The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128220   Message #2898404
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
02-May-10 - 01:05 AM
Thread Name: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
In AMONG OUR SAILORS (1874), J. Grey Jewell describes his (?) observations of "Sailors' Songs." The preface is dated 1873. He is referring to practices in American vessels, but there is no more context than that, that I can see. His knowledge seems a little shaky, yet his do appear to be independent attestations of now-familiar songs.

As will readily be inferred by those who have read the preceding pages, there is very little to admire in the life of a sailor. Poor fellows! they try at times to enliven their work with songs, and although these are inspiriting for the moment, they are of the most ordinary character, and, as far as my observation goes, there is nothing elevating or beautiful in them. The spirit of poesy does not haunt the forecastle of a ship. I have frequently helped the men of a vessel (on which I was a passenger) haul on the braces, so that I might hear and note their songs. They have certain words and tunes for certain work, and I will append a few stanzas by way of illustration.

Funny that he only thinks of the purpose of shantying as something to "enliven."

First he gives WHISKEY JOHNNY for halyards.

When hauling up the main-yard, after reefing the maintop sail, they sing:

"Whisky makes a poor old man—
    (Chorus.)—O whisky, whisky !
Johnny met me in the street,
Johnny asked me if I'd treat—
   O whisky, whisky !
I said yes, next time we'd meet—
   O whisky is for Johnny!"

Then, HAUL AWAY JOE for the braces. It is hard to say if his observation really does "prove" the link to "Jim Along," or if he is assuming.

At each recurrence of the word whisky, the sailors give a pull on the braces. When hauling taut the weather main-brace, they sing a perversion of the old negro melody, "Hey, Jim along, Jim along, Josey!" but the sailors put it—

"Way, haul away—haul away, Josey—
Way, haul away—haul away, Joe !"

This is repeated over and over again, with any slight variation that may occur to the leader, until they cease hauling. Sometimes this is varied by singing—

" Haul the bowline—Kitty, you're my darling—
Haul the bowline—bowline haul!"

The author's credibility seems to wain when he ascribes BLOW BOYS BLOW to a heaving task. However, I suppose it could work for windlass with no problem--if that's what he saw.

When heaving up the anchor, they sing—

"A Yankee ship came down the river—
    (Chorus.)—Blow, my bully boys, blow !
They keep an Irish mate on board her—
    Blow, my bully boys, blow !
Do you know who's captain of her—
    Blow, my bully boys, blow !
Jonathan Jinks of South Caroliner—
    Blow, my bully boys, blow !"

Next, some evidence that "Ranzo" really did derive from "Lorenzo."

When hauling up the foretop-sail yard, after reefing or shaking out the reefs, they sing a song of more pretensions, as follows:

"Lorenzo was no sailor—
    (Chorus.)—Renzo, boys, Renzo !
He shipped on board a whaler—
    Renzo, boys, Renzo!
He could not do his duty—
    Renzo, boys, Renzo!
They took him to the gangway,
And gave him eight and forty —
    Renzo, boys, Renzo !
"He sailed the Pacific Ocean—
    Renzo, boys, Renzo !
Where'er he took a notion —
    Renzo, boys, Renzo !
He finally got married,
And then at home he tarried —
    Renzo, boys, Renzo !"
These, and like songs, are made to cheer the poor seaman, and in some measure to lighten the heavy load his masters (the captain and his mates) impose upon him.