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Through the Dark Arches

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Alternative title: The Young Sailor Cut Down in his Prime

Performer: Brazil, Harry
Place Collected: Gloucester
Date collected: 1978 (27 Nov)
Collector: Davies, Gwilym
Roud Number: 2
Other Numbers: Laws Q26 / Laws B1

This song is more generally known as “The Young Sailor Cut down in his Prime” although the song has taken many forms.: the sailor might be a soldier or a trooper or even a woman.  In American versions, such as “The Streets of Laredo”, the sailor has become a cowboy.  The appears to derive from “The Unfortunate Rake” and all versions blame the subject’s dying condition on his/her leading a dissolute life.  Again, most versions agree that the subject is dying of a sexually transmitted disease.  In Mr Brazil’s version, the “Fields of White Margarites” is a corruption of “Pills of White Mercury”, though to be a cure for syphilis.

The song is very widespread and versions of it may be collected to this day.  The writer of this note was once advised not to sing the song in Portsmouth because of the sensitivities of the naval population on hearing a song about a sailor dying in such a way.


Notes by Gwilym Davies 4 August 2015