The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128220   Message #2872094
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
25-Mar-10 - 09:42 PM
Thread Name: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Mention of the singing of cotton-stowers/screwers occured in Savannah the 20s, above. Now in the 30s, we get an actual lyric.

John M.'s intro:


And here is another early reference, that can be dated as December
31,1838. Phillip Henry Gosse, in his LETTERS FROM ALABAMA (1859), also
mentions the cotton-screwing shanty, "Fire the ringo" (page 305-306,
at the very end of his book):


On the Alabama River, here is the passage:

I have been amused by observing the crew stowing the cargo. After what I said of the way in which the cotton is screwed into the bales, you would suppose that these were incapable of further compression. But it is not so. When the stowed bales in the hold are in contact with the upper deck, another layer has to be forced in. This is effected, bale by bale, by powerful jack-screws, worked by four men. When you see the end of the bale set against a crevice, into which you could scarcely push a thin board, you think it impossible that it can ever get in; and, indeed, the operation is very slow, but the screw is continually turned, and the bale does gradually insinuate itself.

The men keep the most perfect time by means of their songs. These ditties, though nearly meaningless, have much music in them, and as all join in the perpetually recurring chorus, a rough harmony is produced, by no means unpleasing. I think the leader improvises the words, of which the following is a specimen; he singing one line alone, and the whole then giving the chorus, which is repeated without change at every line, till the general chorus concludes the stanza:—

"I think I hear the black cock say,
    Fire the ringo, fire away !
They shot so hard, I could not stay;
    Fire the ringo ! fire away !
So I spread my wings, and flew away;
    Fire the ringo ! &c.
I took my flight and ran away ;
    Fire, &c.
All the way to Canaday;
    Fire, &c.
To Canaday, to Canaday,
    Fire, &c.
All the way to Canaday.
    Ringo ! ringo ! blaze away!
   Fire the ringo ! fire away!"

Sometimes the poet varied the subject by substituting political for zoological allusions. The victory over the British at New Orleans — that favourite theme with all Americans—was chosen. Thus:—

" Gin'ral Jackson gain'd the day ;
   Fire the ringo, &c.
At New Orleans he won the day;
    Fire the ringo, fire away!"

I wonder about the possible relationship between the cotton-screwing chants and the steamboat stoker's "chaunt" -- the chorus of "FIRE", on the proper beat, being the connecting feature.