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Lowlands Away

Shanties
Lowlands Away

Usually regarded as a capstan or pumping shanty, some collectors also give it for halyards.The version here is almost the only one heard nowadays, but there is also a version where the sailor appears in the lover's dream. Although the shanty has been traced at least as far back as 1860, there is no trace of any version with the dream before 1882, and the dead lover first appears in John Masefield's (later Poet Laureate) version in 'A Sailor's Garland' in 1906.

Roud Number 681
Click to play MIDI file
Lowlands Away
Lowlands Away

I dreamed a dream the other night,

Lowlands, Lowlands, away, my John.

I dreamed a dream the other night,

Lowlands away.


I dreamed my love came in my sleep,

Lowlands, Lowlands, away, my John.

Her cheeks were wet; her eyes did weep.

Lowlands away.


She came to me as my best bride

Lowlands, Lowlands, away, my John.

All dressed in white like some fair bride.

Lowlands away.


And bravely in her bosom fair,

Lowlands, Lowlands, away, my John.

A red, red rose, did my love wear.

Lowlands away.


No sound she made - no word she said,

Lowlands, Lowlands, away, my John.

And then I knew my love was dead.

Lowlands away.


I bound her wreath around my head

Lowlands, Lowlands, away, my John.

For now I knew my love was dead

Lowlands away.


And then awoke to hear the cry,

Lowlands, Lowlands, away, my John.

"Oh, watch on deck, oh, watch ahoy!"

Lowlands away.

Recorded by Paul Sirman
Play MP3
Lowlands Away, sung by Paul Sirman
I dreamed my love ...

No versions collected from tradition have the "dream" lover: they are all complaints about the pay rates for cotton hoosiers in Mobile, or other Gulf ports, with the second refrain being not "Lowlands away", but "My dollar-and-a-half a day".

"Lowlands" is found in the chorus of several other shanties and sea songs, but the dream lover appears only in the forebitters:

  • The Island Lass is given as a West Indian halyard shanty by Hugill, with a chorus of "Lowlands, lowlands, lowlands low"

  • The Five Gallon Jar was sung at capstan and pumps, with a chorus of "In the old Virginia lowlands low".
  • The Golden Vanity is not normally regarded as a shanty, but Hugill claims to have sung it at capstan and pumps, with its "Sailing in the lowlands low" chorus.
  • Young Edwin in the Lowlands is not a shanty, but has the dead sailor appearing to his love in a dream
  • The Lowlands of Holland has the apparition at the bedside, and the girl deciding to remove any trace of beauty or attractiveness, and may be where Masefield got the idea from.
And then I knew my love was dead
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