Tarry Trousers
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John Renfro Davis

This version is from Sam Henry's Songs of the People. He relates it to sixteen different songs and cross references it to fourteen others! One of the songs it is related to is Oh No, John! Other versions of the song are a conversation between a mother and her daughter.

Tarry trousers refers to the sailor's practice of waterproofing their trousers with tar. This may be among the reasons sailors were referred to as "tars," a term used since 1676. Between 1857 and 1891 sailors also wore black 'tarpaulin' hats (boater-shaped with ribbon around the crown). The term "Jack Tar" has been in use since the 1780s.

A song with a theme similar to Oh No, John!, The Dumb Lady, Or, No no not I, I'le answer, was printed on a broadside circa 1672-84. It also appears in an earlier manuscript (circa 1635-40) but the lyrics are unreadable due to waterstains. It was published as Consent at Last in Thomas D'Urfey's Wit and Mirth or Pills to Purge Melancholy in 1700. It is also known as The Spanish Merchant's Daughter.

Yonder stands a pretty maiden,
Who she is I do not know,
I'll go court her for her beauty,
Let her answer yes or no.

'Pretty maid, I've come to court you,
If your favour I do gain
And you make me hearty welcome,
I will call this way again.'

'Sit you down, you're heart'ly welcome,
Sit you down and chat a while,
Sit you down, you're heart'ly welcome,
Suppose you do not call again?'

'Pretty little maid, I've gold and riches,
Pretty little maid, I've houses and lands,
Pretty little maid, I've worldly treasures.
And all will be at your command.'

'What do I care for your worldly treasures?
What do I care for your houses and lands?
What do I care for your gold and riches?
All that I want is a nice young man.'

'Why do you dive so deep in beauty?
It is a flower will soon decay,
It's like the rose that blooms in summer
When winter comes, it fades away.'

'My love wears the tarry trousers,
My love wears the jacket blue,
My love ploughs the deep blue ocean,
So, young man, be off with you.'

Variants at this site:
Related Links
From Sam Henry's Songs of the People
See Bibliography for full information.
And Bruce Olsen's Roots of Folk Website