[Note: This is a traditional seafaring song from Irish sources. In her recording Kate Bush made no significant alterations to the lyrics; but she did omit two verses from the most "complete" version I have been able to trace. These verses have been restored in the transcription below, and are placed between brackets.]
'Tis of a pretty female
As you may understand.
Her mind being bent for rambling
Unto some foreign land,
She dressed herself in sailor's clothes,
Or so it does appear,
And she hired with a captain
To serve him for a year.
[The captain's wife she being on board,
She seemed in great joy
To think the captain had engaged
Such a handsome cabin boy,
That now and then she'd slip him a kiss,
And she'd have liked to toy,
But 'twas the captain found out the secret
Of the handsome cabin boy.]
Her cheeks they were like roses
And her hair rolled in a curl.
The sailors often smiled and said
He looked just like a girl.
But eating of the captain's biscuit
Her colour did destroy,
And the waist did swell of pretty Nell,
The handsome cabin boy.
'Twas in the bay of Biscay
Our gallant ship did plow.
One night among the sailors
Was a fearful flurry and row.*
They tumbled from their hammocks
For their sleep it did destroy,
And they sworn about the groaning
Of the handsome cabin boy.
"Oh doctor, dear, oh doctor,"
The cabin boy did cry.
"My time has come, I am undone,
And I will surely die."
The doctor come a-runnin'
And a-smilin' at the fun.
To think a sailor lad should have
A daughter or a son.
The sailors when they saw the joke
They all did stand and stare.
The child belonged to none of them,
They solemnly did swear.
The captain's wife, she says to him,
"My dear, I wish you joy,
For 'tis either you or me's betrayed
The handsome cabin boy!"
[Now sailors, take your tot of rum
And drink success to trade,
And likewise to the cabin boy
That was neither man nor maid.
Here's hoping the wars don't rise again
Our sailors to destroy,
And here's hoping for a jolly lot more
Like the handsome cabin boy.][*--"flurry and row": Kate seems to hear this line as "flyin' row",which she delivers in the vaguely Irish accent which characterizes her delivery of the entire song. Other similarly trivial points of divergence may be found in her reading.][Kate's omission of the two bracketed verses may be explained by their comically baudy overtones, which would not have fit in well with her uniquely dark and serious interpretation of the story.]