...Or Would You Rather Get a Job?

3. The Ballad of the White Seal Maid

Lyrics: Jane Yolen 1982 Curtis Brown Ltd.
Music: Lui Collins 1984 Molly Gamblin Music/BMI
Untitled poem: by Ruth Moore 1984 Ruth Moore

Vocal & Concertina: Mike Agranoff
Harp: Joanna Mell

I once saw a whale with a gold tooth
He riz right out of the sea,
And opened his mouth in the morning sun,
And showed that tooth to me

And once I was fishing the Deep Ground
With nigh six pound of lead
And I caught a cod as big as a man
And he
Had a man's head

O there ain't no end to what I'd tell
Once I was well begun
Like seeing the Devil rise from the sea
Instead of the rising sun;
Like sea-snakes lashing the moonlit sea,
With their terrible lollopins,
And the little mermaids with their diamond eyes
And solid silver fins,

For some have eyes to see strange sights,
And such a one I be,
But I ain't known as a honest man,
And nobody
To me.

There's a fisherman sitting alone on the land.
His hands are his craft; his boat is his art.
A fisherman sitting alone on the land
A rock, a hard rock in his heart.

There's a silkie maid swimming alone in the bay.
Her eyes are the seal's; her heart is the sea.
A silkie maid swimming alone in the bay
And a pure white seal maiden is she.

She comes on the shore and she sheds her seal's skin.
She dances on sand; dances under the moon.
Her hair falls in waves down upon her white skin
And only the seal hears the tune.


Then standing, the fisherman takes her seal's skin
Staking his claim to a wife from the sea.
He raises his hand, holding up the white skin
Saying "Now you must come home with me!"

Oh weeping, she goes and still weeping she stays.
Her hands are her craft; her babes are her art.
A year, and a year, and a year more she stays,
A rock, a cold rock in her heart.

Ah, but what is this hid in the fisherman's bag?
It smells like the ocean; it feels like the sea
It's a bonnie white seal skin closed up in the bag
"Ah, and never a tear more!" cries she.

Goodbye to the house, and goodbye to the shore.
Goodbye to the babes that I never could claim
Ah, but never a thought for the man left on shore
For silkie's my nature and name!

She puts on the skin and dives back in the sea.
The fisherman's cry falls on water-deaf ears.
She swims in her seal skin away out to sea
And the fisherman drowns in his tears.