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Friday, September 24, 2010

Sea Chanties--Getting the Work Done Cheerily

I am reading Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (You can read the entire book online at http://www.bartleby.com/23/) I'm reading it as reference material for my pirate book. Today I read a section of the book concerning sea chanties. I've always loved sea chanties, but it was interesting to read Dana's comments about them.

The sailor’s songs for capstans and falls are of a peculiar kind, having a chorus at the end of each line. The burden is usually sung, by one alone, and, at the chorus, all hands join in,—and the louder the noise, the better. With us, the chorus seemed almost to raise the decks of the ship, and might be heard at a great distance, ashore. A song is as necessary to sailors as the drum and fife to a soldier. They can’t pull in time, or pull with a will, without it. Many a time, when a thing goes heavy, with one fellow yo-ho-ing, a lively song, like “Heave, to the girls!” “Nancy oh!” “Jack Crosstree,” etc., has put life and strength into every arm. We often found a great difference in the effect of the different songs in driving in the hides. Two or three songs would be tried, one after the other, with no effect;—not an inch could be got upon the tackles—when a new song, struck up, seemed to hit the humor of the moment, and drove the tackles “two blocks” at once. “Heave round hearty!” “Heave round hearty!” “Captain gone ashore!” and the like, might do for common pulls, but in an emergency, when we wanted a heavy, “raise-the-dead” pull, which should start the beams of the ship, there was nothing like “Time for us to go!” “Round the corner,” or “Hurrah! hurrah! my hearty bullies!"


We should all start singing when we really want to get some work done! Here's one song I've always enjoyed.

1 comment:

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Love that music! :)