The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128220   Message #2876590
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
31-Mar-10 - 01:17 PM
Thread Name: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
"the cheerful songs of the screw-gangs resounding over the water..."

Hmm, not "plaintive"? Not minor? Not "wild"?

But then,

"The tunes are generally plaintive and monotonous,..."

Ah, OK. There we go.

"...many of the screw-gangs have an endless collection of songs, rough and uncouth, both in words and melody, but answering well the purposes of making all pull together, and enlivening the heavy toil."
"One song generally suffices to bring home the screw, when a new set is got upon the bale, and a fresh song is commenced."

Sound like there had to have been a lot of songs. Perhaps a whole repetoire, like the body of songs that seems to have appeared rather quickly aboard ships around/after this time? Funny, though, that if there were so many songs, we see the repetition of a few.

"the foreman begins the song, and at the end of every two lines the worm of the screw is forced to make one revolution, thus gaining perhaps two inches."
"The foreman is the chanty-man, who sings the song, the gang only joining in the chorus, which comes in at the end of every line, and at the end of which again comes the pull at the screw handles."

We've discussed (speculated) before about the method and style of the action of cotton-screwing -- still, as I see it, with no definite answers. Pushing? Pulling? Both (i.e. depending on one's position)? But leaving that aside for the moment, there is still the question of WHEN the "timed effort" occurred, i.e. in relation to the song texts.

I have wanted to imagine a pattern like that of typical halyard chanteys. If "Fire Maringo" were a halyard chanty, that pattern would go like this (CAPITAL letters means the time when the effort occurs):

Lift him up and carry him along,
FIRE, maringo, FIRE away,
Put him down where he belongs.
FIRE, maringo, FIRE away.

However, "at the end of every two lines the worm of the screw is forced to make one revolution." Which are the "2 lines"? Is it the whole rhyming (not necessarily) stanza as above? Or is it just, e.g.

Lift him up and carry him along,
FIRE, maringo, FIRE away,

Is the "one revolution" -- assumed to be literally 360 degrees-- accomplished through 1 pull? 2 pulls (FIRE,...FIRE)? 4 pulls (the whole "stanza")?

Based on this usage of "line"..."the chorus, which comes in at the end of every line, and at the end of which again comes the pull at the screw handles"... it sounds as though "two lines constitute" the whole stanza. So, 2 or 4 pulls, probably. But which is it? This sentence implies one pull per chorus. That is different than the typical halyard pattern, above. Perhaps the work was really too hard to manage 2 pulls. And WHEN did the pull occur? "At the end." What? Are we to imagine a Cheerly Man / old-school pulling sort of pattern, like

Do me Johnny Bowker, come roll me in the clover
CH: Do me Johnny Bowker DO!


That could work for "Fire Maringo":

Lift him up and carry him along,
Fire, maringo, Fire a-WAY,

But it is awkward for "Hieland Laddie":

Were you ever in Quebec,
Bonnie laddie, highland LAD-die,

Perhaps the timing of the pull was like in a halyard chanty, but with the second pull of each refrain, only, e.g.

Lift him up and carry him along,
fir, maringo, FIRE away,

That would sort of put it "at the end."

Why the need for a "grand chorus" in one of the songs? In shipboard chanties, grand choruses generally only occurred (or so we now believe) in capstan (or pump) songs, where much time was to pass, but no specific "timed exertion" was an issue. So,

"The tunes are generally plaintive and monotonous, as are most of the capstan tunes of sailors..."

Is he implying that these songs were a shared repertoire with capstan songs (if so, why does he not say so earlier, and why does he seem to particularize them as "chants")? Or is he just saying they are similar? Should we be looking to imagine the cotton-stower songs as more like capstan songs? -- in which case the "timed pull" issue gets very confusing indeed (there being no timed pull in a capstan chantey). Or, is it possible that the body of halyard chanties was not there yet -- to which Nordhoff could have made a comparison if it was -- and that capstan songs were just the closest thing? And since when were the capstan tunes of sailors "plaintive"? That doesn't sound like the character of the "ditties" like "Heave and Go my Nancy O"! Was something long in effect by this point -- or just not in existence at all?

"These samples, which might be continued to an almost indefinite extent, will give the reader an idea of what capstan and cotton songs, or chants, are. The tunes are the best portion, of course, in all such rude performances. But these are only to be heard on board ship."

OK, so now "capstan songs" are "chants"? Still unclear how the work action of screwing cotton may have transfered to capstan (or vice versa). Perhaps the songs were exceedingly slow (but he says "cheerful"?), which leads to that sort of ambiguity of "Shenandoah" type songs, in which there is not necessarily any strong or regular pulse. In another current thread, VirginiaTam is asking about the function of "Shallow Brown" -- that is another that has the "look" of a halyard chantey, but may have been used, in lugubrious fashion, for capstan.

"There was one, in which figured that mythical personage "Old Stormy"..."

This does not suggest that he was familiar with any popular minstrel version of "Stormy."