A fine book on sea songs is Stan Hugill's "SONGS OF THE SEA: The Tales and Tunes of Sailors and Sailing Ships." The song "Go to Sea No More" is described as an "American/English forebitter." A forebitter defined as a 'longer, ribald or forlorn" song so called "after the metal bollards on the fo'c's'lehead." The book has words, music, notes, anecdotes and comments on over 100 "sea songs and chants in half-a-dozen languages." There is an "Historical Introduction" plus notes on "The Age of Sail and Song. 1818-1920s," and "Outward and Homeward Bound." Published by McGraw-Hill Book Co., [UK], Maidenhead, England, 1977.
The notes for this song state: "When this old forebitter was sung as an anchor shanty at the capstan-head the following chorus would be used:
'No more, no more, we'll go to sea no more,
A man must be blind for to make up his mind,
To go to sea once more!'"
Because of it's theme it was a favorite among Pacific whalers. In the song, the sailor is shipped aboard one of the Arctic Right or Bowhead whalers which worked from 'Frisco up to the Bering Straits. Shanghai Brown, one of the most notorious of 'Frisco crimps, does not shanghai him in the usual way -- doped with laudanum in his beer -- but ships him aboard stone-cold sober, all official and correct.
Life in such ships was hell. Sometimes after passing through the Bering Straits heading for Point Barrow and the Beaufort Sea, they would be caught in the ice and find it impossible to return. This happened in 1871 when 32 out of a fleet of 40 whalers became trapped in the ice off Northern Alaska. Beyond belief, everyone escaped by hauling their slim whaleboats over the ice until they reached the open sea and the safety of the other 8 ships which had heeded the ice warnings of Eskimos. Many captains had their wives and children with them on this terrible voyage."
6 verses are given to "Go To Sea No More" using the above chorus:
1.When first I landed in Frisco, I went upon the spree,
Me hard-earned cash, I spent it fast, got drunk as drunk could be.
An' when me money was all gone, 'twas then I wanted more,
But a man must be blind for to make up his mind,
For to go to sea once more.
2.That night I slept wid Angeline, too drunk to roll in bed.
Me clothes wuz went an' me money, too, next morn wid them she'd fled.
An as I rolled a-down the street the whores they all did roar,
There goes Jack Ratcliff, poor sailor boy, who must go to sea once more.
3.Now as I wuz rollin' down the street, I met ol' Shanghai Brown.
I axed him for to take me in, he looked at me wid a frown.
Sez he,'last time yiz wuz paid off, wid me you chalked no score.
But I'll take yer advance an' I'll give ye a chance an' I'll send ye to sea once more.
4.He shipped me aboard of a whaling ship bound for the Arctic Seas.
Where the cold winds blow an'there's ice an'snow an' Jamaiky Rum do freeze,
"I can't stay here, I have no gear, I've spent all me money ashore"
Twas then that I said that I wished I wuz dead so I'd go to sea no more.
5.Sometimes we caught them bowheads, boys, some days we did catch none.
Wid a twenty foot oar stuck in yer paw, we pulled the whole day long.
An' when the night it came along, an' ye dozed upon yer oar,
Yer back so weak, yiz never would seek a berth at sea no more.
6.Come all ye bold seafarin' men and listen to me song.
When yez come off them damn long trips, I'll tell yiz what goes wrong.
Take my advice, don't drink strong drink, nor go sleepin' wid any ol' whore,
But get married lads, an' have all night in, an' go to sea no more!
The flyleaf says of the author, " Stan Hugill truly has sailed the seven seas, man and boy, for most of his 71 years. He has rounded the Horn under canvas,been shipwrecked on a fourmaster, and sung many a shanty at work... Born in Hoylake, Cheshire, England, he attended London University and lives now beside the sea in Aberdovey, Wales. Four earlier books... have established him as a leading authority on the history of life at sea -- and as an entertaining, thoroughly informed 'Ancient Mariner' who can splice a rope or spin a story with equal dexterity."