Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


A curiosity of shantydom...

Lighter 27 Feb 11 - 09:26 PM
EBarnacle 27 Feb 11 - 10:21 PM
Gibb Sahib 28 Feb 11 - 01:08 AM
MGM·Lion 28 Feb 11 - 03:15 AM
MGM·Lion 28 Feb 11 - 03:21 AM
Keith A of Hertford 28 Feb 11 - 03:27 AM
MGM·Lion 28 Feb 11 - 03:42 AM
Keith A of Hertford 28 Feb 11 - 03:55 AM
Gibb Sahib 28 Feb 11 - 04:20 AM
Charley Noble 28 Feb 11 - 07:32 AM
Lighter 28 Feb 11 - 08:16 AM
MGM·Lion 28 Feb 11 - 09:14 AM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:





Subject: A curiosity of shantydom...
From: Lighter
Date: 27 Feb 11 - 09:26 PM

The Brooklyn Eagle (Oct. 14, 1896), p. 11, reprinted a peculiar story from the Chicago Times-Herald of unknown but presumably recent date. In it, the anonymous reporter claims that while strolling along the waterfront of the Chicago River he'd heard a group of "old time sailors...businly engaged on one of the big boats tugging at a hawser when one of them began to sing...[a]nd the others joined lustily in the refrain":

Fifteen men on the dead man's chest,
Yo-ho-ho! and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest,
Yo-ho-ho! and a bottle of rum.

For they drank and drank and got so drunk,
Yo-ho-ho! and a bottle of rum!
Each from the dead man bit a chunk,
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum.

The bottle burst and the men accurst,
Yo-ho-ho! and a bottle of rum!
Sucked his blood to quench their thirst,
Yo-ho-ho! and a bottle of rum.

They sucked his blood and crunched his bones,
Yo-ho-ho! and a bottle of rum!
When suddenly up came Davy Jones!
Yo-ho-ho! and a bottle of rum.

"My men," says he, "you must come with me,"
Yo-ho-ho! and a bottle of rum!
And he grinned with a horrible kind of glee;
Yo-ho-ho! and a bottle of rum!

Davy Jones had a big black key,
Yo-ho-ho! and a bottle of rum!
It was for his locker beneath the sea,
Yo-ho-ho! and a bottle of rum!

He winked and blinked like an owl in a tree,
Yo-ho-ho! and a bottle of rum;
And he sank them all to the bottom of the sea,
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum.

Now, all take warning from this 'ere song,
Yo-ho-ho! and a bottle of rum;
Never drink whisky so devilish strong.
Yo-ho-ho! and a bottle of rum.

The writer assumed that this performance proved that Stevenson's " Treasure Island" (1882) had drawn its famous lines about the "Dead Man's Chest" from an actual shanty. Of course, it proves nothing of the sort, particularly since Stevenson, while working on the novel, had written to a friend that the song was "known only to the crew of the late Capt. Flint."

When the reporter asked the men where they'd learned the song, one answered "defiantly": "We never larnt it nowhere, yer honor, we allers knowed it."

In "Buried Caesars" (1923), a collection of his essays, Vincent Starrett concluded that the whole story was a hoax because Stevenson himself had written the four lines of the song that appear in "Treasure Island."

But it was a long time between 1882 and 1896. Stevenson didn't get his song on the Chicago riverfront, but it's certainly possible that the alleged sailors did pick up some unknown versifier's later effort and put it to use as a shanty. It's at least equally possible that they didn't.

Whatever the truth of it, somebody should have been collecting shanties on the Great Lakes long before Ivan Walton.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: A curiosity of shantydom...
From: EBarnacle
Date: 27 Feb 11 - 10:21 PM

Good variant!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: A curiosity of shantydom...
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 28 Feb 11 - 01:08 AM

Just to add to this thread, for comparison, the part of one of James Runciman's stories where a similar shanty is claimed--

In the story "An Old Pirate," published 1885, one of the characters "hummed the shanty,"

So where they have gone to, there's no one can tell—
   Brandy and gin and a bottle of rum;
But I think we shall meet the poor devils in hell,
   Brandy and gin and a bottle of rum.
...

We went over the bar on the 13th of May,
   Brandy and gin and a bottle of rum;
The Galloper jumped, and the gale came away,
   Oh ! brandy and gin and a bottle of rum.

After this, the narrator states:

"I had heard the wicked shanty on board a collier brig, as it happened, but my version was corrupt. The gruesome song which Mr. Louis Stevenson lately printed is also corrupt. In fact, Mr. Stevenson's verse is so artistically horrible that I rather fancy he composed it himself."

Although the solo verses of both these versions sound contrived to me, I could envision the chorus as representing a shanty that once existed. This is just my imagination, albeit based on some knowledge of chanty forms -- but I think it sounds like a shanty for the old fashioned spoke windlass. The "heave" would come, as I envision it, on the second "ho" and on "rum." (That is as opposed to a halyard or the brake windlass style, where the pull/heave would be on "Yo" and "bottle." If such were an actual shanty from the hypothetical old days (late 18th - early 19th century), I'd expect the solo parts to be more of a sort of incidental gibberish (which is why these versions sound too "composed" IMO).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: A curiosity of shantydom...
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 28 Feb 11 - 03:15 AM

But in fact it is my impression that "yo-ho" or "yo-ho-ho" are rare cries in shanties, despite the non-folkies' impression that they are almost inevitably to be found therein ~~ thanks almost certainly to RLS's invention. His description of its use for that purpose, with Long John Silver as shantyman, at the beginning of ch 10 of Treasure Island, is precisely as described by all authorities; although historically rather too early, as Treasure Island is set about mid-C18, not that long after the battle of Fontenoy, 1745, in which the still quite young Dr Livesey had served, and so some time before the dates usually recognised for shanty-singing in the merchant services.

Are there, in fact, any true, authenticated shanties in any of the collections in which the "yo-ho" refrain appears. Only traditional song I can think of with it in is the Western cowboy song 'Santa Fe Trail'!

~Michael~


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: A curiosity of shantydom...
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 28 Feb 11 - 03:21 AM

Oh, and in usual translation from Russian of The Volga Boat Song ~~ however 'traditional' that may be ~~ and then it is Yo-heave-ho!

~M~


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: A curiosity of shantydom...
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 28 Feb 11 - 03:27 AM

Not traditional Michael.
The author is known.
(It does feature a "schooner" though.)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: A curiosity of shantydom...
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 28 Feb 11 - 03:42 AM

"Schooner" as you well know in the sense of "prairie schooner", i.e. covered wagon ~~ so yah-sucks-boo.

The question as to how far known authorship inevitably precludes traditional status has been flogged to death on this forum. Let us not resuscitate it again in this instance, eh?

~M~


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: A curiosity of shantydom...
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 28 Feb 11 - 03:55 AM

I am not looking for another fight at the moment, so I will let it go, you absolute blackgaurd.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: A curiosity of shantydom...
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 28 Feb 11 - 04:20 AM

"Yo heave ho," at one point, was reasonably common. Was it a "shanty"? I say no. It *was* a cry or chant used to coordinate shipboard work. Although I believe the word "shanty" was connected with a specific variety of worksong, in later years the various varieties got lumped together under that rubric, and I am presently using it conversationally like that.

But anyway, yes, "yo heave ho" was around. My earliest reference is from 1807, wherein the passage states,

"Yo, heave ho!" as if heaving at the capstan or windlass...

I believe yo-heave-ho (of which I assume "yo HO ho" could be a variant) was characteristic of heaving the old windlass that was turned around by handspikes that had to be continually removed and reinserted. In my interpretation, it was essentially equivalent to chanting "1, 2, HEAVE!" Such chants at the windlass can be reasonably dated to the 1750s (though the specific phrase "yo heave ho" is not mentioned that early). To add variety, the men probably added random phrases in between the yo-heave-hos -- short quips that didn't need to rhyme with anything. Also, I think it likely that other phrases were used for the heaving itself (i.e. in place of yo-heave-ho) so long as they fit the "1, 2, heave" pattern, for example, "brandy and GIN!", "I wanna DRINK!", "around she GOES" etc.

Rough estimate is that "yo heave ho" died out in the 1850s. The handspike windlass was superseded in the 40s by the more "musical" brake/pump-action windlass, and the English chants were superseded by American chanties.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: A curiosity of shantydom...
From: Charley Noble
Date: 28 Feb 11 - 07:32 AM

Lighter-

I do like the variant you first posted here. It does seem more like something sailors would really sing.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: A curiosity of shantydom...
From: Lighter
Date: 28 Feb 11 - 08:16 AM

The Chicago text must have a literary origin.

We know that Stevenson created the song (though only four lines of it) to make Treasure Island just that much more entertaining. As Michael actutely observes,"Yo ho ho!" just doesn't appear in genuine shanties and traditional songs. Therefore any version of the song, with or without yo-ho-ho, must be derived, ultimately, from Stevenson.

Also, if less conclusively, the whole cannibalism-Davy Jones thing smacks of stage melodrama or an attempt to imitate it. Real shanty lyrics are less self-consciously creative. (I don't think there's a cannibalism-Davy Jones "motif" recorded by folklore scholars.) Furthermore, halliard shanties that tell a coherent story like this, with a beginning, middle, and end, are very rare: "Boney," "Lowlands," what else? And they give few details.

So the song is an imitation of an imitation. The evidence is inconclusive, but Starrett was probably right (for the wrong reasons) in thinking the whole story a good-natured hoax. When something sounds too good to be true....


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: A curiosity of shantydom...
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 28 Feb 11 - 09:14 AM

In which connection, Keith, if you are listening ~~ although DT gives the version of Santa Fe Trail written by that 90-yr-old guy & his musician friend, his version doesn't include "Yo ho" either, which came in much later. So, tho one might argue about its traditional status, it has certainly been well folk-processed.

If, BTW, you don't want fights, why start them, eh?

M·the·Blackguardly·GM


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 18 September 11:22 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.