Roger McGuinn·The Folk Den

April 2015 • The Rainbow


This ballad from the 16th century immortalizes a British galleon of the English Tudor Navy named “The Rainbow.” She fought against the Spanish during the “Singeing the King of Spain’s Beard” and the Spanish Armada, including the Battle of Gravelines in 1588. In the story, as was a maritime tradition the captain’s wife bravely took command of the ship after his untimely demise.


[D] As we were a-sailing out on the Spanish shore
[Bm] The drums they did beat me-boys and loud [D] cannons did [A] roar
[Bm] We spied our lofty enemy come [D] sailing down the [A] main
[D] With her scarves a-still high to our top sails again
Our captain says be ready oh he says me-boys stand true
To face the Spanish enemy we lately did pursue
To face the Spanish enemy they love the ocean wide
And without a good protection boys we’ll take the first broadside

Ah broadside to broadside – to battle then we went
To sink one another it was our intent
The very second broadside our captain he got slain
And his damsel – she stood up in his place to command

We fought for four hours — four hours – so severe
We scarcely had one man aboard – of our ship that could steer
We scarcely had one man aboard who’ed fire off a gun
And the blood from our deck me boys – like a river did run

For quarters for quarters those Spanish lads did cry
No quarters no quarters this damsel did reply
You’ve had the finest quarters that I can afford
And you must sink or swim me-boys or jump overboard

And now the battle’s over – we’ll drink a glass of wine
And you must drink to your own-true-love as I will drink
to mine
Here’s health onto the damsel who fought all on the main
And here’s to the royal gallant ship the “Rainbow” by name

The Folk Den Archives

  • The Rainbow
  • The Crawdad Song
  • Paddy and the Whale
  • The Ash Grove
  • The Cherry Tree Carol
  • Little Moses
  • Henry Lee
  • Risselty Rosselty Now Now Now
  • Tell Ole Gil
  • Hard Times of Old England
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  • Take A Drink On Me
  • The Lazy Farmer Boy
  • Engine 143
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  • The Month of January
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  • Swannanoa Tunnel
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  • I Heard The Voice Of Jesus
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