Verse 1: 'Ye mariners and landsmen come listen unto me, / While unto you I do relate the dangers of the sea, / For the loss of the Francis Mary will grieve your to woe, / Of all the dreadful hardships that we did undergo.'
This ballad tells the story of a ship's passengers resorting to cannibalism after being marooned by a storm. Despite very specific details of the ship's name and passage being mentioned in the song, it is difficult to find records that will verify whether or not it is based in fact. It may be that it is pure invention, designed to thrill its audience. Horror stories and ghost stories were as popular one or two centuries ago as they are today.
Early ballads were dramatic or humorous narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Musical notation was rarely printed, as tunes were usually established favourites. The term 'ballad' eventually applied more broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse.
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