THE GOLDEN WILLOW TREE
(THE LOWLANDS LOW; THE GOLDEN VANITY)
Sung by: Almeda Riddle
Click here to listen to the original recording
Mrs. Riddle: “All right, but let’s don’t get it too high, because . . .”
Dr. Wolf: “That’s one of my favorites.”
Mrs. Riddle: “If any of you don’t have mumps ‘til you’re about 67, don’t then. Just put it off a while longer, because it’s . . . Dr. Wolf, I haven’t thought of that in ages. I know, it’s the ‘Merry Golden Tree,’ or ‘The Golden Vanity,’ or whatever you want to call it.”
Dr. Wolf: “’The Golden Willow Tree.’”
Mrs. Riddle: “Yes. I don’t know if I can reach it or not.”
Dr. Wolf: “That’s too low.”
Mrs. Riddle: “Well, I’m going to have to. I still haven’t got my voice back.”
Dr. Wolf: “I know.”)
There was this little ship that sailed the great big sea,
And the name of that ship was the “Merry Golden Tree.”
She went sailing on the low and the lonesome low;
She went sailing on that lonely lowland sea.
Now she sailed a day, two, or three,
Until she spotted the British robbery.
They were sailing on the low and the lonesome low;
They were flaunting the Jolly Roger on the lowland sea.
The captain was crying and a-wringing of his hands,
And a-saying, “Oh, my Lord,” and “What can we do?
They will sink us in this low and the lonesome low.
They’ll sink us to the bottom of this lonely sea.”
Said a little boy, “And what will you give me
If I sink this British robbery?
I can sink him in the low and the lonesome low;
I can sink him to the bottom of the lonely sea.”
“Well, it’s I that have wealth, and I have fame;
My fair young daughter and you shall married be,
If you’ll sink them in the low and the lonesome low,
If you’ll sink them to the bottom of this lonely sea.”
Then the little boy, he jumped overboard.
He said, “I will be as true as my word.
I will sink them in the low and the lonesome low.
I will sink them to the bottom of this lonely sea.”
He took a little tool just made for that use,
And he bored twelve holes in the bottom of the ship.
He sank them in the low and the lonesome low,
And he sank them to the bottom of this lonely sea.
Sailors off with their coats, and some with their caps.
They were trying just to plug up these salt water gaps,
But he sank them in the low and the lonesome low.
He sank them to the bottom of the lonely sea.
Then he turned around, and back swam he,
‘Til he reached the Merry Golden Tree,
Just a-swimming in the low and the lonesome low,
Just a-swimming in that lonesome lowland sea.
“Captain, Captain, throw a line to me,
Because I’m drowning in this lonely sea.
I am drowning in this low and the lonesome low;
I’m drowning in this lonesome lowland sea.”
“Well, I have wealth, and I have fame,
But never yet true to my word I’ve been,
And I will leave you . . . the low and the lonely low.
I’ll leave you drowning, drowning in this lowland sea.”
“If it wasn’t for your daughter, sir, and your men,
I’d do to you just what I did to them.
I would sink you in this low and lonely low.
I’d sink you to the bottom of this lonely sea.”
But he turned on his back, and off floated he,
Saying, “Fare you well, my Merry Golden Tree,”
And they left him there a-drowning in that lonely sea.
(Comment by Mrs. Riddle: “And that’s a bad ending. That’s not quite it. You’ll have to get the record to get the correct version, ‘cause I’ve forgotten it.”)
Also found in Child, #286, “The Sweet Trinity”; Randolph, Vol. I, #38, “The Lowlands Low”; Brown, Vol. II, #47, “The Sweet Trinity”; Belden, p. 97, “The Golden Vanity.”