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Lyr Req: The Old Superb (Newbolt/Stanford)

Jon Bartlett 03 Oct 03 - 03:53 AM
George Seto - 03 Oct 03 - 07:39 AM
A Wandering Minstrel 03 Oct 03 - 07:46 AM
nutty 03 Oct 03 - 03:41 PM
Jon Bartlett 04 Oct 03 - 03:43 AM
Gareth 04 Oct 03 - 06:58 AM
GUEST,Guest 05 Mar 16 - 07:06 PM
MGM·Lion 06 Mar 16 - 06:09 PM
FreddyHeadey 06 Mar 16 - 07:13 PM
Teribus 07 Mar 16 - 02:31 AM
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Subject: Lyr Req: The Old Superb. Does it ring a bell?
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 03 Oct 03 - 03:53 AM

The old Superb was barnacled and green as grass below
Her sticks were only good for stirring grog...

Can anyone help me find this song for an old lady whose dad used to sing it: she has only the two lines above. Cheers!

Jon Bartlett

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Subject: Lyr Add: THE OLD SUPERB (Newbolt/Stanford)
From: George Seto -
Date: 03 Oct 03 - 07:39 AM

Haven't found the words, but....

It's mentioned here:

Old Superb

The "Old Superb"
Text by Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938), copyright .
Set by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), op. 91, from Songs of the Sea, no. 5.

The wind was rising easterly, the morning, the morning sky was blue,

From Thought Cafe

The Old Superb

The wind was rising easterly, the
Morning sky was blue,
The Straits before us opened wide
And free;
We looked towards the Admiral,
Where high Peter flew,
And all our hearts were dancing
Like the sea.

From Stanford Songs:

We find further mention of the song being on a recording.

From SHIPS AND HARBOURS IN BRITISH MUSICThe Old Superb, the rousing final song from Stanford's Songs of the Sea, telling the tale of a ship of the line which fought at Trafalgar, and which was not in reality as decrepit as the song would have us believe;

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Old Superb. Does it ring a bell?
From: A Wandering Minstrel
Date: 03 Oct 03 - 07:46 AM

its by Sir Henry Newbolt as part of his Sea Songs cycle. A recording is mentioned here

unfortunately the words are not printed as they are copyright.

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Subject: Lyr Add: THE OLD SUPERB (Sir Henry Newbolt)
From: nutty
Date: 03 Oct 03 - 03:41 PM

Not sure about the copyright situation
The Henry Newbolt book of poems that I have was printed in 1915, Newbolt himself died in 1938 so I would have thought that the work was clear of copyright unless the recordings themselves are subject to it.

However, here is the poem in full

The Old Superb
The wind was rising easterly, the morning sky was blue
The straits before us opened wide and free
We looked towards the Admiral, where high the Peter flew
And all our hearts were dancing like the sea
"The French are gone to Martinique with four-and-twenty sail !
The Old Superb is old and foul and slow
But the French are gone to Martinique, and Nelson's on the trail;
And where he goes the Old Superb must go."

So Westward ho ! for Trinidad and Eastward ho ! for Spain
And "Ship Ahoy" a hundred times a day
Round the world if need be, and round the world again,
With a lame duck lagging all the way !

The Old Superb was barnacled and green as grass below,
Her sticks were only fit for stirring grog;
The pride of all her midshipmen was silent long ago,
And long ago they ceased to heave the log.
Four year out from home she was, and ne'er a week in port,
And nothing save the guns aboard her bright;
But Captain Keats he knew the game, and swore to share the sport,
For he never yet came in too late too fight.

So Westward ho ! for Trinidad and Eastward ho ! for Spain
And "Ship Ahoy" a hundred times a day
Round the world if need be, and round the world again,
With a lame duck lagging all the way !

"Now up, my lads !" the Captain cried, "for sure the case were hard
If longest out were frst to fall behind.
Aloft, aloft with studding sails, and lash them to the yard,
For night and day the Trades are driving blind !"
So all day long and all day long behind the fleet we crept,
And how we fretted non but Nelson guessed;
But every night the Old Superb she sailed when others slept,
Till we ran the French to earth with all the rest !

So Westward ho ! for Trinidad and Eastward ho ! for Spain
And "Ship Ahoy" a hundred times a day
Round the world if need be, and round the world again,
With a lame duck lagging all the way !

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Old Superb. Does it ring a bell?
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 03:43 AM

Thanks 'Cats, you made my day!

Jon Bartlett

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Old Superb. Does it ring a bell?
From: Gareth
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 06:58 AM

"Superb" poem, and it has certainly been set to music. I remmber hearing it sung on an old 78rpm many years ago.

I suspect some 'Catters may be interested in the history of his 74, I appologise for the long paste but I am not sure how long this site might survive.

SUPERB,74. (1798 Northfleet. BU 1826) 1800 Capt. J. SUTTON, 7/98. Spithead. With the Channel fleet. She returned to Plymouth to refit on 5 July and reported that the troops Gen. Maitland had landed on the French islands of Howat and Hedie had been re-embarked when he discovered that the garrison on Belleisle numbered 10,000 men. The troops went to Minorca. SUPERB refitted in Portsmouth at the end of November.
1801 She sailed from Portsmouth to join the Channel fleet on 25 January and returned to Plymouth on 12 March.
Capt. Richard Goodwin KEATS. On 31 March SUPERB, VENERABLE and CAMBRIAN sailed with the East Indiamen which had arrived off Portsmouth in a large convoy from the Downs. The first two seeing them as far as Madeira, the CAMBRIAN going on to the Cape. On 17 April the three frigates, lying in wait for a Spanish 74, armed en flute, with money, captured the Spanish ship CARMEN and a brig deeply laden with hides and tallow from the Rio de Plata. The prizes arrived in Plymouth on 23 May. SUPERB and VENERABLE returned to Portsmouth on 27 April.
After taking a convoy as Cape Verde SUPERB returned to Sir James SAUMAREZ's squadron off Cadiz. She was blockading the Gualdalquivir when Lieut. Richard JANVRIN from Gibraltar arrived on board CAESAR on 5 July 1801 with the news that a French squadron from Toulon was at Algeciras. Sir James sent PASLEY to recall Capt. KEATS and on the 7th VENERABLE, POMPEE, AUDACIOUS, CAESAR, SPENCER and HANNIBAL stood into Algeciras Roads while SUPERB, THAMES and PASLEY continued to watch Cadiz.
In the resultant action between the English ships and the French squadron and shore batteries, HANNIBAL was taken by the enemy and the other ships were badly damaged but the French losses were also high and Ad. Linois asked the Spanish at Cadiz for help. A Spanish squadron of five line-of-battle ships and a frigate came out at daylight from Cadiz on the 9th and, preceeded by the three British vessels, set sail for the Straits. Sir James was warned of their arrival by PASLEY and great efforts were made to refit the British ships while SUPERB and THAMES anchored in the Bay.
On the morning of the 12th the enemy got under way and, by noon, two of the Spanish three-deckers were off Cabritta Point. CAESAR was still receiving powder and shot but by 7 o'clock the whole British line was in pursuit.
At 9.30 the admiral hailed Capt. KEATS and directed him to make sail ahead to try and bring the enemy rearmost ships to action. In less than two hours SUPERB, now out of sight of the rest of the British squadron, opened heavy fire on the quarter of the 112-gun REAL CARLOS. Some of SUPERB's shot hit the SAN HERMENEGILDO giving the Spaniard the impression that her consort was the enemy. She too opened fire on REAL CARLOS until that ship was on fire. The two Spanish ships then collided and the fire spread to the SAN HERMENEGILDO. Because of the weather SUPERB was unable to send any assistance as the two 1st Rates were destroyed.
SUPERB was then in action with the SAN ANTONIO,74, and when the enemy struck her first lieutenant, Mr Samuel JACKSON, took possession of the prize with one boat's crew, one Marine officer and four marines. his boat was stove in and sunk as he boarded. There were 30O French seamen and soldiers on board and 50O Spaniards. As the prize approached Cape Trafalgar some of the prisoners considered retaking her but the French officers, considering that they had been fairly captured in battle, informed Lieut. JACKSON and he disarmed the prisoners. When the French and Spaniards started to quarrel the lieutenant put the Spaniards below and gave the French the task of guarding them. The next day SUPERB towed the SAN ANTONIO towards Gibraltar and she was later taken into the Royal Navy but, being an old vessel, she never left Portsmouth after her arrival.
Lieut. JACKSON was promoted to commander but Capt. KEATS received no particular praise for his conduct.
In October 1802, while SUPERB, DRAGON, TRIUMPH and GIBRALTAR were on passage from Gibraltar to Malta, mutineers took possession of the later ship and ran her under the stern of the others, cheering them, in the hope that their crews would join. When they were disappointed in this the mutiny was easily supressed and three of the ringleaders were taken and hanged in Gibraltar after a court martial.
1806 Flagship of Vice Ad . Sir John Thomas DUCKWORTH commanding a squadron of ships in the West Indies. (NORTHUMBRTLAND, CANOPUS, SPENCER, DONEGAL, ATLAS and AGAMEMNON.) When, at the beginning of February, he received information of an enemy force to the south of San Domingo he lost no time in getting through the Mona Passage and learned from MAGICIENNE that the French had ten sail of the line with the same number of frigates and corvettes. On the afternoon of the 5th SUPERB sighted five sail of the line, a frigate and a corvette sailing in line for Cape Nisao to the windward of Ocoa Bay. The Admiral telegraphed the squadron to attack and engage the enemy as they came up. SUPERB closed the ALEXANDRE but after three broadsides she sheered off and SUPERB was able to open fire on the French Admiral in IMPERIAL which had been causing much damage to Rear Ad. COCHRANE's NORTHUMBERLAND.
By the end of two hours three sail of the line, ALEXANDRE, JUPITER and BRAVE, had been captured and two, IMPERIAL and DIOMEDE, destroyed. (Because of tremendous seas they were burnt after removing all the living.) It took until the afternoon of the 7th to shift the prisoners and put the ships in a manageable state then SPENCER, DONEGAL and ATLAS were sent with the prizes to Jamaica.
SUPERB lost 6 killed, 3 seamen and 3 marines. 56 were wounded including Lieut. Charles PATRIARCH, William PICKERING, master, and Messrs Charles WALLINGTON, Thomas JACKSON, Joseph BULLEN and James WILCOX, midshipmen. the grand total in the seven ships of the squadron was 74 killed and 264 wounded.
In his public letter Ad. DUCKWORH condemned the dishonourable conduct of Capt. Henry of the DIOMEDE for running his vessel ashore after she had surrendered and allowing some of the crew to escape. Capt. Henry and his officers denied that the ship had surrendered and insisted that, although the ensign had been shot away, the pendant was always flying. After investigation the charges were withdrawn in a letter of the 16 February.
1807 Capt. D. M'CLEOD, Spithead. Flagship of Rear Ad. KEATS. In November Mr GRIFFIN, gunner of SUPERB, was sentenced by court martial to be dismissed the service for drunkenness.
At the beginning of 1808 Capt. Samuel JACKSON, newly promoted to post rank, returned to his old ship and accompanied Sir Richard STRACHAN's squadron to the Mediterranean in pursuit of French ships which had escaped from Rochfort. Later in the year SUPERB became the flagship of Rear Ad. KEATS in the Baltic and took part in the rescue of a Spanish army there following Spain's change of sides after the French invasion of that country. On the 8 August Rear Ad. KEATS left SUPERB and went in his barge to the BRUNSWICK off Nyborg and nearly 6000 Spanish troops were embarked from there on the 11th. The same day 1000 joined by sea from Jutland and another 1000 were put into Langeland to strengthen the post held there by the Spanish forces. Two Danish vessels, the FAMA,18, brig, and the SALORMAN,12, cutter, which were moored across the harbour of Nyborg refused to surrender and, the Spaniards being unwilling to act against the Danes, Capt. M'NAMARA of EDGAR attacked and took them. Lieut. HARVEY of SUPERB was wounded.
She spent the winter of 1808 frozen up in Gottenburg and returned to England the following spring.
SUPERB took part in the expedition to Walcheren and returned from there in such a bad state of repair that she was put out of commission at Portsmouth until the end of 1812 when she was fitting out under the command of Capt. Charles PAGET. During a cruise in the Bay of Biscay he took several prizes; among them being the American brig STAR,6, and the letter of marque VIPER,6.
In 1814 Capt. PAGET commanded a squadron off New London. The boats of SUPERB and NIMROD, under the command of Lieut. James GARLAND of the former, attacked Wareham and destroyed 2,50O tons of shipping together with a valuable cotton mill belonging to Boston merchants.
1816 Capt. Charles EKINS, 9/15, Plymouth. 1820 Capt. Thomas WHITE, 8/19, South America. 1822 Capt. Adam M'KENZIE, 6/21 South America. SUPERB rounded Cape Horn during the shortest days of winter. He was reappointed to her in June 1823 when she was stationed as a guard-ship at Plymouth. Capt. MACKENZIE died in Novemer 1823.
1823 Capt. Sir Thomas STAINES, 10/23. In November SUPERB carried part of the 12th regiment of foot from Portsmouth to Gibraltar. She then visited Barbados, St. Vincent's, Dominica and Bermuda before being stationed at Lisbon. SUPERB paid off on 19 December 1825 and was broken up the following year. 7

For the littary minded

Keats and the "Superb" have cameo mentions in O'Brians "Master & Commander"

Forester's "The Commodore" is based roughly on the "Superb"'s service in the Baltic.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Old Superb. Does it ring a bell?
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 07:06 PM

This request is a bit dated (thirteen years) so possibly the person who wanted it is no longer around, but who knows...?

The poem was put to music (I forget by whom - should be easy enough to look up) and for some decades it was the official anthem of warships who carried on the name HMS Superb (as was the naval tradition) and all crew members learned it by heart. Nowadays our much diminished navy has no such ship but, by happy coincidence, one of the crew on the last HMS Superb (a cruiser which was still on active service in the 1950s) was the folk singer Jim Radford who served on the Superb during her 'show the flag' tour of the Americas in 1951 (

Jim learned this song as a crew member but was never told it was from a poem by the laureate of the Empire (Newbolt) and thought it was a folk song so he added it to his repertoire. He sings it occasionally at folk venues and has recorded it along with many of his other songs. It is not available commercially but I expect Jim could probably provide a recording if anyone really wanted one.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Old Superb. Does it ring a bell?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Mar 16 - 06:09 PM

I recall FWIW a letter to The Times many years ago, from a baritone, long-retired, who had once actually rehearsed Stanford's setting with the poet listening, for a Royal Command concert for King George V, in which he commended his advice as to pronunciation to singers who would render "studding sails" as spelt, as he had naturally done at first attempt. Newbolt interrupted, "No no, for God's sake! and His Majesty a seafaring man too! Stuns'ls, man, Stuns'ls!"


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Old Superb. Does it ring a bell?
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 06 Mar 16 - 07:13 PM

re GUEST,Guest - PM
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 07:06
"Jim Radford"

I see he is at the Ellesmere Port Shanty Festival 2016 Mar 25 26 27(not Mon 28 though)

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Old Superb. Does it ring a bell?
From: Teribus
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 02:31 AM

The last "Superb" commissioned into the Royal Navy was the nuclear "hunter-killer" Submarine HMS Superb launched in 1974 and decommissioned in 2008.

I remember learning and singing this song at school.

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