The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128220   Message #2894663
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
26-Apr-10 - 12:37 PM
Thread Name: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
I want to correct myself when I said the 1868 article "On Shanties" was "probably by W.L. Alden." I said that because it appears to be an article that was later revised (seemingly) and published in the 11 December, 1869 deition of CHAMBERS'S JOURNAL. The latter has been attributed to Alden -- by Doerflinger, with a question mark, and by Hugill, positively. Those authors had me under the impression that it was probably by Alden. However, other than their opinion, I am not finding any reason to think that Alden wrote either one.

The problem with the 1869 article is that, not only does it appear to be a quick revision-- as if to shorten it-- of the also seems to steal from the two earlier magazine articles, from THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY and OBERLIN' STUDENTS MONTHLY, that appeared in 1858. One of those is also anonymous, and the other is by an unknown "Allen" (not Alden!). There is the *possibility* that the same author wrote 2, or even all of these. I don't think so, however. And based on comparing Alden's later, 1882 article, I don't see any reason to believe that he wrote any of the earlier ones.

The relevant point is where these writers got their info from. The 1868 and 1869 articles are quite "journalistic," and we must suspect that the author(s) may have had no first hand experience of shantying. What we can mainly get from them, then, is just dry (without reliable context!) info on what shanties were being sung by the publication date and what some of their lyrics might be like. But even in terms of what shanty was used for what task, I think these need to be critiqued.

So... the 1869 article...."Sailors' Shanties and Sea-Songs"

At the capstan, on the topsail-halliards, in port and at sea, in calm and in storm, the ropes run smoother, the work is done quicker, when some twenty strong voices sing:

Haul the bowline, the fore and main top bowline;
    Haul the bowline, the bowline haul; 

Haul the bowline, the bully, bully bowline;
    Haul the bowline, the bowline haul.

This is the opening of the 1868 article, but BOWLINE has been swapped for CHEERLY.

I remember well, one dirty black night in the Channel, beating up for the Mersey against a stiff breeze, coming on deck near midnight, just as the ship was put about. When a ship is tacking, the tacks and sheets (ropes which confine the clews, or lower corners of the sails) are let run, in order that the yards may be swung round to meet the altered position of the ship. They then must be hauled taut again, and belayed, or secured, in order to keep the sails in their places, and to prevent them from shaking. When the ship's head comes up in the wind, the sail is for a moment or two edgewise to it, and then is the nice moment, as soon as the head-sails fairly fill, when the main-yard and the yard above it can be swung readily, and the tacks and sheets hauled in. If the ship is short-handed, or the crew slow at their work, and the sails get fairly filled on the new tack, it is a fatiguing piece of work enough to ' board' the tacks and sheets, as it is called. The crew are pulling at one end of the rope; but the gale is tugging at the other. The best plan in such cases is to put the helm down a little, and set the sails shaking again before they can be trimmed properly. It was just at such a time I came on deck as above mentioned. Being near eight bells, the watch on deck had not been over-smart, and the consequence was that our big main-course was flying out overhead with a might that shook the ship from stem to stern. The flaps of the mad canvas were like successive thumps of a giant's fist upon a big drum. The sheets were jerking at the belaying-pins, the blocks rattling in sharp snappings like castanets. You could hear the hiss and seething of the sea alongside, and see it flash by in sudden white patches of phosphorescent foam, while all overhead was black with the flying scud. Our second mate, a Yankee, was stamping his feet with vexation, and without any regard for his hs, was storming away at the men. 'An'somely the weather mainbrace there; an'somely, I tell you! Now, then, what the are you all standing there for?
'Alf-a-dozen of you clap on to the main-sheet. Here, look alive ! Down with 'im. 'Andy there ! 'Aul 'im in.' But although he ran through all the most forcible expressions in his vocabulary, the sail wouldn't come. ' Give us a song, boys,' cried out our old skipper, who had just come on deck. ' Pull with a will, boys ; all together, boys.' Then a strong voice sang out:

Haul the bowline, the bowline, the bowline;
Haul the bowline, the bowline haul; 

Haul the bowline; Polly is my darling;
      Haul the bowline, the bowline haul.

At the last word ' haul' in each couplet, every man threw his whole strength into the pull—all singing in chorus with a quick explosive sound. And so jump by jump the sheet was at last hauled taut I daresay this description will be considered spun out by a seafaring man; but landsmen like to hear of the sea and its ways; and as more fresh-water sailors read this Journal than sea-water ones, I have told them of one shanty and its time and place.

The preceding passage has been plagiarized (?) from the 1858 article in THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY. The funny thing is, in the old version (published in Boston), it was an English mate who had his H's misplaced, whereas in this version (published in England) it is a Yankee mate! Besides the fact that it makes no sense, this suggests to me that the 1869 author is copying as needed, and therefore s/he is not the same author as the 1858 article.