Lady Franklin's Lament

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"Lady Franklin's Lament"
Lord Franklin
Music by traditional, Cailín Óg a Stór
Language English

"Lady Franklin's Lament" (a.k.a. "Lord Franklin" "The Sailor's Dream") (Roud 487) (Laws K9) is a broadside ballad indexed by George Malcolm Laws[1] commemorating the loss of Sir John Franklin's British Arctic Expedition of 1845. It may have been published as a broadside as early as 1852,[2] allegedly written by Jane Griffin (Lady Franklin), Sir John's widow.

It has been recorded by numerous artists, of whom Mícheál Ó Domhnaill and Kevin Burke are very well known in Ireland and sing on the album "Promenade". Variations and additions often occur, as in the case of The Duncan McFarlane Band, where the chorus of "Northwest Passage" is added to the end. A list of other recordings can be found further down this page. The melody is the traditional air 'Cailín Óg a Stór', and it was also used for Bob Dylan's song "Bob Dylan's Dream" (which also borrows lyrical ideas from Lady Franklin's Lament), as well as David Wilcox's "Jamie's Secret". The first verse is also used in "I'm Already There" by Fairport Convention

The phrase "ten thousand pounds" alludes to the reward for successfully traversing the Northwest Passage,[3] and mirrors the phrase "a thousand pounds" in The Croppy Boy, set to the same tune.



(To the tune of "The Croppy Boy")

We were homeward bound one night on the deep

Swinging in my hammock I fell asleep

I dreamed a dream and I thought it true

Concerning Franklin and his gallant crew

With a hundred seamen he sailed away

To the frozen ocean in the month of May

To seek a passage around the pole

Where we poor sailors do sometimes go.

Through cruel hardships they vainly strove

Their ships on mountains of ice were drove

Only the Eskimo with his skin canoe

Was the only one that ever came through

In Baffin's Bay where the whale fish blow

The fate of Franklin no man may know

The fate of Franklin no tongue can tell

Lord Franklin alone with his sailors do dwell

And now my burden it gives me pain

For my long-lost Franklin I would cross the main

Ten thousand pounds I would freely give

To know on earth, that my Franklin do live.

(alternate: To know Lord Franklin and where he is.)

List of Recordings[edit]

// Andy Revkin and David Rothenberg // Any Vine // Arcanadh // A L Lloyd // Carmina // Classic Maritime Music (Smithonian Folkways) // Connie Dover // Ed Gurk // Father Michael Williams // Folk Studio A // Giuseppe Leopizz and Rosellina (instrumental) // Gold Ring // Hibernia Consort // Jamie O'Brian // Janetter Gerl // Jo Freya // Johnny Faa // John Hauenstein // John Martyn // John Renbourn // Jon Bickley // Kimber's Men // Liam Clancy // Lynne Craig // Lalla Rookh // Martin Carthy // Nic Jones // Peaches in Wonderland // Pentangle // Pearlfishers // Reaganta // Simeon Hein // Sinéad O'Connor // Taliesyn (Zvesala!/Merrily!)

Published Versions[edit]


  1. ^ Fowke, Edith (1963). "British Ballads in Ontario". Midwest Folklore 13 (3 Autumn): 133–162 [146]. 
  2. ^ Robert B. Waltz. "Lady Franklin's Lament". The Ballad Index. Retrieved 31 July 2010. 
  3. ^ Griffiths, Sian (21 July 2010). "Canadian archaeologists hunt long-lost Arctic explorers". BBC News.