Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Another Chantey (minus the pirate speak)

I love old sea chanteys. They were mostly work songs, and songs for hard work at that. Many sailing ships had a distinct billet for a chanter who knew or was able to make up words to the songs. Besides lifting morale and making the drudgery a little lighter the songs served an important purpose in focusing the efforts of the crew.

This is a halyard chantey. When sails were raised, lowered and trimmed it was important that it be done in rythym to keep the yard arms level. This was a song popular on slave ships. It shows a grim acceptance of their lot, and a proud assumption of a negative identity. The way the song worked is the chanter would set the timing by the verse, then the crew would join in the responsive line. They would pull on the words I have in bold.

You can hear the tune here

Another thing about chanters, mostly they were allowed pretty free expression. If talking trash about a mate or boatswain got the job done, so much the better.

Blow, Boys, Blow

There's a Yankee ship on the Congo river
Blow, boys Blow!
She's a three tall master shining silver
Blow, me bully boys, Blow!

A Yankee ship slides down the river
Blow, boys, Blow!
Where the fever makes the white man shiver
Blow, me bully boys, Blow!

And who do ye think is the master of her?
Blow, boys, Blow!
'Tis Bully Hayes, the sailor robber
Blow, me bully boys, Blow!

And Bully Hayes he loves his sailors
Blow, boys, Blow!
He does indeed, like Hell and Blazes
Blow, me bully boys, Blow!

And who do ye think is the first mate of her?
Blow, boys, Blow!
Santander James who's rarely sober
Blow, me bully boys, Blow!

Santander James the sailing demon
Blow, boys, Blow!
Won't wash himself but his ship's a gleamin'
Blow, me bully boys, Blow!


And what do ye think ye'll eat for dinner?
Blow, boys, Blow!
Eat monkey's butts and donkey's livers
Blow, me bully boys, Blow!

And what do ye think ye'll load for cargo?
Blow, boys, Blow!
Tall brown-skin Ibos, damn embargo!
Blow, me bully boys, Blow!

Blow me bullies while the sun draws water
Blow, boys, Blow!
Then cheer the cook and kiss his daughter
Blow, me bully boys, Blow!

Let them all see our Yankee packet
Blow, boys, Blow!
Let them fear our guns and hear our racket
Blow, me bully boys, Blow!


I learned this from Skip Haynes of the good ship Balclutha.

2 Comments:

Blogger Pogo said...

Great chantey. Minstrel, any jingles we in the hinterlands (i.e. TV addicts) might have heard?

11:16 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

the most recent national one was for Dow Chemical. There was some Irish flavor music playing while they extolled the wonders of some chemical stuff. I was on harp and guitar for that. A lot of the time I don't even bother finding out what they are selling. I figure the less I know the better. I do the job that's in front of me with a minimum of fuss and furor. Sometimes it can get a little embarrassing when they have a question thread on the net about "what's the most annoying commercial" or when I've played on the soundtrack for a show or movie that sucks. When we were leaving one of the later Star Wars movies that was pretty terrible (i think it was the clone one) one of my daughters squeezed my hand and said "the music was cool dad." gotta love a kid like that.

2:38 PM  

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