Lord Franklin (Lady Franklin’s Lament)

1850 Broadside Ballad set to the tune of Cailín Óg a Stór.


It was 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 (1) and his gallant crew.

With a hundred seamen he sailed away,
To the frozen ocean in the month of May.
To seek that passage around the pole,
Where we poor sailors do sometimes go.

Through cruel hardships these men did go.
His ship on mountains of ice was drove.
Where the Eskimo and his snow dogs, too (2),
Was the only one who ever came through.

In Baffin Bay (3) where the whale fish blow,
The fate of Franklin no man may know.
The fate of Franklin no tongue can tell,
Lord Franklin along with his sailors do dwell.

And now my burden it gives me pain,
For my long lost Franklin I’d cross the main.
Ten thousand pounds would I freely give,
To know on earth that my Franklin do live.

Song Notes

(1) Sir John Franklin – (1786 -1847) English naval officer and explorer who fought at Trafalgar. In 1845 he set out to discover the Northwest Passage with two ships (The Erebus & The Terror) fitted with steam and sail. The expedition was lost; the ships bound in ice, the crew, maddened by lead from tins of provisions, all died. Franklins previous expeditions mapped great sections of Canada and paved the way for future exploration.

2 Snow Dogs vs. Kayaks – The author of this song, in deference to the early explorers’ lack of linguistic knowledge of the Inuit language, refers to kayaks as “skin canoes.” The insanely juvenile mentality of some of the member of Bounding Main made them  unable to sing about the aforementioned vessel without falling to the floor in a gush of tears and hysterics. Ho-ho. Dean changed this line from, “Only the Eskimo in his skin canoe,” to “Only the Eskimo and his snow-dogs, too,” in the meager hopes of saving this beautiful song. It ruined the song for us and we never added it to our repertoire.

Today we know that the term “Eskimo” is pejorative, and that “Inuit” is the culturally correct term, but revisionist history is not accurate, so we leave the lyrics as they were found in the broadside.

3 Baffin Bay –  William Baffin (1584-1622) William Baffin explored the bay and the island that bear his name, ventured as far north as 77° 45′ − a latitude not reached again for 236 years − and had the further distinction of first finding longitude by observation of the moon.
The Age of Reason Begins, Will and Ariel Durant.

There is a fascination for Franklin and the fate of the men of his tragic expedition. Wikipedia has information and links to many resources for more information, including the modern discovery of the Erebus and the Terror!