The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #140533   Message #3230753
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
28-Sep-11 - 05:34 PM
Thread Name: New evidence for 'shanty' origins?
Subject: RE: New evidence for 'shanty' origins?
Hey, not to worry about putting any damper -- I see quite the opposite, a healthy debate. And I am Skeptic #1. I think this example is interesting because *as a whole* it blends in many of the elements that have gone into discussion of origins of shantying and the word "shanty" at various times: lumberjack shack, rowing songs, "chaunt", weird manipulation of words/new coinage. If this has any value -- and I feel a little silly saying this, so I do it tongue-in-cheek -- then I think we have to look at it as a whole, rather than reducing each bit. If it has no value as a source, then I'll look at it as a chance to refine my ideas about where *I* think "shanty" came from.

As Charley points out, Doerflinger didn't discover any lumbering songs connected with chanties. And I don't think this poem points to anything like that. The proposed chantying in the poem would refer to *rowing*. It's just that they happen to be lumbermen rowing to camp. Thus comes the confusing as to whether "shanty" refers to their profession or to the song.

Steves analogy to Dibdin is a good one. But wouldn't Dibdin's references to "yo-heave-hoing" suggest that such a thing existed (as we know it did)? While the O'Grady poem is fanciful, I think it suggest that songs were sung while rowing. OK, big deal, we know there were songs for rowing. But we have also critiqued them a bit elsewhere. In our other chanty discussions, we didn't turn up so many songs for rowing by non-Blacks. And we have Dana's comment on Italians rowing as if it was foreign to Anglo culture. Minimally, this poem suggests (I think) that O'Grady had seen/heard men singing while rowing in that area -- unless he transposed the experience of hearing rowing songs elsewhere to this setting. He may have been inspired by Moore's "Canadian Boat Song", however, as I opined above, his phrases seem more characteristic of rowing songs as we know them.

There is this example from around the same time:

[1845 Unknown. "Sailor Music." American Journal of Music and Musical Visitor 4(7). (Feb. 25, 1845). Pg. 53.]

Then walk him up so lively,
Row, Billy, row,
Then walk him up so lively, hearties,
Row, Billy, row.


O'Grady's refrain, incidentally, scans well with the refrain of "Sacramento."

We have discussed how such rowing songs may well have been transfered over to sailing ship use.

Yes, there were some work chants/songs on sailing ships prior to this era, but I think a "new" style/repertoire of songs developed later, and that the inspiration/source of those songs was work songs from elsewhere. The cotton stowing songs and rowing songs, for example. The word for such worksongs, "chanty," may have preceded their development into deep-water songs -- Nordhoff's cotton screwers suggest an example of that.

What I am suggesting, as provocateur, is that "shanty" could be in use here (O'Grady) in reference to a work song -- a rowing song -- without any reference to deep-water songs...since the latter had not yet come into their own and, perhaps, were not yet called "chanty" by any/many.

To summarize what I am proposing (not necessarilly believing!):
"Shanty" here may refer to the type of song being sung -- well, the type being alluded to -- which was a rowing song. The song has nothing to do with lumberjacks per se. And because such rowing songs, I believe, fed into the stream of what would become deep-water songs of mid-century, this would be significant.

continued...