“The Island Unknown”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1929 (recording, Eck Robertson)
Keywords: grief homesickness farewell parting separation travel death sea ship disaster storm wreck family lover sailor
Found in: US(So)

Description

Singer has led a reckless life; leaving home, he joins the US Navy. His ship is wrecked in a storm. The lone survivor, he makes his way to a desert island. Resigned to death, he writes his life story, hopes his body will be found, and bids farewell

Long description

Singer says he has led a reckless life; leaving home, true love and parents, he joins the "jolly band" (of the US Navy). He sails, while they (and he) lament. After three weeks, his ship is wrecked in a storm. The lone survivor, he clings to wreckage, and makes his way to a desert island where no one has been before. Resigning himself to death, he writes his life story in a diary, and hopes his body will someday be found; he bids farewell to his loved ones

Notes

The parallel with "William and Harriet" is obvious: a desert island, starvation, death. But the circumstances of his leaving home are different, and he is traveling alone when shipwrecked rather than with his sweetheart. Those are enough differences for me to classify this as a separate ballad -- but see the cross-reference nonetheless. - PJS

Cross references

Recordings

References

  1. Roud #17557
  2. BI, RcIslUnk