- [The captain's wife she being on board,
- She seemed in great joy
- To think the captain had engaged
- Such a handsome cabin boy,
- That now and then she'd slip him a kiss,
- And she'd have liked to toy,
- But 'twas the captain found out the secret
- Of the handsome cabin boy.]
- Her cheeks they were like roses
- And her hair rolled in a curl.
- The sailors often smiled and said
- He looked just like a girl.
- But eating of the captain's biscuit
- Her colour did destroy,
- And the waist did swell of pretty Nell,
- The handsome cabin boy.
- 'Twas in the bay of Biscay
- Our gallant ship did plow.
- One night among the sailors
- Was a fearful flurry and row.*
- They tumbled from their hammocks
- For their sleep it did destroy,
- And they sworn about the groaning
- Of the handsome cabin boy.
- "Oh doctor, dear, oh doctor,"
- The cabin boy did cry.
- "My time has come, I am undone,
- And I will surely die."
- The doctor come a-runnin'
- And a-smilin' at the fun.
- To think a sailor lad should have
- A daughter or a son.
- The sailors when they saw the joke
- They all did stand and stare.
- The child belonged to none of them,
- They solemnly did swear.
- The captain's wife, she says to him,
- "My dear, I wish you joy,
- For 'tis either you or me's betrayed
- The handsome cabin boy!"
- [Now sailors, take your tot of rum
- And drink success to trade,
- And likewise to the cabin boy
- That was neither man nor maid.
- Here's hoping the wars don't rise again
- Our sailors to destroy,
- And here's hoping for a jolly lot more
- Like the handsome cabin boy.]
[*--"flurry and row": Kate seems to hear this line as "flyin'
row",which she delivers in the vaguely Irish accent which characterizes
her delivery of the entire song. Other similarly trivial points of divergence
may be found in her reading.]
[Kate's omission of the two bracketed verses may be explained by their
comically baudy overtones, which would not have fit in well with her uniquely
dark and serious interpretation of the story.]
©1986 Novercia Ltd.
This Woman's Work page