The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128220   Message #2894320
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
25-Apr-10 - 09:47 PM
Thread Name: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
The last of 2 sources to be considered for the 1860s (that I have) is the anonymously written (probably by W.L. Alden) article, "On Shanties," in ONCE A WEEK, 1 Aug, 1868. Though it would seem to be one of the earliest articles devoted to the subject, it was preceded by at least 2 that came in 1858. There are some correspondences between those articles and Alden's and I would not be surprised to find that he had referenced them.

The author's beginning statements acknowledge the duties and methods (i.e. improv) of the shantyman. S/he gives lyrics to CHEERLY, but does not assign its task.

At the capstan, on the topsail-halliards, in port and at sea, in calm and in storm, the ropes run smoother, the anchor comes quicker, when twenty strong voices sing,—

Pull together, cheerily men, 

'Gainst wind and weather, cheerily men. 

For one another, cheerily men, O, 
Cheerily men, O, cheerily men.

Truly, as I once heard an old skipper remark, a good shanty is the best bar in the capstan ; but it is impossible to give an adequate idea of them by merely quoting the words : the charm all lies in the air : indeed, few of them have any set form of words, except in the chorus ; thus the inventive as well as the vocal powers of the singer are taxed—yet the shantyman has to extemporise as he sings to keep up his prestige,—the captain, officers, the weather, the passengers, and the peculiarities of his mates, furnish him with matter.

Types of shanties. First, capstan (STORMALONG [sans lyrics], GOODBYE FARE YOU WELL, SACRAMENTO, RIO GRANDE, PADDY LAY BACK, SANTIANA, "Good morning ladies all," "Nancy Bell," "Sally in the Alley," "And England's blue forever"?, LOWLANDS AWAY, "Oceanida," "Johnny's gone," BLACKBALL LINE, and SLAPANDERGOSHEKA). Funny that s/he includes these ALL under the category of capstan, without parsing out other heaving tasks.

Shanties are of two kinds, those sung at the capstan, and those sung when hauling on the ropes ; in the former the meter is longer, and they are generally of the pathetic class. To those who have heard it at sea, what can be more sad or touching than the air of or

To Liverpool docks we'll bid adieu,
Good-bye, fare you well ; 

To lovely Poll, and pretty Sue ;
Hurrah, brave boys, we're outward bound.

More stirring is the following :—

Blow, boys, blow, for California, O, 

There's plenty of gold in the land, I'm told, 
On the banks of Sacramento.

There is an air of romance about California, the Brazils, and Mexico, that has a peculiar charm for Jack, and has made them the subject of many a favourite shanty, as Rio Grande, Valparaiso, Round the Horn, and Santa Anna.

Oh, Santa Anna gained the day,
Hurrah, Santa Anna ; 

He gained the day, I've heard them say,
All on the plains of Mexico.

Rio Grande is perhaps the greatest favourite of this description of songs, but all the beauty lies in the mournful air :—

To Rio Grande we're bound away, away to Rio ; 

Then fare you well, my pretty young girls, 
We're bound for the Rio Grande. …

…In those lively shanties, Good morning ladies all, Nancy Bell, and Sally in the Alley, ample homage is paid to the girl he leaves behind him. Love is tempered with patriotism in this :—

True blue for ever,

I and Sue together ; 

True blue, I and Sue, 

And England's blue for ever.

There are many more capstan shanties, which I can only mention by name, such as Lowlands, Oceanida, Johnny's gone, The Black-ball Line, and Slapandergosheka, which contain a wild melody all their own ; the last named, with the incomprehensible title (repeated at the end of every line) is addressed to All you Ladies now on Land, and may seem rather egotistical. It commences,—

Have you got, lady, a daughter so fine,

That is fit for a sailor that has crossed the Line,
       Slapandergosheka, &c.

OK, so now *Santa Ana* has gained the day!