The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128220   Message #2890132
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
19-Apr-10 - 05:46 PM
Thread Name: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
In the OBERLIN STUDENT'S MONTHLY for Dec. 1858, an I. Allen has written the second (?) article devoted to "Songs of the Sailor." It is remarkably reflective. Here are excerpts.

And then, on the still morning air, there comes floating to you, mellowed by the distance, the sailor's work song, keeping time to the monotonous "click, click'' of the windlass pawls, as the anchor comes slowly up:

"We've a bully slop and a bully crew,
      Heigho, heave and go;
We've a bully mate and a captain too;
      Heigho, heave and go.''

That monotonous chorus is just as essential to the proper working of the ship as the ropes and windlass. The anchor sticks as if it had grown to the bottom, and nothing but a song can get it up....

The brake windlass song has a typical verse. The chorus seems transmutable with "roll & go," i.e a Sally Brown sort of song.

The topsails are down for reefing, and the ship strains and pitches over the "seas," while the wind over head howls and whistles the chorus of triumphant storm-fiends; but the song rises:

"Oh haulee, heigho, cheeryman !
O ! pull like brothers, heigho, cheeryman,
And not like lubbers, heigho, cheeryman;
O ! haulee, heigho, cheeryman."

And up goes the topsail: the laboring ship feels it, and plunges off like a racehorse, and the enraged wind follows whistling and howling astern.

The continued use of CHEERLY for topsail halyards. Notable perhaps that the form is "cheeryman," as in the 1852 "News from our Digger."

There was one ditty often used at the windlass, that frequently gave rise to a train of reverie in my mind, especially when combined with surrounding circumstances. The forest-crowned hills, the waving palms and cocoas, the peculiar fragrance borne to us on the landbreeze, the solemn roar of the distant surf, the red, blue and white dresses of the men, as bare-armed and footed, they worked at the windlass and elsewhere, the hundreds of swarthy forms on deck and in canoes dancing over the blue waves, all combined to give force to the idea, that you were in a foreign land. And then, amid the barbarous jargon of tongues, the crew at the windlass strike up:

"I wish I were a stormy's son;
Hurrah, storm along!
I'd storm 'em up and storm 'em down;
Storm along my stormies.
Hurrah! John Rowley,
John, storm along—
We'll storm 'em up and storm 'em down,
Storm along, my stormies.
We'll make them hear our thundering guns,
Storm along my stormies."

And then it proceeds pathetically to inform us that "Old Rowley is dead and gone," and that "they lowered him down with a golden chain," and that they'll proceed to storm somebody or other...


...There stuck the anchor till the captain came aboard and another row, and water as a result. Then the anchor came up and we sailed away to the tune of—

"And now our prize we'll take in tow,
And tor old England we will go ;
Our pockets all well lined with brass,
We'll drink a health to our favorite lass!
Hurrah! we're homeward bou-ou-ound!
Hurrah ! we're homeward bound."

Hugill has this one under the title of OUTWARD AND HOMEWARD BOUND. Claims it was originally an old (late 18th century) ballad.

But strange as it may seem, however varied the appearance and nationality of the ship and its crew, be they from Archangel's icebound coast, or India's coral strand, Saxon or Celt, Frenchman or Turk, Russian or African, we invariably find that the strain of the sailor's worksong has the same plaintive minor key, strongly reminding one of their similarity in this respect to the sad-toned melodies of the negro race....

Ooooh, "plaintive" and "minor" again.

One evening as we were thus seated on deck, among the eager listeners to the usual songs and ghost stories, there was a young colored man who was working his passage home. "Come Pete," said one of the men, "it's your turn now; give us a song." "Can't massar only savy (know) my country song." " Oh well, let's have one of them." After considerable parleying, a dirge-like whine issued from Pete's corner, which no one suspected was intended for a song. At last one, getting impatient, cried out, "That's enough tuning up; let's have the song." Another, " What are you crying about ? We only asked for a song." "Dat my country song I" retorted the indignant Pete; and the roar with which this announcement was greeted upsetting the nerves of poor Pete, we soon found there was a slight difference between his singing and crying. Along the African coast you will hear that dirge-like strain in all their songs, as at work or paddling their canoes to and from shore, they keep time to the music. On the southern plantations you will hear it also, and in the negro melodies every where, plaintive and melodious, sad and earnest. It seems like the dirge of national degradation, the wail of a race, stricken and crushed, familiar with tyranny, submission and unrequited labor.

Wow, the author is drawing a pretty strong connection between sailors' songs and slave songs. I wonder what the abolitionist undertones may have been. Hey, it's a far cry from this 1858 statement to Cecil Sharp's 1914 statements on "the vexed question of negro influence."

And here I cannot help noticing tho similarity existing between the working chorus of the sailors and the dirge-like negro melody, to which my attention was specially directed by an incident I witnessed or rather heard.

One day we had anchored off a small town, and soon the canoe fleet of the natives was seen coming off to trade. Suddenly a well known strain of music comes floating to us on the land breeze. "Where's that singing?" cries one, " can't be that yon ship is weighing anchor ?" " Why, it's the darkies I" shouts another of the listeners; and, sure enough, there were five or six hundred of them coming off singing in two parts and keeping time with their paddles to

"Heigh Jim along, Jim along Josey, Heigh Jim along, Jim along Jo!"

They had made an advance in the scale of civilization and taken their place in the world of harmony. Then the conclusions of my speculation on the probable cause of this evident similarity between the chorus melodies of the sailor and the negro were something like these—First, the similarity of the object; that is, the unifying of effort in labor, and thus to secure simultaneous action, as in rowing, pulling, hoeing, &c., &c., by the measured and rythmical occurrence of vowel sounds.

Was not "Jim along Jo" recognized as a minstrel tune then? I'm not sure. Perhaps, again, minstrelsy took it from the folk tradition -- and that tradition may have been of (or shared with) a work-song. There is the idea (not here) that "Jim along Jo" is the same framework as "Haul Away Joe." Their prosody matches exactly. Interesting, too, that Cecil Sharp later uses "Haul Away Joe" as an example to argue why not many chanty tunes are of African-American origin. Well, he might be right. The tune might be of an Irish character, say. Of course, my take on this is that to say African-American means to imply a culture that had already absorbed influences from English, Irish, etc. African-Americans' songs are not expected to have come from Africa (just as the language is a dialect of English); what is relevant is who was singing these melodies/songs during the time under question.