A ballad of Captain Kidd

The title page from Sarah Churchill's booklet. Ms 101734

The title page from Sarah Churchill’s booklet. Ms 101734

This coming weekend we have a Behind the Scenes Tour about “creepy” things at CHS. I don’t think anyone thought of this little gem I found, a booklet with two poems copied by Sarah Churchill before 1791 (that is the date of the newspaper used as a cover). The bulk of the text is a copy of “The dying words of Captain Kidd, a noted pirate whom was hang’d at execution dock.” The ballad was first published in London in 1701 and soon made it across the Atlantic to America where it was printed about 1730 until 1820. As always, things get “lost” in translation, and William Kidd became Robert Kidd in the American version, which is how Sarah copied it.

In the ballad, Kidd  recounts his upbringing in a religious home, but when he “sailed”, he cursed his father and mother, and vowed he would never pray while at sea. He even sunk his Bible “in the sand” when he sailed.

Then the verses get graphic [these are direct transcriptions with spelling and capitalization as Sarah wrote them]:

i murdered william moor, as i sail’d as i sail’d,

i murdered william moor, as i sail’d

i murdered william moor, and left him in his gore

Not many leagues from shore, as i sail’d

And being cruel still, as i sail’d, as i sail’d

And being cruel still, as i sail’d

And being cruel still, my gunner i did kill

and his precious blood did spill, as i sail’d

The final verse of the ballad is a warning:

Captain Kidd admits to his murderous ways in this ballad. Ms 101734

Captain Kidd admits to his murderous ways in this ballad. Ms 101734

Take warning now by me for i die for i die

Take warning now by me for i die

Take warning now by me and shun bad company

Lest you come to hell with me for i die for i die

Lest you come to hell with me for i die

The only other piece in the booklet is part of a song called “Mary’s Dream, or Sandy’s Ghost” composed by J. Relfe about 1794. In it, Mary falls asleep and thinks about her lover Sandy. She then hears his voice.

Mary's Dream as copied by Sarah Churchill, when her lover's ghost speaks to her. Ms 101734

Mary’s Dream as copied by Sarah Churchill, when her lover’s ghost speaks to her. Ms 101734

The moon had climb the highest hill,

Which rises o’er the source of dee,

And from the eastern summit shed

Her silver light on tow’r and tree,

When mary laid her down to sleep

Her thoughts on sandy far at sea,

When soft and low a voice was heard say,

Mary weep no more for me.

The rest of the song is missing, but Sandy tells Mary he is quietly resting at the bottom of the sea and that she would soon be reunited with him. Guess what happens to Mary?

This booklet is available in the Research Center by asking for Ms 101734, Sarah Churchill’s commonplace book.

Given what happens to Captain Kidd and Sandy, I don’t think I want to be a pirate or a sailor for Halloween. Too creepy!

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4 thoughts on “A ballad of Captain Kidd

  1. Pingback: A ballad of Captain Kidd | Connecticut History ...

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