The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #34323   Message #462558
Posted By: Metchosin
15-May-01 - 02:54 AM
Thread Name: The origin of Sea Chanteys
Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
I am toadfrog.

That Shanty noted is from a mediaeval work called The Complaynt of Scotland which was written about 1450. W. B. Whall, who IanC mentioned above, cites the work in his book Ships, Sea-Songs and Shanties. Also from the Complaynt of Scotland are the following lines, which Whall also notes in his introduction:

"And now ane marynal cryit
And all the laif follouit in that same tune"

Or in plain English
"one mariner sings out and the rest follow in the same tune" the following as they haul anchor:

"Caupon caupona, caupon caupona
Caupon hola, caupon hola
Caupon holt, caupon holt
Sarrabosa, sarrabossa

Than says the narrative, they maid fast the shank of the ankyr."

Whall also notes in his collection, among others from the Complaynt of Scotland, the following Shanty of 550 years ago:

"Yellow hair, hips bare
To him all. Vidde fulles all.
Great and small, one and all,
Heisa, heisa."

Many cultures have used call and response in work songs; it is not the prerogative of just one people. One only has to listen to some of the work songs of the Ruthenians of the Carpathian Mountains and the Ukraine, which the women sang as they laboured in fields, to gain further appreciation of the form. Any repetitive backbreaking work elicits this form of music from the human soul.

A modern case in point was the song a friend made up which mimicked the sound of the machinery and kept him awake and in sync while working on the green chain on the night shift in a plywood mill. Only in this situation the machine called and he answered.

Records indicate that the ancient Greeks understood the advantages of, and practiced, uniform work methods. Their soldiers were instructed as to how their weapons and equipment should be laid out in case of a surprise attack. They also employed work songs to develop a rhythm, in order to achieve a smooth less fatiguing tempo, to improve productivity. It is not too much of a stretch to believe that some ancient bright spark took the inspiration to get his Greek Armies to work in unison from work songs that originated in the field or were sung on ancient Greek Pentekontors and Triremes by the oarsmen or vice versa.

The earliest recorded work songs, are from the Shih Ching or Book of Songs, an anthology of 305 lyrics of various types, in the section called Feng, literally translated as "wind" and sometimes interpreted as "folkways or folksongs", compiled ca. 600 B. C.and which may represent work, dating from the Shang dynasty as early as ca. 1700 B. C. And it would follow, that a thousand years later, workmen, as they laboured on the Great Wall of China were singing these same songs as they toiled.

And who knows what Jesus and his mates sang on the Sea of Galilee, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of it was naughty, so they couldn't put those parts in the Book.