Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Random Magic Tour: Pirates! Feature: Songs from the Sea (Sea Shanties)



Pirates have always struck me as merry people, their frightening verses joyfully resounding across the seven seas. Singing is fun, it encourages people, makes them be happy and forget their troubles. There is more to the pirates’ singing than just keeping up the spirit, though.

The songs sailors or pirates sang or chanted called sea shanties or sea chants actually had a practical purpose behind. They were sung to give a steady rhythm to various chores men aboard a sail ship had to perform.

Originally, shanties were shouted out. A shantyman, the lead singer, would shout out a verse and than other men would join in as a chorus. The primary purpose of shanties was to synchronise the team work. Jobs on a ship were difficult and it usually took a group of men to do a particular chore. Shanties helped the sailors coordinate their moves. Secondarily, sailors could express their opinion through shanties without inflicting a punishment upon themselves.

Different chores required different rhythm. Therefore, there are several types of shanties. The following are the most common:

Short drag shanties were sung when a rope had to be pulled quickly and required a lot of strength. The pulls coincided with chorus's “haul away, haul” calls.

Long drag shanties or halyard shanties were sung when raising and lowering the sails. Together with wooden yards, canvas sails were very heavy, weighting between one thousand and two and a half thousand pounds. The men would rest during the verse and haul the halyard (the line used for raising/lowering the sails, comes from haul and yard) during the chorus. Depending on the weight of the sail, men would pull one to three times per chorus.

Capstan shanties were sung when raising the anchor. The capstan was a device used to raise the anchor. It had the shape of a mushroom with holes along the top. Sailors inserted bars into the holes and marched around the capstan to raise the anchor. Raising the anchor could take hours, so capstan shanties told long stories and had steady rhythm. Sailors would stamp in the rhythm, hence the term “stamp and go chanties”.  

Windlass and pumping shanties were sung during pumping. All wooden ships leaked water a little. The lowest part of the ship was called the bilge and sailors had to pump water from it regularly. Also, the windlass was a pump-like device sometimes used to raise the anchor. 

Forecastle (the crew's quarters) and ceremonial shanties were sung for pleasure when men were off duty. Those songs were about romance, famous battles or longing for home. Ceremonial songs were sung when celebrating crossing the equator and the like.

One and the same sea shanty can be categorised as more than one type. The lyrics of a particular shanty often vary considerably but they usually have the same tune.

In no particular order, below are top five sea shanties of my choice with lyrics. The actual pirates are somewhat elusive these days, avoiding the authorities as always, you know, so I had to find these substitutes to do the singing.

Now, put on your pirate hat, get an eye-patch and join the choirboys!

Blow the Man Down

This is a short drag shanty, also mentioned in Random Magic. This is the Disney version adopted for Pirates of the Caribbean films. 


Oh, blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down
Way aye blow the man down
Oh, blow the man down, bullies, blow him away
Give me some time to blow the man down!

As I was a walking down Paradise Street
Way aye blow the man down
A pretty young damsel I chanced for to meet.
Give me some time to blow the man down!

She was round in the counter and bluff in the bow,
Way aye blow the man down
So I took in all sail and cried, "Way enough now."
Give me some time to blow the man down!

So I tailed her my flipper and took her in tow
Way aye blow the man down
And yardarm to yardarm away we did go.
Give me some time to blow the man down!

But as we were going she said unto me
Way aye blow the man down
There's a spanking full-rigger just ready for sea.
Give me some time to blow the man down!

But as soon as that packet was clear of the bar
Way aye blow the man down
The mate knocked me down with the end of a spar.
Give me some time to blow the man down!

It's starboard and larboard on deck you will sprawl
Way aye blow the man down
For Captain Jack Sparrow commands the Black Pearl.
Give me some time to blow the man down!

So I give you fair warning before we belay,
Way aye blow the man down
Don't ever take heed of what pretty girls say.
Give me some time to blow the man down!

Haul Away Joe

This is another short drag or halyard shanty.


When I was a little boy or so my mother told me
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe
That if I did not kiss the girls my lips would soon grow moldy
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe
Way, haul away, the good ship is a' blowing
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe
Way, haul away, the sheet is now a' flowing
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe

King Louis was the king of France before the Revolution
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe
But then he got his head cut off, not good for his constitution
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe
First I got a Spanish girl but she got fat and lazy
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe
Now I have a Brooklyn girl she damn near drives me crazy
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe

Way, haul away, we'll haul and hang together
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe
Way, haul away, we'll sail for better weather
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe
Way, haul away, I'll sing to you of Nancy
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe
Way, haul away, for she's my cup and fancy
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe

Way, haul away, we'll haul away together
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe
Way, haul away, we'll sail through nasty weather,
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe
Way, haul away, way haul away
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe
Way, haul away, way haul away
Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe

Heave Away

This shanty originates from Newfoundland.


Come get your duds in order 'cuz we're bound to cross the water
Heave away, me jollies, heave away
Come get your duds in order 'cuz we're bound to leave tomorrow
Heave away me jolly boys, we're all bound away

Sometimes we're bound for Liverpool, sometimes we're bound for Spain
Heave away, me jollies, heave away
But now we're bound for old St. John's where all the girls are dancing
Heave away me jolly boys, we're all bound away

I wrote me love a letter, I was on the Jenny Lind
Heave away, me jollies, heave away
I wrote me love a letter and I signed it with a ring
Heave away me jolly boys, we're all bound away

Sometimes we're bound for Liverpool, sometimes we're bound for Spain
Heave away, me jollies, heave away
But now we're bound for old St. John's where all the girls are dancing
Heave away me jolly boys, we're all bound away

Now it's farewell Nancy darling, 'cuz it's now I'm going to leave you
Heave away, me jollies, heave away
You promised that me you'd marry me, but how you did deceive me
Heave away me jolly boys, we're all bound away

Sometimes we're bound for Liverpool, sometimes we're bound for Spain
Heave away, me jollies, heave away
But now we're bound for old St. John's where all the girls are dancing
Heave away me jolly boys, we're all bound away

Drunken Sailor

This is a capstan shanty. On the words “way-hay, up she rises” sailors would stamp on the deck.


What shall we do with a drunken sailor?(x3)
Early in the morning?
Way-hay, up she rises
Way-hay, up she rises
Way-hay, up she rises
Early in the morning

Shave his belly with a rusty razor,(x3)
Way-hay,…

Put him in the long boat till he's sober,(x3
Way-hay,…

Put him in the scuppers with a hose-pipe on him.(x3)
Way-hay,…

Put him in bed with the captain's daughter.(x3)
Way-hay,…

That’s what we do with a drunken sailor.(x3)
Way-hay,…

Spanish Ladies

This is a capstan shanty, traditionally sung on British ships when they were bound home for England.


Farewell and adieu to you Spanish ladies
Farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain
For we've received orders for to sail for old England
But we hope in a short time to see you again
We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors
We'll rant and we'll roar along the salt seas
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of Old England
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues

We hove our ship to with the wind from sou'west, boys
We hove our ship to, our soundings for to see
Then the signal was made for the grand fleet to anchor
And all in the Downs that night for to make
We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors
We'll rant and we'll roar along the salt seas
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of Old England
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues

Now let every man toss off a full bumper
Now let every man toss off a full bowl
And we'll drink and be merry and drown melancholy
Singing, here's a good health to all true-hearted souls
We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors
We'll rant and we'll roar along the salt seas
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of Old England
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues


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You can play to win this Little Pirate Prize, and plenty of other
wonderful things scattered throughout Random Magic Tour:
Pirates! (May 10-30)

Pirateology: Guidebook and Model Set


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 - Coverage image

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Shown above: A bit of random magic (and random piracy), in the book
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Find the book Random MagicAmazon | Kindle

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1. Adding your email address in comments section
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2a. In comments, add your Twitter link to this post
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2b. In comments, add link to your quick blog mention about this post, (including link to full tour schedule in mention)
or
2c. In comments, add your blog post link about this post, the blog post can be brief or detailed, it’s up to you
or
2d. In comments, add your link to different tour post (tour schedule) that you’ve also enjoyed, and why it was fun to read

or
2e. (Double, triple or quadruple your chances!) In comments, add your 
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7 comments:

  1. What a cool post! I had no idea about the different kinds of songs -- this is so interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Pirate songs are definitely the best.
    I've got that book and model set, absolutely fantastic. The ship is a little difficult to put together, but well worth it. I do recommend hot gluing some of the pieces, as not all of them like to stay notched together.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That explains the monotony in rhythm! Interesting info! :D
    Haha I <3 Heave Away! Its stuck in my head now!
    My entry:
    manu[dotbookworm[at]gmail[dot]com +
    My Twitter Link

    ReplyDelete
  4. Awesome post! :D Like Jo, I had no idea there were different songs for different *occasions*.
    Pirateology: Guidebook and Model Set is so cute. I'm going to add it to my wishlist! >_<
    Thank you for posting! :D

    ReplyDelete
  5. drunken sailor has always been a favorite one that turns into an earworm whenever i hear it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am loving the piratey songs :D Blow the man down is so much fun!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very, very cool. I've been reading a lot of Robert Louis Stevenson, so this information comes in handy. Oddly, I find that we tend to sing sea shanties while we work in the library. It helps us to get our job done.

    ReplyDelete

Don't hesitate to drop me a few strange new words! I'd love to hear what you think!

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