Page 143
Roud Folk Song Index #224

This was sung as "Captain Ward and the Rainbow" by Ewan MacColl in 1956 but there are many versions. "This ballad concerns the famous English pirate, John Ward, who, together with a Dutch accomplice, Dansekar, was the scourge of the seas from 1604 to 1609. Though Ward was the subject of numerous ballad and prose pieces, the traditional ballad appears to derive from a black letter broadside of the 17th century." - Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs, edited by Alexander Keith
after the Dan Milner version

Saucy Ward

by trad
Come [Dm] all ya' valiant heros
you heros stout and [C] bold
I'll [Dm] tell you of a rover
who all the seas controlled

I'll [Dm] tell ya' of a [G] rover
who [Dm] seldom did [C] appear
how [Dm] on was such a rover met
this many a day and year

He wrote the queen a letter on
the seventh of janu-ry
to know if he'd go over
old Eng-a-land for to see

to know if he'd go over
and Eng-a-land to behold
he bore his part and he would give
500 pounds in gold

Oh nay, oh nay the queen replied
that could never be
to yield to such a rover
with me would never agree

Since he decieved the queen of Scots
likewise the queen of Spain
how could he prove true to me
that proved so false to them?

His daily occupation
was to plunder on the sea
and he met one of the queen's fine ships
just at the break of day

^she was loaded with silks and satin
a cargo of great fame
he wronged her of her wealth and store
and sent her home again

the queen prepared and built a ship
a ship of noble fame
Oh Rainbow did we call her
ya' all may know her name

But Rainbow did we call her
and not to sea she goes
with 500 seaman stout and bold
to be your company

they sailed away
until they came to the spot where Ward did lie
where is the commander of your ship
their captain he did cry

Im here, Im here says Saucy Ward
my name I'll ne'er deny
If you be one of the queen's fine ships
you're welcome to pass me by

Oh nay, Oh nay their captain cries
it grieves my heart full sore
to see our merchant ships can't trade
as they have done before

Fight on, fight on cried Saucy Ward
I value ya' not a pin
for if you have got men on board
I've powder and ball within.


At eight O'clock in the morning
they began this bloody fray
it held from that very moment
until the same hour next day

Fight on, fight on cries Saucy Ward
your fighting it pleases me
for if you fight a month or more
your master I will be!

At last the good ship Rainbow tacks
she fires and strikes in vain
Five hundred of her seaman bold
on their deck were lain

Go home, go home cries Saucy Ward
and tell your old queen from me
for if she rules queen in foreign lands
I rule king of the sea!