We be Soldiers Sailors Three

English Folk Song

Thomas Ravenscroft, Deuteromelia 1609

We be sailors three,
Pardonnez moi je vous en prie
Lately come forth of the Low Country
With never a penny of money

Here good fellows, I drink to thee,
Pardonnez moi je vous en prie
To all good fellows where-ever they be
With never a penny of money.   (Chorus)

And he that will not pledge me this,
Pardonnez moi je vous en prie
Pays for the shot, whatever it is,
With never a penny of money.  (Chorus)

Charge it again, boys, charge it again,
Pardonnez moi je vous en prie
As long as you’ve got any ink in your pen
With never a penny of money (Chorus)

Song Notes

Not to be confused with the song “Sailors Three” (Roud 8340) or We Be Three Poor Mariners” (Roud 22268).  This song is a simple redressing of Ravenscroft’s “We be Soldiers Three,” done as an opening song for the group, “Sailors Three,” which was David HB Drake, Julie Thomas and Dean Calin.  The group assembled for a single, well-paying gig and never came back together for future opportunities.

“I first learned this song by performing as a “singing guard” at King RIchard’s Faire in 1985. Because it was historic and acapella I thought that it might be a good song for Bounding Main when we got together in 2003.  It ended up not making the list, perhaps because of it’s very simple structure, although the call-and-response structure IS very much in the mode of a sea shanty.”  — Dean Calin

June Tabor sang Soldiers Three in 2005 on her CD Apples. She commented in the liner notes:  “First printed in Deuteromelia (1609).  At the beginning of the 16th century the Netherlands were part of the most powerful empire on earth, that of Charles V (1500-1558) [of Spain]. It was during his reign that the persecutions and wars began. More than 150 years of violence and brutality followed as the great powers of Europe fought in and for those territories. Finally the land was partitioned, the South annexed by France, the north becoming modern-day Holland and the central part, eventually, Belgium. A degree of stability was achieved but the habit of fighting wars here continued. Mercenaries returning from the troubled Low Countries, penniless, thirsty and dangerous, were to be given a wide berth. “Pardona moy” was definitely a provocation, not an apology.”