Folk Notes 4 - The Leaving of Liverpool

August 9, 2017

The Leaving of Liverpool

 

Farewell to Princes' landing stage River Mersey fare thee well

I am bound for California, a place I know right well

So fare thee well my own true love

When I return united we will be

It's not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me

But my darling when I think of thee.

 

I have sailed with Burgess once before, I think I know him well

If a man's a sailor he will get along, if not then he's sure in hell

So fare thee well my own true love

When I return united we will be

It's not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me

But my darling when I think of thee.

 

Farewell to Lower Frederick Street, Anson Terrace and Park Lane

I am bound away for to leave you and I'll never see you again

So fare thee well my own true love

When I return united we will be

It's not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me

But my darling when I think of thee.

 

I am bound for California by way of stormy Cape Horn

And I will write to thee a letter, love, when I am homeward bound

So fare thee well my own true love

When I return united we will be

It's not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me

But my darling when I think of thee.

 

I've shipped on a Yankee clipper ship, "Davy Crockett" is her name

And Burgess is the captain of her and they say that she's a floating hell

So fare thee well my own true love

When I return united we will be

It's not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me

But my darling when I think of thee.

"(The) Leaving of Liverpool" also known as "Fare Thee Well, My Own True Love", is a folksong. Folklorists classify it as a lyric lament, and it was also used as a sea shanty, especially at the capstan. It is very well known in Britain, Ireland, and America. It has only been collected once -- from Richard Maitland, of Sailor's Snug Harbor. He learned it on board the General Knox around 1885. It was printed in William Main Doerflinger's Sailors and Lumbermen.

The song's narrator laments his long sailing trip to California and the thought of leaving his loved ones (especially his "own true love"). He pledges to return to her one day.

The Leaving of Liverpool has been recorded by many popular folk singers and groups since the 1950s. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem had a top 10 hit with the song in Ireland in 1964. The song has also been adapted by several artists, most notably Bob Dylan.

©Jeff Guess 2017

 

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