Ed de Moel

Child Ballads - Narrative

The George Aloe and the Sweepstake

    1. Percy Papers, "from an ancient black-letter copy in Ballard's collection."
    2. Rawlinson, 566, fol. 183, 4o.
    3. Roxburghe, III, 204, in Ebsworth, Roxburghe Ballads, VI, 408.
    Version A

March 19, 1611, there were entered to Richard Jones, "Captayne Jenninges his songe, whiche he made in the Marshalsey," etc., and "the second parte of the George Aloo and the Swiftestake, beinge both ballades:" Arber, III, 456. The second part of the George Aloo must needs mean a second ballad, not the printers' second half (which begins in c at the stanza here numbered 14). In 'The Two Noble Kinsmen,' printed in 1634, and perhaps earlier, the Jailer's Daughter sings the two following stanzas (Dyce, XI, 386):

  The George Alow came from the south,
From the coast of Barbary-a,
And there he met with brave gallants of war,
By one, by two, by three-a.
  Well haild, well haild, you jolly gallants,
And whither now are you bound-a?
Oh, let me have your company
Till [I] come to the sound-a.

These verses, whether accurately reported or not, certainly seem to belong to another ballad. Whether they are from the first part or the second part, we have no means of assuring ourselves. It is to be observed that in the ballad before us the George Aloe and the Sweepstake are sailing for Safee, and in the other case the George Aloe is coming from the south, from the coast of Barbary, so that the adventure, whatever it was, may have occurred in the homeward voyage; but the circumstance is not decisive.[foot-note]

The George Aloe and the Sweepstake, merchantmen, are bound for Safee. The George Aloe anchors, the Sweepstake keeps on, is taken by a French rover, and her crew thrown overboard. The George Aloe hears of this, and sets out to take the Frenchman. Her second shot carries away the enemy's mainmast; the Frenchmen cry for mercy. The English ask what they did with the crew of the Sweepstake; the Frenchmen confess that they threw them into the sea. Such mercy as you shewed such mercy shall you have, say the English, and deal with the French accordingly.

'Aboard,' 62, 162, I suppose to mean alongside. 'Amain,' 71, 161, is strike (sails) in sign of surrender. The French use the word derived from their own language; the English say, strike. 'Gallant' Englishmen in 71, after 'English dogs' in 61, is unlikely courtesy, and is not found in 161.

'The Swepstacke' is a king's ship in 1545, and 'The Sweepstakes' apparently again in 1666: Historical Manuscripts Commission, 12th Report, Appendix, Part VII, pp. 8, 45.

This page most recently updated on 19-May-2011, 15:59:22.
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