The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #151478   Message #3535604
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
09-Jul-13 - 03:53 PM
Thread Name: Folklore: 'topsails all a quiver'
Subject: RE: Folklore: 'topsails all a quiver'

What do you mean when you say these chanties have these lyrics? There is only what people have sung or presented as being sung. Who has sung this phrase?

AFAIK the only source for "The Wild Goose" is Roy MacKenzie's Nova Scotia collection, 1928. No quivering topsails there. I think it is extremely likely that Lloyd's Shanty Manufacturing Company made up that verse when they looked at MacKenzie's book, squinted their eyes, and made up a rendition. Trying to be all coy and sexy.

Whose rendition of 'Shenandoah'? I can't remember having ever seen that verse sung with it. It also sounds contrived to me.

However, there is this, from a 1909 piece by James H. Williams:

"Oh, a Yankee ship came down the river;
Blow! Boys, blow!
He luffs her up 'till her topsails quiver;
BLOW! My bully boys, blow!"

i.e. rather than being floppy at all, the sail is so taut that it quivers like a drum when touched by the breeze.