An Invitation to Lubberland

Words and music: traditional
Audio: the London Sea Shanty Collective at the British Library

A 17th-century Roxburghe Ballad which we were commissioned by the British Library to bring back to life. A sailor’s tall tale of a mythical land of plenty.

The Mapp of Lubberland woodcut

There is a ship we understand,
Now riding in the river,
’Tis newly come from Lubberland,
The like I think was never;

You that a lazy life do love,
I’d have you now go over,
They say the land is not above,
Two thousand leagues from Dover.

The captain and the master too,
Does give us this relation,
And so does all the whole ship’s crew,
Concerning this strange nation:
The streets are paved with pudding-pies,
Nay, powdered-beef and bacon,
They say they scorn to tell you lies:
Who thinks it is mistaken?

The lofty buildings of this place,
For many years have lasted,
With nutmegs, pepper, cloves, and mace,
The walls are there rough casted,
In curious hasty-pudding boiled,
And most injenious carving;
Likewise they are with pancakes tied,
Sure, here’s no fear of starving.

The captain says: ‘In ev’ry town,
‘Hot roasted pigs will meet ye,
‘They in the streets run up and down,
Still crying out: “Come eat me”’.
Likewise he says: ‘At ev’ry feast,
‘The very fowls and fishes,
‘Nay, from the biggest to the least,
‘Comes tumbling to the dishes.’

The rivers run with claret fine,
The brooks with rich canary,
The ponds with other sorts of wine,
To make your hearts full merry:
Nay, more than this, you may behold,
The fountains flow with brandy,
The rocks are like refinèd gold,
The hills are sugar-candy.

There’s nothing there but holy-days,
With music out of measure;
Who can forbear to speak the praise,
Of such a land of pleasure?
There may you lead a lazy life,
Free from all kind of labour,
And he that is without a wife,
May borrow of his neighbour.

There is no law nor lawyer’s fees,
All men are free from fury,
For ev’ry one does what he please,
Without a judge or jury.
The summer-time is warm, they say,
The winters ne’er the colder,
They have no landlord’s rent to pay,
Each man is a free-holder.

You that are free to cross the seas,
Make no more disputation:
In Lubberland you’ll live at ease,
With pleasant recreation:
The captain waits but for a gale
Of prosperous wind and weather,
And then they soon will hoist up sail:
Make haste away together!