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Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)

Charley Noble 19 Feb 07 - 11:18 AM
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Subject: LYR.ADD.: I've Been Dreamin'
From: Charley Noble
Date: 19 Feb 07 - 11:18 AM

The intent of this thread is to spotlight some of the sailor-poets who achieved some measure of recognition for their nautical verse in the pre-World War 2 years of the 20th century. "Sailor-Poets" were those who actually worked aboard the commercial tall-ships in the last years of the glorious age of sail or in the navy, and composed poetry. Cicely Fox Smith, while composing well-crafted nautical verse, by this definition was not a sailor-poet. Three relatively unknown American sailor-poets who come to mind are Harry Kemp, Burt Franklin Jenness, and Bill Adams. There are undoubtedly more but my plan is to begin with these three.

Harry Kemp was introduced by Q in this thread with his poem "The Chantey of the Cook": Harry Kemp

Burt Franklin Jenness surfaced on Mudcat, thanks to Gazza2, more recently with his poem "The Sea Dog": Burt Franklin Jenness

Bill Adams's nautical poetry, as far as I can find, has not surfaced on Mudcat but here is a good example:

By Bill Adams, from FENCELESS MEADOWS: Tales of the Sea , edited by Bill Adams, published by Frederick A. Stokes & Co., © 1921, pp. 134-136. Republished in SONGS OF THE SEA AND SAILORS' CHANTEYS, edited by Robert Frothingham, published by Houghton Mifflin Co., Cambridge, US, © 1924, pp. 13-15.

I've Been Dreamin'

I've been dreamin',
Of a randy, dandy clipper with her tops'ls set,
Pitchin' heavy down the westin' with the leeches wet.
Bill Newland, the old skipper, from his high bridge head,
Shoutin' to us packet rats – an' these the words he said:
"Hop along, now! Loose them 'gallants! Skip aloft, now! Jump along!"

Oh, them packet rats were swearin' an' a-breakin' into song!
Packet rats a-roarin', "Ranzo," rats a-singin' "Roll an' Go,"
Haulin' on them 'gallant braces, cryin', "Blow, boys blow!"

    Let her blow for Frisco city!
    Let the dandy clipper race!
    For them swingin' feet an' pretty
    Of the gals at Tony's place.

    Soon we'll see old Tony smilin',
    Hear his girls begin to sing,
    Hear old Billy Dick beguilin'
    Music from a fiddle-string!

    Oh, there's drowned an' perished clippers
    An' there's rats that died –
    But there's gals wi' flowered slippers
    An' their skirts flung wide!

Did you say there are no clippers? Did you say them days is done?
Days of packet rats an' packets, an' stars an' moon an' sun?
O' lights upon the water, a-shinin' on the sea?
My God, but I'm a packet rat!
What will become of me?

I've got to see tall clippers, I've got to sing an' shout
When the 'gallants are mastheaded and the jibs are runnin' out.
I've got to roar "Ranzo" an' "Blow, my bullies, blow!"
When the ice-cakes heap a-cracklin', an' the Horn is lost in snow.
I wants them lights by Frisco, an' lights by Salem too,
An' dandy skippers swearin' at the signin' of the crew.
Red Jacket's gone? And Dancing Wave? Guidin' Star as well?
Then what of Golden Era? . . . God help me! This is hell!

Good-by, farewell, kedge anchor! The shoals lie deep about;
The packet rats are singin', an' their chorus dyin' out.
The clippers lie a-wastin' where the westin' sun burns red,
An' the packet rats are restin' in the havens of the dead.

Good-be to Dame Romancing an' her dainty feathered frock!
Good-by to all the laughter at the swingin' of the lock!
Good-by to capstan payments, good-by to ships at sea –
If the packets rest a-westin' – ah – westin's right for me!

So far I haven't been able to find much biographical information on Bill Adams other than he was a tall-ship sailor who retired to California and published several books of the sea including:

FENCELESS MEADOWS: Tales of the Sea (p. 1921)
WIND IN THE TOPSAILS (p. 1931)

Note that WIND IN THE TOPSAILS includes most of the poems that are used to introduce stories in FENCELESS MEADOWS.

I also haven't been able to find any reference to "Tony's" or "Dame Romancing" in my books about San Francisco's sailortown known as the Barbary Coast.

I would welcome in this thread more information about these sailor-poets, and more of their poems (with references of where you found them). I would expect that at least some of their work could be adapted for singing.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble
      This is an edited PermaThread®. This thread will be edited by Charley Noble. Feel free to post to this thread, but remember that all messages posted here are subject to editing or deletion.
      -Joe Offer-


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Subject: LYR.ADD.: Stowaway
From: Charley Noble
Date: 19 Feb 07 - 03:20 PM

Here's another poem by Bill Adams:

From FENCELESS MEADOWS: Tales of the Sea , edited by Bill Adams, published by Frederick A. Stokes & Co., © 1921, pp. 102-103. Republished in SONGS OF THE SEA AND SAILORS' CHANTEYS, edited by Robert Frothingham, published by Houghton Mifflin Co., Cambridge, US, © 1924, pp. 2-4. Also republished in WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 141-142.

Stowaway

I crossed the gangway in the winter's raining,
Late in the night, when it was dreary dark;
The only sounds the rain's hiss, and the complaining
Of mooring hawsers holding that lean barque.

She sailed before the dawn, the evening found me
A sea-sick nipper hidden in spare sails.
I feared they'd drag me out and maybe drown me, –
The barque was trembling, dipping both her rails.

Soon I crept forth. Her long, lee rail was sweeping.
A homing ship drove by with hurrying feet,
A school of porpoises all 'round her leaping,
While stars dipped low, her dizzied spars to greet.

"Three cheers!" they cried, and I could hear their voices,
And the sharp beating of her clanged iron bells;
Her music faded, merged in the sea noises,
And she was gone, loud cheering down the swells.

And in me then a something seemed to waken,
And I was 'mazed. It was as though the sea,
Or the big topsails by the night-wind shaken,
Had cast a sort of magic over me.

The mast-heads reeled. In the bright north the Dipper
Hung dazzling diamonds 'round her sails, ghost white.
The seas were dim, and the deep-breathing clipper
Quivered her feet, and shook with sheer delight.

It's long ago, my first night on the sea,
And I've grown old, and sailing days are sped.
And I am waiting, waiting patiently,
Till other topsails gleam above my head.

There'll be a wharf, I know, where I am going,
There'll be a gangway for the likes o' me;
There'll be some lofty packet seaward going, –
They'll be fine ships on that eternal sea!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: lYR.ADD.: Johnnie Chantey-man
From: Charley Noble
Date: 19 Feb 07 - 03:40 PM

And another lament from Bill Adams:

First published in SONGS OF THE SEA AND SAILORS' CHANTEYS, edited by Robert Frothingham, published by Houghton Mifflin Co., Cambridge, US, © 1924, pp. 57-59. Republished in WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 17-18.

Johnnie Chanteyman

Johnnie Parrot, Johnnie Parrot, I'll not hear again
That old voice of yours a-ringin' down the windy rain,
When the ocean morning's clearin' an' the gale is past,
An' we're all a-"yo-heave-ho-in'" by the big main mast.

Johnnie Parrot, Johnnie Parrot, I can see 'em now –
Southeast trade wind seas a-breakin' high about the bow.
I can see the yellow oilskins of a shoutin' crew,
And the "Roll the cotton, bullies, roll her," led by you.

I can see the skipper leanin' on the bridge's rail;
Hear him holler to the chief mate, "Crowd her – set all sail!"
I can feel the clipper leapin', as a colt untried,
Free to roam the rollin' pastures o' the open tide.

I see the China steward, the nigger cookie's face;
There's a skysail ship to loo'ard, an' we're goin' to race;
But a black squall comes a-hidin' all the sea an' sky,
An' white horses run a-ridin' with their manes blown high.

I can feel the packet tremble as she lifts her feet,
An' her dainty bows go dancin' down the sea's wide street;
I hear Johnnie Parrot singin', singin', "Roll an' Go!"
An' the sons o' forty seaports roarin', "Yo-heave-ho!"

There are girls in forty seaports, an' they wait for you –
Wait for Johnnie Chantyman an' all his singin' crew;
But they better deck their tresses with bright ribbons gay,
An' forget those sailors singin' down the sea's cold way.

For the hungry seas are breakin' with an angry roar,
An' there's black squalls blowin' pipin' past a coral shore.
There's a clipper lyin' broken like a lily fair –
Lady, take some other token for your lovely hair!

'Tain't no use to love a sailor nor to wait the day
For your Johnnie's chanteys cheery ringin' down the bay!
'Tain't no use to listen, lady, for your seaman's love –
Johnnie's drowned, lyin' drownded, in a mermaid's cove.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: LYR.ADD.: Fo'c'sle Comradeship
From: Charley Noble
Date: 20 Feb 07 - 07:56 PM

Here's another poem by Harry Kemp:

From CHANTEYS AND BALLADS, by Harry Kemp, published by Brentano's, New York, US, © 1920, p. 14.

Fo'c'sle Comradeship

There's not much in the fo'c'sle of a ship
But old sea boots and chests that stand in rows
While up above a smoky lantern glows,
And hanging from a peg the oilskins drip,
Sometimes in storms the water rushes in;
Sometimes we stifle for a breath of air;
Yet somehow comradeship gets being there
And common hardship makes the stranger kin . . .
Blood-brothers we become, but not in peace, –
Still ready to exchange the lie and blow;
Just like the sea our quarrels rise and cease:
We've never a dull moment down below . . .
But set upon us in a tavern brawl
You'll find that you will have to fight us all.

Charley Noble


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Subject: LYR.ADD.: Clipper Days
From: Charley Noble
Date: 20 Feb 07 - 07:58 PM

And another nice one from Kemp:

From CHANTEYS AND BALLADS, by Harry Kemp, published by Brentano's, New York, US, © 1920, pp. 38-39.

Clipper Days (a song from Snug Harbor)

I am eighty years old and somewhat,
But I give to God the praise
That they made a sailor of me
In the good old Clipper Days

When men loved ships like women,
And going to sea was more
Than signing on as a deckhand
And scrubbing a cabin floor,

Or chipping rust from iron
And painting . . . and chipping again . . .
In the days of Clipper Sailing
The sea was the place for men:

You could spy our great ships running
White-clouded, tier on tier;
You could hear their trampling thunder
As they leaned to, racing near;

And it was "heigh and ho, my lad,"
And "we are outward bound," –
And we sang full many a chantey
As we walked the capstan round,

And we sang full many a chantey
As we drove through wind and wet
To the music of Five Oceans
Ringing in my memory yet . . .

Go drive your dirty freighters
That fill the sky with reek, –
But we – we took in sky-sails
High as mountain peaks;

Go, fire your sweaty engines
And watch your pistons run, –
We had the wind to serve us,
The living wind, my son,

And we didn't need propellers
That kicked a mess about,
But we hauled away with chanteys
Or we let the great sails out . . .

And I'm eighty year old and somewhat –
And I give to God the praise
That they made a sailor of me
In the good old Clipper Days!

This poem is prefaced:

"An Old Sailor to A Young One"

Adapted for singing by Dave Robinson from Swansea, UK.

Charley Noble


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Subject: LYR.ADD.: Shanghaied
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Feb 07 - 08:49 AM

Here's another one from Kemp which has been adapted for singing:

From CHANTEYS AND BALLADS, by Harry Kemp, published by Brentano's, New York, US, © 1920, p. 49.

Shanghaied

Shanghaied! . . . I swore I'd stay ashore
And sail the wide, wide seas no more! . . .
Shanghaied! Shanghaied!
Shanghaied – with pals I've never known,
And my heart's as heavy as a stone . . .
Shanghaied! . . . Shanghaied!

Yes, here's the wide, grey sea again
And the work that takes the souls from men,
Shanghaied! . . . Shanghaied!
Yes, yon's the mist they call the shore,
And here's the ropes I must haul once more –
Shanghaied! . . . Shanghaied!

Shanghaied – and on a ship I hate,
With a cur for a captain, a brute for a mate . . .
Shanghaied! . . . Shanghaied!
Oh, when I set my foot ashore
I'll drink no more . . . and I'll sail no more!
Shanghaied! . . . Shanghaied!

Adapted for singing by Dave Robinson from Swansea, UK.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: LYR.ADD.: A Shining Ship
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Feb 07 - 12:26 PM

Here's a more romantic one from Kemp:

From CHANTEYS AND BALLADS, by Harry Kemp, published by Brentano's, New York, US, © 1920, pp. 20-21

A Shining Ship

Have you ever seen a shining ship
Riding the broad-backed wave,
While the sailors pull the ropes and sing
The chantey's lusty stave?

Have you ever gazed from the headland's reach
Far out, into the blue,
To glimpse, at first a flashing mote
That to a tall ship grew,

A full-sailed ship on the great, broad sea
Heel-down and bearing home
All the romance from Homer's days
To now, across the foam?

For, purple-white in rippling dusks,
Or edged with sunset's fire, –
Behold, each ship is a phantom ship
That bears the World's Desire! . . .

O merchant, merchant seeking wares
That tip full-laden beams,
The Living God has made your fleets
His argosies for dreams,

Far-riding argosies that go
With bearded men and strong
To the world's ends for merchandise
And come back – bearing Song!

Legends and songs of Happy Isles
And fairy realms a-far
Beyond the windless gates of dawn
And the white morning star!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Feb 07 - 01:15 PM

I've now got a couple of Burt Franklin Jenness's poetry books:

SEA LANES (p. 1921)
OCEAN HAUNTS (P. 1934)

And there's still another one out at sea: MAN O'WAR RHYMES (p. 1918).

Here's a nice one:

Poem by Burt Franklin Jenness
From OCEAN HAUNTS, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
Empire Publishing Co., New York, US, © 1934, P. 73.

Mid-Watches

Will you ever forget the mid-watches at sea?
How you tumbled out sleepy and dazed,
And though you maneuvered as still as could be,
Remember the chorus you raised
As you bumped into hammocks, or stepped on a mate
Who was caulking it off on the deck?
Then you hustled up forward for fear you'd be late,
Your pea-coat pulled snug 'round your neck,
And you climbed the old bridge and looked into the night,
And the wind and the spray stung your face;
While the stars overhead were all dancing and bright,
And the ship plunged away into space;
Can you ever forget the long tricks at the wheel;
All your thoughts and your plans and your fears?
The things you'd imagine – the dangers you'd feel,
As the creaks and the groans of the gears
Would make you snap out of some dream of the shore?
Or a comber would loom like a ship
Dead ahead, or you'd start at the crash and the roar,
As a beam-sea would hit her on a clip?
And didn't those hours seem lonelier, too,
When the moon and stars went to bed,
And it seemed like sometimes there was no one but you
Sailing into that black hole ahead?

Notes:

Here the poet is clearly remembering his experience aboard a World War 1 naval ship with his references to hammocks, pea-coat, and going forward to the bridge.

"Caulking it off" is old sailor slang for sleeping on deck. For inspections sailors would traditionally line up parallel to the caulked deck boards, and evidently when they were napping on deck they would do the same.

Here's a link to my website if you'd like to see how I've adapted this one for singing with a MP3 sample: Click here and search for lyrics!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 22 Feb 07 - 08:34 AM

Here's another Burt Franklin Jenness poem, one which might be sung to the old forebitter "We'll Rant and We'll Roar":

Poem by Burt Franklin Jenness
From SEA LANES, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
The Churchill Publishing Co., Boston, US, © 1921, p. 48.

The Old Scuttle-Butt

How dear to my heart are the scenes of my cruises,
When fond recollection presents them to view.
Not one of those dreams of the fo'c's'le loses
The charm of each spot that my rookie days knew.
The sound of the bugle at reveille routing
The crew from the hammocks which hung neck an' neck;
The din of the mess-gear; the laughing and shouting
Around the old scuttle-butt, there on the deck.
         The old wooden scuttle-butt;
          Iron bound scuttle-butt;
Cool, dripping scuttle-butt, on the gun deck.

The songs that the gang used to sing in the twilight,
Their pipes all a-glowin' with yellow and red,
Just layin' on deck till the last bit o' sky light
Had gone, where the sun was hull-down and abed.
The faces which peered above every tin dipper;
The laughter that rang as we leaned at the brink;
The hails that were cheery, the jokes that were chipper,
The fellowship there, which we quaffed with each drink
         The old wooden scuttle-butt;
          Iron bound scuttle-butt;
Cool, dripping scuttle-butt, on the gun deck.

Notes:

"Scuttle-butt" was originally nautical slang for a butt or cask with a large hole in it, used to contain the fresh water for daily use in a ship.

The Maine-based group Schooner Fare composed and recorded a different song by this title a few years ago as I recall.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Amos
Date: 22 Feb 07 - 08:37 AM

Charlie:

That one looks like a direct derivative of the 19th century schmaltz tune "The Old Oaken Bucket" and could use that tune, which fits it even better.


A


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 22 Feb 07 - 07:44 PM

Amos-

You're right. "The Old Oaken Bucket" fits the poem like a bucket!

I'm not sure if I could bear to sing it to that tune, though.

What makes Jenness of interest to me is his poems about life aboard the U.S. Navy ships of the World War 1 period. We have very few good songs from that period and his poems may prove useful in filling the gap.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 23 Feb 07 - 08:29 PM

Here's another haunting one from Harry Kemp, one of his memories of "ships passing" around Cape Horn:

From TRAMP POET, edited by Mary Swenson, American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writer's Project 1936-1940, Interview 1938, pp. 13-14.

Ship's Glamour

When there wakes any wind to shake this place,
This wave-hemmed atom of land on which I dwell,
My fancy conquers time, condition, space,--
A trivial sound begets a miracle!
Last night there walked a wind, and, through chink,
It made one pan upon another clink
Where each hung close together on a nail -
Then fantasy put forth her fullest sail;
A dawn that never dies came back to me:
I heard two ship's bells echoing far at sea!
As perfect as a poet dreams a star
It was a full-rigged ship bore down the wind,
Piled upward with white-crowding spar on spar:
The wonder of it never leaves my mind.
We passed her moving proudly far at sea;
Night was not quite yet gone, nor day begun;
She stood, a phantom of sheer loveliness,
Against the first flush of an ocean dawn;
Then at the elevation of the sun,
Her ship's bell faintly sounded the event,
While ours with a responding tinkle went.
The beauty life evokes, outlasting men,
It fills my world from sea to sky again;
It opens on me like a shining scroll--
The ghost of God that ever haunts the soul!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Amos
Date: 23 Feb 07 - 09:33 PM

This is rich and wunnerful heritage, Charley, and I am grateful to you for sharing these poems I never would have seen ordinarily.

A


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 24 Feb 07 - 09:57 AM

Amos-

That's what it's all about! Some of these poems will take some "processing" to make them singable, and the poets may not have been thinking of their poems as songs. C. Fox Smith's verses, in contrast, are often easy to adapt for singing; I'm convinced that she often had specific tunes in her head when composing.

What makes these poems worth working with is that they were composed by people with real deep-sea experience, reflecting a reality that is difficult if not impossible for the armchair nautical poet to achieve.

My other old favorite poet Hamish Maclaren (UK), best known for composing "The Yangtse River Shanty," is from the same time period as these poets and I may add some of his other poems to this thread as well.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: LYR.ADD.: Chanteys
From: Charley Noble
Date: 24 Feb 07 - 12:00 PM

Here's one from Kemp which comments on chanteying:

From CHANTEYS AND BALLADS, by Harry Kemp, published by Brentano's, New York, US, © 1920, p. 13.

Chanteys

These are the songs that we sing with crowding feet,
Heaving up the anchor chain,
Or walking down the deck in the wind and sleet
And in the drizzle and rain.

These are the songs that we sing beneath the sun,
Or under the stars of night,
And they help us through with the work to be done
When the moon climbs into sight.

These are the songs that tell our inmost hopes
While we pull and haul a-main,
The bo'sun booming as we lean with the ropes,
And we, bringing in the refrain.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: LYR.ADD.: Bumboats
From: Charley Noble
Date: 24 Feb 07 - 03:38 PM

Here's another one fresh off the boat from Jenness:

Poem by Burt Franklin Jenness
From SEA LANES, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
The Churchill Publishing Co., Boston, US, © 1921, pp. 53-55.

Bumboats

I've had a whirl at games of chance
    From Bombay 'round to Cork,
I've sensed the ways of high finance
    In little old New York;
I know the way a bargain's made
    In Continental marts,
When crafty merchants vie for trade
    And practice cunning arts;
But when I call them back to mind,
    I make a solemn vow --
There's only one of all their kind
    Could sell me something now;
There's only one that ever can
    Bring pleasant thoughts to me --
And that's the little bumboatman,
    Who paddles out to sea:
With his: "Gotta nice ripa banan,
    You buy da beeg orange? He sweet!
Gotta cirgarette; lika da fan?
    You lika da fine parakeet?"


O, how we watched them coming out,
    At first they looked like specks,
Just creeping down the bay, and 'bout
    The time we'd scrubbed down decks,
They'd be a-hovering 'round like gulls --
    Just waiting for "mess gear,"
The band would play, and in the lulls
    We'd call the bumboats near,
And on the wonders in each boat
    We'd feast our hungry eyes,
And as the little craft would float,
    We'd bargain for a prize;
Coral, shells, and blow-fish, dried,
    And fruit, and Guava jell,
And nuts, and gum, and dried snake hide,
    And lace, and tortoise shell –-
Then 'twas "Gotta nice ripa banan,
    You buy da beeg orange? He sweet!
Gotta cirgarette; lika da fan?
    You lika da fine parakeet?"


No, you may have your gilded shops,
    Their tinsel and their glare;
The scent of sandalwood, and hops,
    And incense burning there;
Your money-changers, lottery sharks,
    And sleek rug merchant's guise;
Your hounding guides around the parks
    And curb stock broker's lies --
The bumboatmen are not the breed
    That squat in Europe's mart,
They barter for their daily need --
    Deceit is not their art.
If there's reward for toil and strife,
    When comes the final summing,
In cheering up a sailor's life --
    Bumboaters have it coming;
With their: "Gotta nice ripa banan,
    You buy da beeg orange? He sweet!
Gotta cirgarette; lika da fan?
    You lika da fine parakeet?"


Notes:

Here's a link to this poem posted to the Oldpoetry website which permits header-graphics; I've picked a nice one by Gordon Grant appropriately titled "Bumboats": Click here!

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Shantyfreak
Date: 24 Feb 07 - 04:18 PM

You have shown a fine group of writers here, Charlie, and though we may differ in the medium for a few of them (you singing and me saying) I have to agree with you that these need saving and bringing before a wider audience.

I look forward to more visits to this thread and hope I will be able to find suitable candidates. Meanwhile please keep up the good work.

Jim


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 Feb 07 - 11:45 AM

Jim-

Thanks for posting on this thread. Jim (Shantyfreak) by the way is my C. Fox Smith partner on the Oldpoetry website and he's posted hundreds of her poems there as well with excellent notes.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 26 Feb 07 - 09:56 AM

Here's a nice one by Bill Adams focused on the "dog-watch" festivities aboard ship:

From FENCELESS MEADOWS, edited by Bill Adams, published by Frederick A. Stokes & Co., © 1921, pp. 166-167. Republished in SONGS OF THE SEA AND SAILORS' CHANTEYS, edited by Robert Frothingham, published by Houghton Mifflin Co., Cambridge, US, © 1924, pp. 83-84. Republished in WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 139-140.

Billy Peg-Leg's Fiddle

I've a pal called Billy Peg-leg, with one leg a wood leg,
And Billy' he's a ship's cook and lives upon the sea;
And hanging by his griddle
Old Billy keeps a fiddle
For fiddling in the dog-watch
When the moon is on the sea.

We takes our luck wi' tough ships, wi' fast ships, wi' free ships,
We takes our luck wi' any ships to slip away to sea,
We takes our trick wi' the best o' them
An' sings our song wi' the rest of them
When the bell strikes for the dog-watch
An' the moon is on the sea.

You'd ought to see the tops'ls, the stuns'ls, the stays'ls,
When the moon's a-shinin' on them along a liftin' sea;
Hear the dandy bo's'n say:
"Peg-leg make that fiddle play
An' we'll dance away the dog-watch
While the moon is on the sea."

Then it's fun to watch them dancin', them bowlegged sailors dancin',
To the tune o' Peg-leg's fiddle, a-fiddlin' fast an' free,
It's fun to watch old Peg-leg
A-waltzin' wi' his wood leg
When bo's'n takes the fiddle
So Peg can dance wi' me.

The moon is on the water, the dark, moon-glimmered water,
The night wind pipin' plaintively along a liftin' sea,
There ain't no female wimmen,
No big beer-glasses brimmin',
There's just the great sea's glory
An' Billy Peg an' me.

We takes our luck wi' the tough ship, the tall ship, the fast ship,
We takes our luck wi' any ship to sign away for sea,
We takes our trick wi' the best o' them,
An' sings our song wi' the rest o' them,
When the bell strikes for the dog-watch
An' the moon is on the sea.

Notes:

"Dog-watches" were two-hour watches in the evening, shorter than the regular four-hour watches, and were generally a time when shipboard activities were more relaxed for the crew.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 27 Feb 07 - 05:47 PM

Here's a link to another thread with an inquiry about a Harry Kemp poem that was cited by Stan Hugel in SHANTIES OF THE SEVEN SEAS: Click here!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 27 Feb 07 - 06:05 PM

When you have chance, take a look at the works of John Masefield....many of his poems have been put to tunes and sung in Folk Clubs in the UK.


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Joybell
Date: 27 Feb 07 - 06:09 PM

Thank you for sharing these Charley.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 27 Feb 07 - 07:57 PM

Georgiansilver-

John Masefield? For sure, and here's a link to his page on Oldpoetry where I've been posting some of his poems: Click here for website!

I've set his poem "Hell's Pavement" to music as well. Stan Hugill used that poem to preface his book SAILORTOWN. I've also set "Pier-Head Chorus" and "A Ballad of John Silver" to music.

John Masefield should certainly be considered a "sailor-poet" but he's much better known than the three I'm featuring in this thread.

Joy-

Thanks for the encouragement!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: LYR.ADD.: A Seaman's Confession Of Faith
From: Charley Noble
Date: 28 Feb 07 - 11:55 AM

Here's a spiritual poem by Harry Kemp:

From CHANTEYS AND BALLADS, by Harry Kemp, published by Brentano's, New York, US, © 1920, p. 15.

A Seaman's Confession Of Faith

As long as I go forth on ships that sail
The mighty seas, my faith, O Lord, won't fail;
And while the stars march onward mightily
In white, great hosts, I shall remember Thee;
I have seen men one moment all alive,
The next, gone out with none to bless or shrive
Into the unseen place where all must go, --
So, Lord, thy mercy and thy gifts I know . . .
They think me Godless, maybe, but indeed
They do not see how I have read thy creed
In flowing tides and waves that heave and run
Beyond the endless west where sinks the sun;
In the long, long night-watches I have thought
On things that neither can be sold nor bought,
Rare, priceless things; nor have I scorned nor scoffed
At thy sure might, when lost in storms aloft:
The prayer and faith of seamen will not fail
O God, my God, as long as ships do sail.

Cheerily,
Charles Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 28 Feb 07 - 01:01 PM

William Bolton ( born 1854), who supplied a number of songs which were included in the Penguin Book of English Folksongs, was a sailor in the 19th century, and wrote a lot of poetry; some of which, were published in various periodicals.


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 28 Feb 07 - 10:48 PM

Tunesmith-

Do you have a favorite example?

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Snuffy
Date: 01 Mar 07 - 09:20 AM

Is Newbolt regarded as a sailor poet? Plenty of his stuff is well-known, and some have already been set to music - Drake's Drum, The Old Superb

Some of his poems are available at Project Gutenberg


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 01 Mar 07 - 08:21 PM

Snuffy-

I've got my hands full just keeping up with the three I've featured but I welcome further suggestions such as yours. I wouldn't object if someone else answered your question, however.

Actually, I've gonna have a busy weekend reading my latest used book, WIND IN THE TOPSAILS by Bill Adams. What makes it all fun for me is I can see that he's tried to cover every aspect of the sea experience, and at lest some of the poems have a novel focus.

I've also acquired through intre-library loan Bill Adams's autobiography, SHIPS AND WOMEN (1937), which should be a good weekend read.

I should have more to post on Monday.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Mar 07 - 12:34 PM

Here's a really nice one by Bill Adams that I'll adapt for singing:

From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 76-77.

Bound Away

A three-skysail yarder with her hatches battened down,
And the grey sky up above her, and the Mersey's muddy brown
A-rippling at her forefoot. The red stack tug's ahead,
And the chanteyman is singing in a voice to wake the dead.
The windlass pawls are clanking. The mate shouts "Heave away!
Heave a pawl there! Rouse and lift her" Out beyond the bar the spray,
The wheeling gulls, and the cold green water
Are waiting for the coming of the sea's tall daughter.
We've lowered away Blue Peter, and the anchor's off the mud,
And there's cheering, and there's laughter, and the tide is at the flood.
"Heave away there! Loose those tops'ls! Stamp and run!"
Bawls the chief mate. Comes a glimmer from the sun,
And her lofty spars are shining through the smoke a-blowing past,
While a little sea apprentice chap is running up each mast.
Now he's out along the footrope, now he's casting loose her sail,
And the pilot shakes the skipper's hand and clambers o'er the rail.
Now we're hauling in the hawser, for her six big tops'ls draw,
And her white wake trails behind her. Ho, we're running from the shore!
A three-skysail yarder with her holds jammed full,
And a cheer from the pierhead for the pride o' Liverpool!


Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Mar 07 - 09:34 AM

I've now adapted Bill Adams's "Bound Away" for singing and initiated a new thread for that song with a link back to this thread. It's probably better to do that in terms of focusing attention on these old sailor-poets, than to post adaptations here.

Here's a link back to this adaptation: click here for thread!

And here's a MP3 sample of how it sounds: click and go to MP3 sample

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 05 Mar 07 - 09:44 AM

Thanks for these.
All read and enjoyed.
Cheered,
Keith.


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Mar 07 - 09:13 PM

Keith-

You're more than welcome, and feel free to comment on any of your favorites.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 06 Mar 07 - 05:19 AM

I love shanties, so I was inspired by Chanties, where the sailor man tells what they mean to him. (I once asked Stan Hugill about that), and also Chanty Man.
The Seaman's Confession of Faith is very moving, but I enjoyed them all.
An' the moon is on the sea,
Keith.


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 06 Mar 07 - 05:58 PM

I've just received an inexpensive paperback reprint from Kessinger Publishing of MAN-O'-WAR RHYMES by Burt Franklin Jenness, originally published by The Cornhill Publishing Co., Boston, US, © 1918, pp. 84-85.

The Rookie

When you are a rookie, an' most o' the crew
Are natcherly makin' a goat out o' you;
The ship is unsteady – an' you are too sick
To turn to an' swing up your bloomin' hammick –
Jest break out a blanket an' roll up on deck –
Don't mind if some lubber does step on your neck –
You've joined the outfit, so show 'em your grit;
Buck up an' be happy – you're doin' your bit.

When letters from home are all trembly an' blue,
An' matters back there are discouraging you;
When the pages are blurred, for the tears in the way,
Jest up with your neck'ch'f an' brush 'em away,
Then roll up th' makin's – forget what has been –
An' mosey up for'ard where th' gang is, an' grin.
You're only a rookie, but shoulder your kit;
Buck up an' be happy – you're doin' your bit.

If your ship is torpedoed an' sinks like a lead,
An' half the crew's wounded – the other half dead –
You're all shot to pieces, an' somewhere in France
You're laid up in bed, an' your life is all chance,
Why, think of the glory of jest bein' there!
Your shattered old leg it will do for a pair –
– An' you were in range, or you wouldn't a' got hit –
So, buck up an' be happy – you're doin' your bit.

Notes:

Jenness captures the gallows humor of the younger navy crew members during the World War 1 period.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: LYr Add: Fire-Room Crew (Burt Franklin Jenness)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 07 Mar 07 - 08:50 AM

Here's another one from Jenness, an unusual poem dedicated to the man-o' war's crew who work below:

Poem by Burt Franklin Jenness
From MAN-O'-WAR RHYMES, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
The Cornhill Publishing Co., Boston, US, © 1918, pp. 5-6

The Fire-Room Crew

They are fighters, but they're not the hero kind;
They are just a gang of grimy sailormen.
They're the knights of crank and lever,
They're the stoker, and the heaver;
In their little hell-hot, iron furnace den.

There's no glamour of brave deeds for them, on deck;
They are not the men who serve us at the guns.
They're the tender, and the oiler,
They're the watchman, and the toiler;
They're the nation's grubbing, sweating, plodding ones.

They're the sinew, and the brawn of fighting craft;
They are everything that goes to make up men.
But in the stoke-holes of our cruisers,
They are generally the losers,
When the hero stuff is dripping from the pen.

Not a patch of daylight cheers their realm below;
Not a ray of sunshine ever filters through;
By the furnaces, agleam,
Toil these master men of steam
To the music of the racing, throbbing screw.

They are not the men to choose how they shall die;
They're the servants of the throttle, and the gauge;
Twenty feet below the hatches,
They are not the kind that matches
In a throw with death, to see who pays the wage.

So while the guns of war are thundering fore and aft,
And you're shouting praise of men who fight for you,
Think of those who do their bit
In a seething furnace pit –
They're the heroes in the fire-room crew!

I'm hearing a tune for this in my head, some varient of "I Was Born Ten Thousand Years Ago." I bet Cyrill Tawny would have loved this one!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: Lyr Add.: THE FLARE-BACK (Burt Franklin Jennes)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 08 Mar 07 - 09:45 AM

Here's one from Jenness that focuses on the naval big-gun accident described as a "flare-back" and not to be read by the squeamish:

THE FLARE-BACK

(Poem by Burt Franklin Jenness
From MAN-O'-WAR RHYMES, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
The Cornhill Publishing Co., Boston, US, © 1918, pp. 43-46)

So they won't ship me over today, eh?
Too old, did you say, an' too lame?
It's a hard knock, Cap'n, t' go 'way
An' know ye're clean out o' th' game.
That scar? Aye, Sir, it's a bad un;
Kind o' cripples th' leg some, I know.
Duty? Aye, Sir, 'twas a mad gun,
Back in 'ninety. Wal, Cap't, I'll go.

The story? Wal, now, Sir, ye're kind.
Set here, ye say? Thank ye, I will.
Seems good t'us old uns ter find
A "striper" who's kind t' us still.
Wal, Sir, you'll remember, I reckon,
When th' Ranger put in with her dead,
Night after her quarter-deck gun,
(Twelve-inch) ran amuck in th' head.

You don't? Wal, Sir, may God spare you
Sich a sight as I saw that day,
And th' hell that I lived through there too,
That night in Pensacola Bay.
The Ranger wuz out fer a record
At target manoeuvres that spring.
She wuz hittin', Sir, too, an' I 'spect 'u'd
'A' won it clean – but fer one thing.

Our pride wuz th' quarter-deck turret;
I wuz pointin' fer gun number four.
"Black Baby," we called her, an', Sir, it
Seemed like she knew it – an' more.
Wal, 't was long about dusk uv a Friday,
We'd only a run more t' go.
An', Sir, I've seen gun crews in my day;
I've seen 'em that's fast, an' that's slow.

But, Gad! Sir, them lads wuz a-heavin'
Five hundred pound shell t' th' breech,
S' fast that th' lock wuz nigh seethin'
– An', God! How th' Baby 'u'd screech!
Wal, we steamed on th' range fer th' last run,
S' dark I c'u'd skeerce see th' raft.
"More speed on th' starb'd aft gun,"
Wuz th' word that th' Cap'n sent aft.

An', my God! Not a man there c'u'd answer,
(Ye'll 'scuse my expressin' things so)
But th' crew wuz struck dumb to a man, Sir,
'S if death sent th' message below.
The place wuz s' plumb-full o' silence
Ye c'u'd cut th' air, Sir, with a knife,
An' somethin' gripped us like a sentence,
When th' Judge is condemin' a life.

Wal, they loaded, then gazed at each other,
An' stood there, froze stark at th' gun;
Er fingered their throats like they'd smother,
– Then the siren blew twice fer th' run,
An' th' bugle blast sounded fer firin'.
Wal, that crew, Sir, wuz off like a shot;
Black as a stoker perspirin',
Rammin' her home when she's hot.

Receivin', an' shovin', an' primin',
(Stripped t' th' waist they wuz, stark.)
Lockin' th' breech, an' no timin',
"Steady, now," "Ready." An' "Mark."
We'd found th' spot, too, Sir, wuz makin'
A string that 'ud do th' craft proud.
Faster, th' breech-lock wuz breakin'
An' closin' – no heed o' the cloud

O' th' blasphemous stuff from th' muzzle,
Chokin', but shovin' her down,
Makin' th' "Black Betty" guzzle
Th' lead, an' th' smokeless "brown."
God knows, Sir, how long we wuz steamin',
But we'd made nigh a half o' th' run,
When o' sudden, I thought I wuz dreamin',
An' sailin' straight into th' sun.

A million stars seemed t' be flashin',
An' then: O my God, what a roar!
Like shriekin worlds fallin' an' crashin'
– Then I didn't know nuthin' more
Till a lantern gleam 'woke me, an' turnin' –
(It couldn't beworse, Sir, in hell)
There, a mass o' charred flesh, an' still burnin',
Wuz our crew, in a heap, where they fell.

Ye can talk o' th' sights in the trenches,
But th' hauntin' o' dead in that hole,
The shrieks o' the dyin'; th' stenches;
They stab, Sir, ter yer very soul.
Stripped, like a derelick hulk; dead,
Th' Lieutenant lay, shy o' both legs,
I wuz jammed agin th' after bulkhead,
With th' rammer shaft piled on my pegs.

Kind o' felt so, at first, they wuz missin',
But a couple there looked like my own,
In th' rags, though, I saw somethin' glisten,
– 'Twas part o' my own shin bone.
Wal, that's 'bout th' heft o' th' tale, Sir,
'Cept I'm all that was left o' th' crew.
Gad! But you look a bit pale, Sir,
Don't mind what I've said – an' I'm through.

Ye're better now, Sir, I'll be goin';
I'll git along somehow, I 'spect.
A waiver, ye say? That's a-showin' –
What! Fer me, Sir, my age an' defect?
Ye'll 'scuse me 'f I seem a bit soft, Sir;
I'll jes wipe these old eyes s' I can
See your face: Oh, I know ye're an off'cer,
But, By God! Sir, ye're more – ye're a man!

The last verse certainly chokes one up, if you survived that far, navigating through the lower deck dialect and the carnage. This poem has to be based on a story from a messmate of Jenness.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Teribus
Date: 08 Mar 07 - 12:51 PM

Fantastic Charlie, thanks for the heads up on it.


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Subject: Lyr Add.: A BALLAD OF THE OLD NAVY (B F Jenness)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 09 Mar 07 - 09:43 AM

Teribus-

Here's an "inspirational" ditty from a different collection by Jenness that might appeal to you:

A BALLAD OF THE OLD NAVY

(Poem by Burt Franklin Jenness
From SEA LANES, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
The Cornhill Publishing Co., Boston, US, © 1921, pp. 79-80)

The sea's a place for sailormen in fair or stormy weather;
'Round the world and back again they're all good mates together.

We went ashore on pay day night, Bill Dykes, the mate, and me;
We cruised about till we got tight an' then went on a spree.
We veered an' hauled an' tacked an' beat, an' shifted course some more,
Till we fetched up on Bleecher Street, an' steered for Jersy shore –
An' we wuz ridin' even keel, consid'rin where we'd been,
Till a pair of cops put up a deal an' tried t' run us in.
An' Bill, he sez: "'Turn To' has gone, I think I heard 'er blow,"
An' he winked at me, an' I wuz on, an' then he sez: "Les' go!"

So Bill, he took th' biggest one, an' 'course I took th' other,
An' s' help me, when th' job wuz done y' couldn't tell one from t'other.
Th' port side light o' one wuz green, an' th' starb'ard showin' red,
An' t'other wuz bleedin' in b'tween, an' I thought he wuz dead,
Fer I downed him cold in th' mornin' watch with his wood b'layin' pin;
An' th' top uv his head wuz an awful splotch an' his jaw wuz busted in.
'N then Bill, he sez: "Tis well b'low," an' he cast his weather eye
Aroun' the street, an' he sez: "Les' go, an' leave th' lubbers die."

Two sailors rolling down the dock, and making heavy weather,
A-hoisted in with tackle and block, and into the brig together.

Notes:

This poem is a vivid description of a spree in sailortown, replete with nautical jargon, and I think it might be appropriately sung to "Let's All Get Drunk Together." There's also some nice internal rhyming in this poem.

"Turn To" is the traditional call for ordering sailors to "get to work" aboard ship.

Charley Noble


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Subject: LYR Add: Home Round the Horn
From: Charley Noble
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 08:10 AM

Here's another beauty from Bill Adams, one that could be readily adapted to the tune of the traditional sea song "Liverpool Judies," adding in a chorus:

From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, p. 123.

HOME ROUND THE HORN

It's blowing up squally, it's piping like hell,
And the packet she rolls till she tinkles her bell;
Oh, I hope it may blow for a week at the least;
She's a Liverpool packet and bound to the East.

Her foresail is reefed, and it bellies out full
To the westerly roaring, like Barney's black bull;
Her six yellow topsails are straining and wet,
And high on the main a topgallantsail's set.

It's raining; it's hailing; and here comes the snow,
And her sea-booted skipper is up from below;
"Let her go as she is, sir," says he with a grin;
"Have all hands keep handy; let no one turn in."

It's summer off Stiff, and her lifelines are tight;
There's a flickering gleam from her binnacle light,
And her sidelights are winking toward Liverpool town,
As we sweat up her halliards to Blow the Man Down.

The chief mate looks into our half-deck; says he,
"The drift ice is clinking all over the sea."
And the youngest apprentice is shivering and white
As she rollicks and rambles for home through the night.

Oh, there's no time at sea like the time you're bound home,
When the decks are waist deep in the greeny-white foam;
When she leaps and she lifts to the best of the squall
In December off Stiff –- there's the best time of all.

Notes:

"Stiff" is sailor slang for Cape Horn.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 05:00 PM

I think I know why they called it Stiff.
Home Round The Horn seems to be related to The Dreadnought, and could be sung to its tune, without the derry down refrain.
keith.


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 09:20 PM

Keith-

Thanks for commenting.

The nice things about the poems I've been posting here is that the sailor-poets (sailing tall ships in the last part of the 19th century or the early 20th century) were familiar with the traditional shanties and forebitters, and in some cases modeled their poems after them.

The poems do tend to be more "arty" than a well processed traditional sea song, which just means in my opinion that they need to be "processed" a little more. Of course, we're now able to trace some forebitters and shanties back to broadsides and minstrel songs, and they were considerably altered by the time someone collected them.

I've just finished reading the autobiography of Bill Adams, and it made fascinating reading. Adams was originally from England and served his 4-year apprenticeship in Silberhorn, one of the largest and fastest 4-masted barques. He rounded Cape Horn 6 times. Sadly, just as he was completing his final year and being invited to serve as 2nd mate on the return voyage he was invalided ashore with chronic asthma and heart problems. Eventually Adams settled in the San Francisco area and was a prolific writer of nautical short stories and poems. He never lost his youthful love of the sea.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 09:43 AM

Round the Horne used to be good. Especially Rambling Syd Rumpo.

...I'll get me coat.


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 04:18 PM

Scrump-

I assume the above post is a reference to your favorite BBC nautical & naughty program.

Hey, it's OK to express your appreciation for what's posted above. Of course, if you ramble too far I do have editing powers. :~)

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Scrump
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 04:24 PM

Cheers Charley - sorry to interrupt the flow of the thread with my rambling!

As you were, men! :-)


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Subject: Lyr Add: REVEILLE (Burt Franklin Jenness)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 04:54 PM

Well, I was scheduled for the jury pool today and rather than count the tiles on the ceiling I brought along a copy of OCEAN HAUNTS by Burt Franklin Jenness. Actually I only got about 90 minutes of reading before the judge called us in and announced that all five trials were settled and that our services were no longer needed. I guess just the threat of us being there was sufficient to persuade the parties to settle the cases.

Here's one to wake you up:

REVEILLE

(Poem by Burt Franklin Jenness
From OCEAN HAUNTS, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
Empire Publishing Co., New York, US, © 1934, p. 58.)

When th' dawn is jest a-breakin',
An' th' runnin' lights are dim,
An' th' risin' sun is makin'
Streaks scross th' ocean's rim;
When th' mornin' light is shiftin'
From a kind of dusty gray,
An' th' ship is sorta driftin'
In a lazy kind of way,
An' a feller wakes up shakin'
With a sea breeze down his neck,
An' his knees s' cold they're achin'
Cause his blanket's half on deck;
An' th' sunshine comes a-peepin'
Through the gun-port from th' sea –
Then he knows there's no more sleepin',
For they're blowin' reveille.

Then th' gang is all a-stirrin',
An' th' whole berth deck's alive;
All a-buzzin' an' a-whirrin''
Like a capsized wild bee-hive;
Then it's roll your hammock snappy
An' jump into workin' white,
Though y' won't be feelin' happy
Till y' knows th' chow's in sight –
Then it's out on deck f' cleanin',
An' it's all hands on th' swabs –
An' it ain't no time f' spleenin',
Nor a-huntin' round f' jobs –
All y' hear is jest t' swashin'
Of th' water, an' th' gring
Of the holystones, an' sloshin'
Of the swabbers on behind.

Then o' sudden comes th' clatter
Of th' mess gear far away,
An' th' smell o' fryin' batter,
An' th' coffee finds its way;
Then it's dry 'er down, an' rustle
All th' cleanin' gear an' hose,
An' it takes a wash an' hustle
In b'fore th' mess call goes;
O, there's somethin' that's worth tellin'
When y' tumble out at dawn,
With y' shipmates all a-yellin'
After reveille has gone;
An' I'll tell y' mates there's livin'
When th' gang gets up at sea,
An' sometime y'll feel like givin'
Half you own, for reveille.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 08:22 AM

I'm back to reviewing Harry Kemp's poems andhere's one that separates the sailor from the passengers:

From CHANTEYS AND BALLADS, by Harry Kemp, published by Brentano's, New York, US, © 1920, pp. 57-58.

Wind-Jammer's Song (1845 Clipper Days)

All hands on deck, below there!
The storm is coming soon,
The clouds tramp on in panic
Across the swirling moon.

The wind pipes in the halyards,
We lean with scanted sail;
Now, with a leap, we're riding
The first rush of the gale;

The lubbers in their cabins
Crouch close and pray for life:
The young man free and single,
The old man, by his wife;

And one would give his fortune,
And one, his love so fair,
For solid earth to stand on
If but a furlong square.

It's up the shrouds, my hearties,
And reef the gansells tight, –
The blow that we are having
May blow the world from sight . . .

Tomorrow, lads, the landsmen,
How they will strut and lie, –
And we – we'll squirt tobacco
And wink the other eye,

Saying, as we plunge onward
With tier on tier of sail –
"I've seen worse in my time, sir, –
Yet – 'twas a proper gale!"

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: Lyr Add: TO THE LUBBER POETS (Bill Adams)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 04:27 PM

In this poem old Bill Adams seems to be letting loose a broadside at the armchair nautical poets:

By Bill Adams
From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 163-164.

TO THE LUBBER POETS

Scented soap and lily hands
A long farewell to you!
I'm away to foreign lands
With a hard-case crew.

Luck to you, my gemmy writers,
I've got Dago Joe,
And a crew of squarehead blighters
Roaring in the snow.

Do ye hear them, lily fingers?
Do ye catch their tune?
Do ye hear them fo'c'sle singers
Shouting to the moon?

"Squall to windward!" Bosun yelling,
"Up there! Up you go!"
Feel the southern ocean swelling
To the coming blow!

Oh, the sea is black and crying,
And the wind cries too,
And a swinging clipper's flying
For a singing crew.

Poetry to me is motion,
And the rolling thunder,
And the crashing black commotion
When the rail goes under.

Ho, I ain't no gemmy writer!
I'm a hard-case, see?
I'm a poor barefooted blighter,
But, thank God, I'm me!

I'm not sure how the slang term "gemmy" is being used here. It may be a sarcastic adjective, akin to calling someone "precious."

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: Lyr Add: All's Well (Bill Adams)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 18 Mar 07 - 11:24 AM

Here's another one by Bill Adams that he used to introduce this book of poetry:

All's Well

(From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, p. 15.)

There's an ache in my heart, and I can't tell why,
Something to do with the sea and sky,
And maybe a star or so;
Maybe a whirl of wind and snow
And the easy lift of a sailing-ship
Gliding away from her landing-slip,
Heading at dawn for the misty west
In her little white royals and skysails dressed;
There's a lilting tune that I seem to hear,
A roving chorus, a quavered cheer;
The air is chill as there rumbled past
A berg as tall as her tall mainmast;
There's the creak of her gear on the stilly night,
With her braces and sheets and halliards tight;
Dear God! But I'd give my soul to go
To the open sea and the wind and snow,
To that all clear cry of the ocean night,
"All's well, sir, and all her lights are bright!"

Notes:

The poet under doctor's orders was prohibited from returning to sea after successfully completing a four-year apprenticeship aboard a four-masted bark; the diagnosis was chronic asthma.

Charley Noble


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Subject: LYr Add: SPARKS (Burt Franklin Jenness)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 19 Mar 07 - 04:29 PM

Here's the only poem I've ever seen dedicated to the wireless/radio operator aboard ship, composed by Burt Franklin Jenness:

From OCEAN HAUNTS, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
Empire Publishing Co., New York, US, © 1934, p. 64.

SPARKS

Like a great magician staging
All his lightning tricks and ruses,
Where the seven seas are raging,
Works the wizard of our cruises;
In his tiny realm of wonder,
In a maze of coils and wire,
From which mimic tempests thunder
And the blue flames spit and fire;
With his ear attuned to crashes
Of the sound waves on the air;
In his world of dots and dashes,
You will find him sitting there
With his head gear strapped on tight,
And his hand upon the key –
Through the watches of the night
Toils this man of mystery.

While we keep the old craft steaming,
With our work-a-day routine,
We must be content with dreaming
Of some distant voice or scene;
But the great shore world is speaking
Day and night in old "Spark's" ear,
And the aerials are shrieking
Out its pathos and cheer.

How each heart bounds as it catches
Bits of news by wireless,
How we cherish little snatches,
As we quiz old "Sparks" at mess!
Ev'ry ship and port seems nearer,
To a lone sea-going gob,
Ev'ry human tie seems dearer,
When old "Sparks" is on his job.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: lYr Add: Beach Comber (Harry Kemp)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 20 Mar 07 - 12:34 PM

Here's another one from Harry Kemp, the story of a sailor who jumps ship in the Pacific Islands to become a beachcomber, only later to have some doubts. It's got a nice twist:

THE BEACH COMBER

(From CHANTEYS AND BALLADS, by Harry Kemp, published by Brentano's, New York, US, © 1920, p. 66.)

I'd like to return to the world again,
To the dutiful, work-a-day world of men, –
For I'm sick of the beach-comber's lot,
Of the one volcano flaming hot,
With the snow round its edge and the fire in its throat,
And the tropical island that seems a-float
Like a world set in space all alone in the sea . . .
How I wish that a ship, it would stop for me.
I'm sick of the brown girl that loves me, I'm sick
Of the cocoanut groves, – you can't take me too quick
From this place, though it's rich in all nature can give . . .
For I want to return where it's harder to live,
Where men struggle for life, where they work and find sweet
Their rest after toil, and the food that they eat . . .
What? A ship's in the offing? . . . dear God, let me hide, –
They're in need of a sailor, are waiting for the tide
To put off? . . . I will hide where the great cliff hangs sheer –
Give 'em mangoes and goats, and don't tell 'em I'm here!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Mar 07 - 01:51 PM

come to the the glasson maritime weekend and hear Sailortown.http://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 20 Mar 07 - 03:12 PM

Dick-

I'd love to be there but I'll probably edit out your post and this one in a day or two as not related to this thread.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 21 Mar 07 - 05:25 AM

Thanks for Sparks, Charley.
My mother's father,(who happened to be a Charley) joined the RN about 1912, serving through WW1 on destroyers.
He became a wireless telegrapher, a new mysterious art, and after the war served at the wireless station at Pembroke Dock.
Keith.


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Mar 07 - 08:18 AM

Keith-

You are more than welcome. I like to think that these poems still have some resonance. And I'm always pleased when one seems to fill in a missing part of the nautical quilt that folks have been weaving for hundreds of years.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: lYr Add: ROARING FORTIES (Burt Franklin Jenness)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Mar 07 - 01:25 PM

Here's one from Burt Franklin Jenness that I'd like to dedicate to my favorite Australian shanty singing group The Roaring Forties:

THE ROARING FORTIES
(From OCEAN HAUNTS, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
Empire Publishing Co., New York, US, © 1934, p. 19.)

Let me sail to the southward and follow once more
Down the great circle course where the latitudes roar;
Where the wind-breasted seas take the lurching bows under,
And giant swells break with the pealing of thunder;
Where the Southern Cross hangs like a pendant of gold
In a sky of black velvet, star studded and cold;
Let me dip to the forties that whimper and whine,
As the winds from the Horn whip the seas into line.

Let me sail to the southward until I can feel
The long pull of the trades, and the tug of the wheel;
Let me bring up the helm where the albatross swings,
And skirts the gray seas on his spume spattered wings;
Let me watch the star flowers sway down in the night,
And sprinkle the waves with a pollen of light;
Let me dip to the forties that whimper and whine,
As the winds from the Horn whip the seas into line.

Let me sense the deep swells that roll under the keel,
As the driving winds whistle the billows to heel;
Let me lean to the cross-seas that sputter and fume,
Let me watch the wet orb of the cold setting sun,
Through the mist laden air when the long day is done;
Let me dip to the forties that whimper and whine,
As the winds from the Horn whip the seas into line.

Let me sail to a place off the tame beaten track,
Where the seas follow up like a blood thirsty pack;
Where the reeling horizon cavorts with the sea,
And the surges play tag with the mastheads a-lee;
O, the wail of the halyards, the croon of the stays,
The clamorous nights and monotonous days;
O, the lure of the forties that whimper and whine,
As the winds from the Horn whip the seas into line.

Looks like it would be easy to set this one to a tune.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: lyr.ADD.: Endless Lure, The
From: Charley Noble
Date: 02 Apr 07 - 02:08 PM

Here's another one from Harry Kemp which focuses on the transition from naive cabinboy and aging shellback:

From CHANTEYS AND BALLADS, by Harry Kemp, published by Brentano's, New York, US, © 1920, pp. 51-52.

THE ENDLESS LURE

When I was a lad I went to sea
And they made a cabin boy of me.
Yo ho, haul away, my bullies!
We'd hardly put out from the bay
When my knees sagged in and my face turned grey;

So I went to the captain and I implored
That he'd let the pilot take me aboard,
And fetch me back to the land again
Where the earth was sure for the feet of men . . .

But the Captain, he laughed our strong, and said,
"You'll follow the sea, lad, till you're dead;
For it gets us all – the sky and the foam
And the waves and the wind, – till a ship seems home."

When I shipped as an A.B. before the mast
I swore each voyage would be my last . . .
Was always vowing, and meant it too,
That I'd never sign with another crew . . .

You tell me "The Castle" is outward bound,
An old sky-sailor, for Puget Sound?
"Too old!" . . . but I know the sea like a book . . .
Well, I've heard that your "Old Man" needs a cook! . . .

Yes, I could rustle for twenty men . . .
So, God be praised, you can use me, then? . . .
Oh, there's only a few years left for me,
And I want to die, and be buried at – sea!

Adapted for singing by Dave Robinson from Swansea, UK.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: lyr.ADD.:Shore Roads of Apri
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Apr 07 - 04:50 PM

This poem by Bill Adams was in a book of his short stories and apparently was not reprinted in his subsequent anthology:

SHORE ROADS OF APRIL

What do I see and hear of an April morning?
Many a ridge and furrow, headland and bay,
Many a ship bound seaward, white at dawning,
Many a young lad singing a ship away.

Faces I see, ah, there were a' many women!
All wreathed in their gossam hair, with waiting lips,
And there were eyes ashine, and tears a-brimming,
And there were lads following the calling ships.

I see them yet, long roads by the sea cliffs wending,
I hear the songs of birds, sweet flowers I smell,
I hear a lad who whispers of love unending,
I hear the roll of the shoreward running swell.

A little silk scarf, a pair of earrings swinging,
A sliver ring, an indolent peacock fan,
Down at the foreshore cold iron ship bells ringing,
And laughing lips of an outbound sailorman.

What do I see and hear of an April morning?
Many a ridge and furrow, headland and bay,
Many a ship bound seaward, bright at dawning,
Many a young lad singing a ship away.

Notes:

From FENCELESS MEADOWS, by Bill Adams, published by Frederick A. Stokes Co., New York, US, © 1923, pp. 218.

Charley Noble


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Subject: lyr.ADD.:Anchor Watches
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Apr 07 - 02:48 PM

This poem by Burt Franklin Jenness reminds me of his other poem entiled "Mid-Watches." He does a great job of capturing the feelings one gets when one is on watch aboard ship at night:

From SEA LANES, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
The Churchill Publishing Co., Boston, US, © 1921, pp. 51-52.

ANCHOR WATCHES

Ever stood th' twelve t' four
Anchor watch, alone at night,
When th' lights along th' shore
Were jes' blinkin' out o' sight?
Ever leaned there on th' railin'
Jes' b'fore th' night wuz run,
Stood an' watched th' stars a-palin'
Till they dropped out one by one?

Ever felt th' old craft swingin'
Till th' chains 'ud grind an' slip?
All y' toes an' fingers stingin'
Where th' off-shore wind 'ud nip;
Water gurglin', deep an' black,
'Round th' bow, an' sorta drippin'
An' a-sloshin' up an' back
Where th' windward drains wuz drippin'.

Watch cap pulled about yer ears,
Pea coat buttoned snug an' tight;
What strange thoughts an' hope an' fears
Used t' come on watch at night!
Ever felt so blamed alone
That it seemed like, fore an' aft,
Every spar an' mast had grown
Into some great spectre craft?

Ever been so cold an' sleepy
Y' could hardly walk yer post?
Ever felt so scared an' creepy
Every stanchion wuz a ghost,
An' it seemed like ev'ry creakin'
Of th' decks 'ud let y' through,
An' that bosuns' mates wuz sneakin'
In the shadows watchin' you?

Ever heard th' gulls a-screamin'
At th' first gray peep o' dawn,
Ever felt y'self a-dreamin'
Jes' b'fore eight bells had gone?
Ever felt y' thoughts, now throngin'
Back t' things that happened then,
Ever find y'self jes' longin'
Fer an anchor watch again?

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: lyr.ADD.:THE SEAMAN'S HOUR
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Apr 07 - 03:14 PM

Here's another one by Burt Franklin Jenness. This one seems to go well to the tune of "Darling Nellie Grey" but most of this poets work is easily adapted to alternative tunes:

Poem by Burt Franklin Jenness
From SEA LANES, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
The Churchill Publishing Co., Boston, US, © 1921, pp. 12-13.

THE SEAMAN'S HOUR

When the day's trick is over and the running lights are lit,
And the rigging fore and aft is trim and tight;
When the evening watch is posted and the gear is weather fit,
And the crew is gathered forward for the night,
And the smoking lamp is burning and the hammocks there are swinging –
Then a man may know his shipmates as they are;
For the fellowship grows mellow with the songs the gang is singing,
And the sailorman gets out his old guitar.

When the blue smoke is curling to the girders overhead,
And the berth-deck is merry with the din
Of the laughter, song and story, ere the bugle blows for bed –
Then the strains from the old guitar begin,
And you hear the pine trees whisper, out beneath the stars alone,
Or the notes from famous concert halls afar,
Till he thrums and sets a-quiver every heart-string with a tone –
When a shipmate plays upon his old guitar.

As he sits on his ditty box and smokes his cigarette
He will strike the chords that somehow set you wild;
For they conjure up the faces and the scenes you can't forget
Till the fragments of the world are 'round you piled;
Streets and restaurants and theatres, every rendez-vous of town,
And the glamour of the life you left ashore.
He can lift you from the depths of thought or send you crashing down;
He can bring you hopes you never dreamed before.

He can make you forget that you ever learned to hate,
That you ever had a hurt to reconcile –
And you swing your hammock, happy, up along-side your mate –
When you've listened to his old guitar a while,
And you take the road to slumber through the gates of memory,
As you watch, out through the port, some reeling star;
And you hear the distant beating of a swiftly running sea,
Like the music of a far away guitar.

It seems like not just Mudcatters have these thoughts, and Jenness was composing his poems back in World War 1 while he was serving in the U.S. Navy.

Pretty neat!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: Lyr Add: MESS GEAR (Burt Franklin Jenness)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 06 Apr 07 - 12:12 PM

I suspect that I'm posting more Burt Franklin Jenness poems than poems of the other sailor-poets. He's really damn good. Here's one commemorating the morning chow call aboard a navy ship in the World War 1 period:

From OCEAN HAUNTS, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
Empire Publishing Co., New York, US, © 1934, p. 65.

MESS GEAR

Along about six in th' mornin',
When th' drippin' sun turns out o' bed,
An' reveille's gone, an' th' decks are astir,
An' th' whinin' gulls dip overhead;
An' th' four t' eight watch is half over,
An' up in th' eyes o' th' craft
Y'c'n hear th' sea slap, an' th' anchor chains creak –
O' sudden there sounds fore an' aft,

Th' welcome old notes o' chow call,
An' then y' relief heaves in sight –
Say, mate, in this outfit, is there somethin' better
T' top off a lone watch at night
Then t' jest join th' gang, when th' mess gear's
A-clatterin' down on th' board,
An' th' chow from the galley comes on pipin' hot,
An' th' steamin' black coffee is poured?

Can y' ever forget how y' lingered
For th' seconds o' coffee or cakes?
Or gathered on deck b'fore "Turn to" had gone,
Fer a sociable pipe, or th' "makes"?
Do y' reckon that any sound sweeter
C'd fall on a sailorman's ear,
In th' grind an' routine of his life on th' sea,
Then th' welcome call t' mess gear?

Notes:

"Turn to" is navy slang to get back to work

"Makes" might refer to what one needs to roll a cigarette

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 30 Apr 07 - 06:03 PM

Here's one from Bill Adams, a sad tribute to the four-masted barque that he served his apprenticeship on in the 1890's:

Silberhorn

(From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 86-88.)

In Dennis O'Halloran's bar-room, down by Newcastle pier,
(Was ever ye down to Newcastle, lad?), I was sttin' drinkin' a beer,
An' treatin' a girl called Topsy (ye know the kind she'd be),
When somebody called from the doorway, "The Silberhorn's going to sea!"

An' I rose from my feet to see her, an' Topsy I pushed aside,
For ye'll see no ship like the Silberhorn go out wi' every tide;
An' I stood at the street-side starin' to see the grand packet go by,
Wi' the sunset bright on her beauty, an' her ensign flutterin' high.

I saw John Warren, her skipper, wi' his eyes o' windy grey,
An' her first mate, Wllie Dougal, an' her second mate, Tom O'Shay,
An' eight young bonny apprentice boys wavin' the girls farewell,
An' deep from the break of her fo'c'sle came the clang of her big iron bell.

As her bells broke out while she passed me a something gripped my breath,
As slow from her pier she glided, wi' the evenin' still as death;
The sun went under a cloud-bank, an' the dusk came droppin' down,
An' the only sound was the laughter o' the girls o' Newcastle town.

They lowered the grand ship's ensign, an' she slipped away to the night,
Till all I could see in the darkness was the gleam of her binnacle light;
As the girls turned back to the bar-room clear over the steam there came
The long, high echoing sing-song of her chanteyman's refrain.

"Good-bye, fare you well," I heard it, an' a cheer an' an order loud,
As a lone star winked in the darkness from the rim of a driftin' cloud;
An' I called to Dennis O'Halloran to bring me a bottle o' beer,
An' I drank in the bar-room doorway to the ship gone out from her pier.

O'Halloran's rang wi' laughter, but chilly there came o'er me
A feel like the feel o' the midnight when there's drift ice on the sea;
An' the fiddler started fiddlin'; an' Topsy tossed her head:
"You buys me no drink, nor dances? You acts like a man what's dead!"

So I called for a bottle for Topsy, an' forgot the sailor's way,
An' never gave thought to the Silberhorn for many an' many a day;
But when next I heard her mentioned I remembered the Newcastle pier
An' the night when I'd drunk to her hearties in a bottle o' Newcastle beer.

"Lost with all hands," I read it; "Lost with all hands." No More;
Never a word o' the latitude, how far or how near the shore;
"Good-bye, fare you well," came ringin', an' a cheer, an' an order high,
From the grand fine packet that evenin' goin' out to the sea to die!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: lyr Add: 'Frisco (Bill Adams)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 11 May 07 - 10:24 AM

Here's another one from Bill Adams, a ghostly tribute to San Francisco's working waterfront:

From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 94-96.

'Frisco

Long lines of ships at moorings used to lie
Besides the wharves of 'Frisco. All the day
The chipping hammers rang upon their plates,
While sailors, seated upon stages, chipped
The rust from hulls sea-crusted from the run
Around the Horn from far-off ports to 'Frisco.
Ship's booms stretched far above the windy street,
And figureheads gazed down on passers-by –
Old sea-gods, dragons, women with cold faces.
The draymen cried, and flicked their cracking whips.
The great dray-horses tossed their glossy manes,
And wagon-wheels clanked on cobblestones,
And shore folks stared up at the figureheads.
Ship's bells were struck at morning, noon, and night,
And ship's dogs barked, and dust blew up the street
Borne on a wind that wailed from the sea.
Ashore the fire brick stood in yellow stacks,
With barrels of cement, and cannery tin,
And railroad steel, and chalk, and coal and coke,
And here and there a cargo of pianos.
Great piles of lumber and of high-stacked wheat
Waited upon the wharves for outbound ships
For far-off ports that lie beyond Cape Horn.
The air was redolent with scent of tar,
And ropes, and paint, and barrels full of tallow –
Tallow to boil and smear upon the sides
Of each unladen ship, that she might fly,
When free, without the Golden Gate again.
The scent of paint, of oxide and red lead,
Commingled with the cold green water scent.
Great hawsers creaked, and mooring-cables clanked,
And flags danced merrily upon the wind.
Often the shore folk stopped to stare at sailors
Seated astride the spars of lofty ships
With marline-spike, and fid, and palm and needle,
Repairing damage of the stormy sea,
Preparing for yet other storms to be.
Sometimes a sort of silence fell:
No voice, no bell, no bark, no cable clank,
No gust of wind, nor murmur from the sea.
All things were hushed in the still moment's space,
As though Romance walked watching down the front,
And all things hearkened to her cadences.
Then some apprentice, striking on the plates
Of his old, rust-sided clipper ship,
Would cry aloud, "Hey! Some one strike that bell!
Let's take a stroll ashore!"

To-day no figurehead looks o'er the street,
No ship's bell breaks clear music on the wind,
No mastiff barks from Silberhorn's high poop.
Euphrosyne is lost, and Seafarer gone with all hands,
And Flying Cloud lies on the seaweed 'midst the scattered bones
Of men who sat above those warehouses.
Only our cold sea wind, only chill 'Frisco's fog
And the cold scents from our salty sea,
Are as they ever were. The girls of Barbary
No longer cry at evening, "Sailor come!
I'll show you how to dance!" No fiddles play
Along the lone length of Pacific Street. Only the ghosts
Of sailors dead in port, sea-broken men,
Dance of a night with ghostly dancing-girls
To ghostly tunes from ghostly fiddler-men.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: Lyr Add: Captain (Bill Adams)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 12 May 07 - 03:36 PM

Here's a jolly soliloquy from an old captain by Bill Adams:

From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 22-23.

CAPTAIN

Give me a tub, a dirty tub,
Most any old tub will do,
A hard old hooker with decks to scrub
And a beardy, black-lipped crew;
A wrinkled gang from a bowery den,
And my teak belaying-pin,
And I will furbish them into men
Ere again I fetch her in.

Give me the tide at dawning's flood,
And the red-stack tug before,
And the mid-March skies all flecked wi' blood,
And the lights turned out ashore;
A hard old barque wi' an evil name,
For I, I be even so;
Man and his woman should be the same,
And the ships be all I know.

I am not one for kisses, nor
I never was one for drink;
But I likes right well the dank foreshore
Where slippery sea-growths stink;
I likes right well the decks o' ships,
And I likes right well to see
The black-beard oaths upon the lips
O' the men who curse at me.

I likes the sky at sea afar,
And I likes to feel her go;
And I likes to watch each glinting star
Where thundering big winds blow;
I likes a barque, most any old tub,
Most any old tub will do,
A dirty barque wi' her decks to scrub,
And a murdered-eyed crew.

I likes to hear 'em rage and swear,
And curse at the likes o' me;
I likes to hearken while they declare,
"I be done wi' ships and sea!"
For well I know they must each one track
To the old pierhead ag'in;
And I, I will welcome each one back
Wi' my teak belaying-pin!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 May 07 - 02:10 PM

Here's another one by Harry Kemp, musing about the death of an old shipmate:

JIM

We couldn't make him out; he seldom spoke;
We never caught him smiling at a joke —
And yet he was a decent lad at work:
On watch or off, he was the last to shirk —
So that, among ourselves, we came to say,
"Jim, he's alright, he's only got his way."
Yet, somehow, in each storm he didn't care.
His life or death seemed only God's affair —
So when the cry came, in Nor'west Blow,
"Man overboard!" we each one seemed to know;
From the main topsail yardarm he had gone
Into the boiling seas . . . the ship held on;
There was no saving him in such a gale.
Then, when the dawn came, wide, and grey, and pale,
We brought his sea-chest aft with all it stored
(The custom when a man goes overboard).
It held the usual things that sailors own;
But at the bottom, in a box, alone,
We found a woman's picture — and we knew,
Now, why he'd been so offish with the crew —
He'd written it as plain as plain could be —
"She went and married HIM instead of me!"

Notes:

From CHANTEYS AND BALLADS, by Harry Kemp, published by Brentano's, New York, US, © 1920, p. 48.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 May 07 - 02:20 PM

And here's one I'd like to dedicate to the charred bones of the Cutty Sark but with the hope that she will rise and sail again from her ashes; it's by Harry Kemp:

From CHANTEYS AND BALLADS, by Harry Kemp, published by Brentano's, New York, US, © 1920, p. 54.

The Wreck

Seared bone-white by the glare of summer weather,
Cast side-long, on the barren beach she lies,
She who once brought the earth's far ends together
And ransacked East and West for merchandise.

The sea-gulls cluster on her after-deck
Resting from the near seas that wash and fall . . .
But, I have heard, at night this side-cast wreck
(When all the belfry bells at midnight call)

Puts up sail and goes out past mortal seeing:
Once more the oceans break beneath her will
And she resumes the breath of her old being;
She lives the dreams that slumber in her still.

Thrilling as down the windy Dark she slopes,
Ecstatic, as her sails grow great with wind –
She feels the seamen walking with her ropes,
The harbour dropping like a star behind.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 29 May 07 - 08:53 PM

And one more from Harry Kemp reprising the return and the leaving of the sailormen:

Sailormen

When our ship gets home again, after cruising up and down,
Where the old, familiar hills crowd above the little town,
Oh, we'll reef the weary sails in the shelter of the bay,
And we'll find it just the same as the hour we went away
With the steeple of the church through the tree tops peering out,
With same accustomed streets, and the friends we knew, about.

Oh, we'll sit before the hearth and we'll smoke a pipe or so,
And we'll have a pot of ale at the inn before we go,
And we'll kiss the prettiest girls, and we'll tell the children tales
Of the countries that we've seen, of the shipwrecks and the gales,
Till the cargo's battened down, and we're outward bound once more
While the sea goes rushing back to the far, receding shore.

Notes:

From CHANTEYS AND BALLADS, by Harry Kemp, published by Brentano's, New York, US, © 1920, p. 53.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 02 Jun 07 - 12:54 PM

There's an amusing lesson embedded in the last two lines in this poem by Harry Kemp:

From CHANTEYS AND BALLADS, by Harry Kemp, published by Brentano's, New York, US, © 1920, p. 37.

At Sea I Learned the Weather

At sea I learned the weather,
At sea I learned to know
That waves raged not forever,
Winds did not ever blow.

I learned that, 'mid the thunder,
Was nothing might avail
But lying to and riding
The storm with scanted sail,
Knowing that calm would follow
Filled full of golden light
Though hail and thunder deafened
The watches of the night.

And, now today I'm sailing
The changing seas no more,
But tied up to a woman
And snug and safe ashore,
With pipe and 'baccy handy
And Sal still loving me –-
I tell you that I'm thankful
For things I learned at sea!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 Jun 07 - 09:47 PM

It's not that I'm running out of steam posting poems to this thread but I'm only posting the ones that stick in my mind and there are only a few left of that quality. Here's another by Burt Franklin Jenness which, while too long to sing, refuses to be ignored:

The Lure of the East

This is the spell of the Orient –
The lure of the far, far East,
A lure that is soft and luxuriant –
A bidding to sate of a feast
That is spread with the viands of pleasure,
Replenished again and again;
And music, each sensuous measure
Attuned to the passions of men;
In a land where little is given –
Where the game is to buy and sell;
In a land with the virtues of Heaven –
A land with the sinning of Hell.

You come to the East with a conscience
And the failures of others to guide;
For a while you are upright and honest –
And God only knows how you tried;
Striving at first to be decent –
Fighting, and losing the fight;
Taking a drink to be social –
Hitting it up for the night;
Then you fall, like the other poor devils –
Succumb with a grace of your fate;
It's the spell of the East that has got you,
As it gets them all, soon or late.

It's the lure of the fly to the grayling –
Gaudy, and brilliant hued;
But men are the fools who are trailing –
And Satan is casting the food;
It's the call of the quail in the cover –
The lure of the flame to the moth;
The call of the thrush for its lover –
The call of the mate to betroth;
Softly at first it steals o'er you –
Dreamy and sweet, like a breath
Of incense or sandal, o'erwhelming
Your senses, and silent as death;
Till the air grows heavy with perfume –
You're happy, without and within,
Little you care for what may be –
And less for what might have been.

The blissful siesta a midday –
The drive, in the late afternoon;
And then for the nightly revel –
Women, and wine, and the moon;
The feasting, the music, the dancing –
The clandestine moments between;
The sweet-scented gardens enhancing
A flight from the ball-room scene;
White shoulders agleam in the moonlight,
A form that is truly divine;
Eyes with the dull glow of passion –
Tongues that are loosened by wine;
The clinking of glasses, and pledges
Sealed with a kiss of champagne;
Rollicking songs and laughter –
A speech from a reeling brain.

Women as fair as a lily –
Hair that glistens and glows;
Skin with the softness of velvet,
And white as Fuji's snows;
Lips with the blush of roses,
Eyes that sparkle with wine;
The perfume of blown cheery blossoms,
And flowered wistaria vine;
But the roses will fade in the morning,
When the rouge and the powder are gone;
The eyes will cease to be sparkling –
The cheeks will be pale and wan.

You are down in the native quarter
Taking a last little fling,
Where the samisens creak their weird melodies,
And the geisha girls dance and sing;
The stars are reeling and dancing,
And love is afloat on the breeze;
Virtue is drowned in a bumper –
And care in the seven seas;
The tropical moon is a bibber –
And he's not the only one;
The bubbles of life are bursting –
And the night is not half begun.

Alone in your ricksha at day-break –
Remorseful, and bitter with hate;
Back to your ship, or your barracks –
Going on duty at eight.

And so the night's revel is ended –
And all of the nights are the same;
Some are more hellish than others,
But none of the nights are tame;
Thus it has been from beginning –
Thus will it be to the end;
A power that draws men to sinning –
A force that will crush, and will rend;
A lure that is soft and luxuriant –
A bidding to sate of a feast;
This is the spell of the Orient –
The lure of the far, far East.

Notes:

From MAN-O'-WAR RHYMES, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness, originally published by The Cornhill Publishing Co., Boston, US, © 1918, pp. 88-91; available as a new paperback reprint from Kessinger Publishing.

This one kind of fits in with Kipling's "Road to Mandalay" but there's more pain here than nostalgia.


Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 28 Jun 07 - 10:17 AM

Well, it's back to old Bill Adams with a lively picture of an old sea cook:

Sea Cook

There ain't no "Tradesman's Entrance" wrote up above his door,
Like you sees on stylish houses on the stylish streets ashore,
So's the butcher an' the baker an' the grocer-man can tell
Where they'll find him when they wants him, an' there isn't any bell
For the butcher an' the grocer an' the baker-man to pull,
For there isn't any tradesmen wi' their baskets brimmin' full
O' fresh meats, an' veg'tables, an' bread an' cake, an' pie.
Ho, the sprays is drivin' over her! She's steerin' full an' bye!
She's plungin' an' she's rollin', an' she's flooded fore an' aft,
An' the sea cook hums a ditty while he's working at his craft.
The sea cook's arms is hairy, an' his hands is strong an' brown,
An' his bare breast is all covered wi' tattooin', up an' down,
Wi' flags, an' girls, an' anchors. Hoh, she's rollin' hard an' fast,
An' the big hailstones is bouncin' high from every spar an' mast!
She's leapin' like a wild stag; she's divin' to the seas.
Salt pork is on the galley stove, an' soup o' yellow peas.
The bright an' shiny mess-kids they are hangin' in a row,
As the cook looks from his galley door an' yells to her to go.
An' now the wind comes harder, an' the gale begins to roar,
An' he throws aside his apron, an' he leaps from out his door.
For the old sea cook's a sailor, an' there's canvas comin' in!
The chain sheets are a-clatterin' an' kickin' up a din,
An' it's time for stowin' tops'ls; the old cook's at his place,
With a downhaul in his fingers an' a grin upon his face.
Bye an' bye he'll serve out salt pork an' thick soup o' yellow peas;
Now he leads a throaty chorus, cryin' challenge to the seas!

Notes:

From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 42-43.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 28 Jun 07 - 11:08 AM

The Captain.
I think I have sailed with that bugger.


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 28 Jun 07 - 02:36 PM

Keith-

Was his name "Kendall"?

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 28 Jun 07 - 05:54 PM

I am hoping to stay with Kendall and Jacqui sometime soon, so I had better just say that I am sure he wields his belaying pin like a gentleman.


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Subject: Lyr. Add: The Lead Strikes English Ground
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Jun 07 - 08:11 PM

Lyr. Add: THE LEAD STRIKES ENGLISH GROUND
Words: Joseph M. Emerson; Music: Barry M. Gilholy

1.
The lead strikes English ground, brave boys!
Rouse in the deep-sea line;
We will not think of perils past
Upon the waste of brine.
The main-yard fills, away, brave boys!
Our channel course is free;
With flowing sheets she skims the waves
That fringe the summer sea,
That fringe the summer sea.

Chorus:

Crowd on, brave boys, and give her cloth,
From royal truck to rail,
She feels the channel breeze, brave boys,
And shall not want for sail.


2.
Through many a midnight gale, brave boys!
We've proved our 'Ocean Queen,'
And shall we spare her canvas now,
When the sea is rolling green?
For many an anxious eye is turn'd
Along the sparkling foam:
Crowd on, crowd on, they wait for us,
To breathe fond welcome home,
To breathe fond welcome home.

3.
Crowd on the wat'ry bulwark shrouds!
Each well-known cape and bay,
We soon shall see their outlines dim
Rise o'er the bounding spray
And now, beside the evening hearth
Welcome to take our place:
On true hearts time can write no change,
Though weather stain the face,
Though weather stain the face.

Scottish Students' Song Book, 1892, 3rd. edition, pp. 113-115, with score; 'con energia.' Other than the song was composed '189-?' I can find no information. No data on Emerson; Gilholy wrote a suite for piano, "Irish Pictures," and some pieces for Rowland's "Easy Series for Piano," but I can't find anything else.

Nice melody; thought is might be worth noting. Emerson probably was a landsman.


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 28 Jun 07 - 09:01 PM

Q-

Thanks for your contribution. I've been tempted to post a few other miscellaneous poems in addition to my stalwarts.

Cheerily,
Charley noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 04 Jul 07 - 09:29 PM

Here's another one from Burt Franklin Jenness to warm the heart of the old navy veteran:

Poem by Burt Franklin Jenness
From OCEAN HAUNTS, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
Empire Publishing Co., New York, US, © 1934, p. 77.

Bright-Work

If ever I quit this goin' t' sea,
An' cease th' world t' roam,
An' old dame fortune smiles on me;
I'll build myself a home.

Th' decks'll all be made o' glass,
A guy can't holystone,
An' there won't be an inch o' brass
In this 'ere home I'll own;
For I decided long ago
My eyes won't stand th' glare,
An' in my craft – one thing I know –
There'll be no bright-work there.

Th' galley'll be a fathom wide;
Th' cook'll work all night,
An' keep hot coffee by my side,
An' pipes all primed t' light;
Th' mess boards I'll have made o' steel,
For I'll be through with rubbin';
An' paper dishes ev'ry meal,
For they don't need no scrubbin'
An' that's th' one sea job I hate,
So when I've time t' spare
T' build my house, I'll tell ye mate:
There'll be no bright-work there!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Jul 07 - 08:39 PM

Here's one from Burt Franklin Jenness remembering his days as a young blue jacket painting ship:

Poem by Burt Franklin Jenness
From SEA LANES, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
The Churchill Publishing Co., Boston, US, © 1921, pp. 81-82.

RED LEAD

You may visit studios
In New York or gay Paree;
Watch the famous models pose;
Study scenes of land and sea;
You may sing the cubist's praises,
Or a portrait's curving lip –
But for art with all its phases,
Watch a deck crew painting ship.

You will never find them stalling
When the paint begins to pour;
Artisans of every calling;
Rookies fresh from haunts ashore
Hustle overside, and swinging
On their creaking stages high,
Work to tunes the gang is singing
Till they made the red lead fly.

Hieroglyphics and odd creatures;
Birds and faces, curves and lines;
Ancient art with all its features;
Modern art in strange designs
Grace the old hull, till the laughter
Gives the bosun's mate a tip –
And he finds, a moment after,
All hands busy – painting ship.

Dungarees and blouses spattered;
Features standing in relief,
Where the spots of paint are scattered,
Like a decked Apache chief;
Gaunt and silent, wan and bleary,
Daubed and smeared from head to feet
Come the artists, cramped and weary,
When the bugle blows retreat.

There are painters far more clever
Than these artists of the sea,
But the scrawls they make will ever
Cling around my memory;
And their laughter and their yelling,
And the steady slap and dip
Of their brushes, will be telling
How the old gang painted ship.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 09 Jul 07 - 08:45 PM

Well, we're back to Bill Adams for a dose of reality and romanticism:

By Bill Adams
From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 158-159.

PACKET RAT

'Ow would you like to be a packet rat,
Wiv no place anyw'ere to 'ang your 'at?
Wiz two bare feet most bleedin' froze an' wet,
Aboard a clipper wiv her tops'ls set?

'Ow would you like to sail the greenin' sea
Wiv a black 'urricane a-blowin' free?
To 'old the w'eel-spokes in your freezin' 'ands,
Footin' the furrows down for foreign lands?

'Ow would you like it when ashore you goes,
To see the folks all drawin' back their clo'es?
Sayin', "'E is a sailor, 'orrid thing!"
'Ow would you like to 'ear that sailor sing?

Singin' upon the sea some tropic night,
Wiv the old moon all shinin' silver bright,
A shipmate's fiddle twinkin' merrily
To cheer the 'earts of sailors far at sea?

'Ow would you like to see a shipmate drown,
Under goosed tops'ls, in the easting down?
To 'ear 'im holler, "'Elp me! 'Elp me, Gawd!"
'Ow would you like that, eh? "Man overboard!"

I'll take my lot! I'll be a packet rat!
I'll shake the tops'ls loose an' wave my 'at!
Give me a ship, my pals wot never knows
W'en death goes walkin' w'ere the night wind blows.

Give me the sea, an' I'll give thanks to Gawd
For ev'ry wave as lops its 'ead inboard,
A-thankin' I'm for breath, an' 'ands to bleed;
I'll be a man, by Gawd! The rat's 'ard creed!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 10 Jul 07 - 08:54 PM

Here, Burt Franklin Jenness is waxing nostalgic for his days in the navy now that he's freshly mustered out on shore. The "Mystery" is of course the culture shock of re-entry into civilian life:

From OCEAN HAUNTS, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
Empire Publishing Co., New York, US, © 1934, pp. 57-58.

THE MYSTERY

I'm back on my old job again; the boss has raised my pay;
I've donned "civilians," and I've put my uniform away;
The folks are proud because their son has done his bit at sea,
And everybody 'round the house is happy — except me.
There's something I don't understand, about this coming home;
For when I should be most content, my thoughts begin to roam;
And when I light my cigarette, I seem to see the gang
Up for'rd on the fo'c's'le, and I hear the songs they sang.
When I'm awakened by a voice, I think it's not for me,
And I turn over for a nap, and wait for reveille;
And 'round the steaming coffee every morning, now, there clings
The memories of mess time, and all the joy it brings
When a fellow comes off morning watch, with not a bite since four,
And cold and drenched — and his relief a half hour late, or more.
The wind that howls around the house, but brings delight to me,
For I hear the creak of gear, and racing screws at sea;
The sleet which cut my face today, as I walked into town,
I fought, in fancy, on the bridge, where I paced up and down;
There's something strange about the way I dream, now, on the job,
And stranger still, that I should long to be once more, a gob.

Notes

"Gob" is navy slang for a sailor.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 12 Jul 07 - 09:38 PM

Here's another essential crewmember from the Great Age of Sail, the sail-maker, as commemorated by Bill Adams:

By Bill Adams
From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, p. 41.

SAILMAKER

Old man Stitch-away, old man Sails,
With his long grey beard, he's hard as nails;
His teeth are yellow, and his eyes are grey,
And he's seaming and he's roping all the livelong day.

Stitch away, stitch away, sew them strong
For the lofty spars, where they belong;
Rope them tight and seam them true
So never a cupful of wind blows through.

A big ship's topsails, a big ship's courses,
To race her along through the wild white horses;
Royals and skysails, a big ship's wings,
To lift her high where the comber swings.

Stitch them, Sails; aye, sew them tight
For the mad squall blowing in the maniac night;
Sew them to stand the beat of hail,
The lash of rain and the hurricane's flail.

Sew them strong, so they'll never rip
When we're bow to bow with a rival ship;
Bolt on bolt of canvas high
To tower in a pyramid to the sky.

Bolt on bolt of canvas wide
To cast swift shadows on the blue sea's tide;
Bolt on bolt of canvas white
To gleam in the glory of the tropic night.

And if there's a little bit of sail left over,
Save it, Sails, for a fellow-rover!
Old man Sails, with his grey head bowed,
He's sitting and he's stitching at a dead men's shroud.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Jul 07 - 12:10 AM

Thanks Charley.


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 13 Jul 07 - 08:56 AM

Capt. Birdseye-

It's a lonely job but one of us gobs has got to do it!

Do consider adapting some of these poems for singing. You certainly did a fine job with C. Fox Smith's "Sailortown." I've done a number of these myself, most recently the "Sea Cook" by Bill Adams, and if you're interested there are MP3 samples of all my efforts on my website: Click here and search for lyrics!

I'd like to think that Cyrill Tawney would have enjoyed this thread.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 14 Jul 07 - 12:26 PM

Bill Adams does his usual good work with this ode to limejuice:

By Bill Adams
From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 81-82.

LIMEY

She's a Liverpool ship, an' becalmed on the Line;
Ain't it hell when a Liverpool sailor must dine?
Salt pork an' pea soup (an' the sun's overhead),
An' the fat weevils crawlin' in mouldy hard bread;
But the cook's at his door wi' a tin pannikin,
A Liverpool Irishman, scrany an' thin;
A half-gill o' limejuice to each man he serves,
To ward off the scurvy an' heave tight the nerves.

She's a Liverpool ship wi' the ice on her shrouds,
An' the snowflakes down droppin' from lead-coloured clouds;
They're hungry an' weary, half frozen, half dead,
An' for dinner there's weevils in mouldy hard bread,
A bit o' salt pork, o' pea soup just a lick –
But the cook's at his door, an' he's turning the trick!
A half-gill o' limejuice to each man he serves,
To ward off the scurvy an' heave tight the nerves.

It ain't Bass's ale, an' it ain't Burton stout,
Nor fine Irish whisky puts clippers about
An' heads 'em away when the breeze comes along
Wi' a rattle o' sheaves to the chanteyman's song;
It ain't fine Madeira nor sweet Muscatel
Keeps Liverpool clippers a-riddin' the swell;
Nor it ain't brown Jamaica nor bubblin' champagne
Keeps the Limeys a-singin' in wind an' in rain;
It's the thin bitter liquid as puckers the lips
Brings fame for smart sailin' to Liverpool ships.

Then here's to them Limeys, "Lor' love 'em!" says I,
Who swigs down their limejuice blow low or blow high;
An' I wish I was back in them Liverpool ships,
Wi' a rusty tin pannikin held to me lips!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 16 Jul 07 - 08:52 PM

The old sailors who grew up in the days of tall-ships never got used to the transition to steamships. On steamships they felt more like passengers rather than real sailors. Here's the way that Bill Adams puts it:


From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 78-79.


OLD LIMEJUICER

She'd carried coal on her last voyage,
So she was thick wi' fleas;
An' there was cockroaches in every crevice,
An' them small bitin' brown things in her bunk-board groves;
She was carryin' barley now, an' her rats was big as rabbits —
You'd wake to see old missis rat a-washin' of her face beside your pillow,
An' underneath it you'd likely find
Her nest o' squirmin' babies, pink an' blind.
The old hooker was a bad sea boat; she'd ship them in the waist
Clear level with her bulwarks with topgallants set;
And even under skysails she was wet;
She was a "hungry ship" — hard-tack, salt pork, an' horse;
At dinner time on Saturday o' course the usual thing,
Black-strap molasses an' a little rice; we called that "Strike me blind."
At every noon they served each man a gill o' limejuice;
That's the limejuice way; (in limejuice ships they says that if
A Yankee sailor don't get pie three times a day he mutinies.)
The old ship's spars were warped; her main topmast was sprung;
Her sails were patched; she only had two suits;
(Law says as ships must carry three.)
Her crew were God-knows-whats from everywhere;
Her skipper was a Blue Nose,
Her mate a Portygee; her second was a monkey on a stick; her boatswain me!
She took eight months from Puget Sound to Falmouth; overdue; posted missin'.
The owner collected insurance on her; he was a Liverpool Jew;
She was the last o' the West Coast grain fleet; an' I've never been to sea since;
This? This is a steamer. Yes, sir, I'm quartermaster.
A good job, quartermaster? Yes, sir. But this ain't goin' to sea;
I quit the sea an' went in steam, sir.

Slang: "her second was a monkey on a stick"; I'm not sure which of several interpretations of this slang holds true here but it's probably unrelated to Thai food and it's probably not a compliment.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 17 Jul 07 - 08:42 AM

refresh!

Any thoughts about what the slang phrase "monkey on a stick" refers to in "Old Limejuicer"? There appear to be quite a lot of options.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 17 Jul 07 - 08:15 PM

Here's another one from Bill Adams, in Scandanavian dialect:

By Bill Adams
From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, p. 80.

Olaf of the Grain Fleet

I coom all der vay from Liverpool roun' der Horn
To 'Freesco; ve voss hunder an' fifty day on der passage;
Forty day ve spend down dere off der ol' Horn mitt der gales,
All der time pully-haul, pully-haul, reefin' an' furlin' der sails,
Mitt ice in der riggin'; ow, aye! I says der voss ice sure 'nough!
An' ice on der topsails too; py gollies, dot makes der yob tough
Ven der sailor got to furl topsail! Me, never I 'ave any skin
In forty whole day on der knuckles, an' colder, py gollies, as sin!
Der grub it voss rotten: yoost hard-take, an' a leetle salt port, an' split peas;
Yah! Ees cold for poor sailorman's belly a-fightin' dem foamy beeg seas!
Hunder an' fifty day ve been on der passage. Five mont? Yah, five mont to der day.
Der wages? Vy, yoost seexty dollar ees der whole o' dot passage's pay;
Twelve dollar a mont! Don't it beats it such a fool any sailorman be?
Me, I kervits. Dot's all feenish, yow bet now. No more now I goes to sea.

Vot yow say, sir? A visky? Vell, tanks you! Yah, I likes me yoost vun leetle sip –
And Olaf's as drunk as the devil, and he's gone down to look for a ship!

It's the same old story but well told.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 19 Jul 07 - 03:33 PM

Here's another one from Burt Franklin Jenness about the galley cook aboard a World War 1 naval ship. Evidently the grub served was of a higher quality than that served aboard contemporary sailing ships:

Poem by Burt Franklin Jenness
From SEA LANES, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
The Churchill Publishing Co., Boston, US, © 1921, pp. 86-87.

The Ship's Cook

The gilded thrones of kings may pass;
The magistrate's judicial hall,
The Sultan's court of tinkling brass –
They all may go beyond recall,
But there's one monarch that will stay,
And in his sacred, royal nook
Endure all time, and hold full sway –
And that's his highness – our ship's cook.

From out his spacious, steel-bound cage
Come forth his edicts and commands –
No other ruler of the age
Could issue more obscure demands;
No king could closer guard his gate
Against assassin, thief or crook,
Or be a sterner potentate
Then our respected – galley cook.

Bit, though he be but of royalty,
We know the cook will be our friend –
For what would morning watches be
Without his hand-out at the end?
A trick out on the target raft;
A mid-watch on the old mud hook;
A cold, wet field day, fore and aft –
And we bless, then – the old king cook.

Who hasn't made a quiet trip
To cookie's throne room late at night,
When lights were out aboard the ship,
To get from him some tempting bite?
What would the life up for'rd be –
How different things at sea would look –
If that black coffee weren't so free
From our old pal – the galley cook.

What joy we'd lose at reveille,
If we should fail to hear the sound
Of mess gear dropping, or to see
The heaping dishes passed around –
How dull the routine of the day,
If, from that guarded, regal nook,
No golden morsels came our way;
We'd miss his majesty – the cook.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 20 Jul 07 - 10:38 AM

Now this poem by Burt Franklin Jenness should resonate with some old navy veterans, bring salt tears gushing down the furrows in their weathered cheeks! This appears an easy one to fit a tune to:

Poem by Burt Franklin Jenness
From SEA LANES, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
The Churchill Publishing Co., Boston, US, © 1921, pp. 60-61.

THE HOLYSTONER

Swashin' down the quarter-deck, scuppers runnin' free,
All th' gang in workin' white, happy as c'n be;
Smell o' coffee comin' through from th' galley, near,
Getting' keener fer th' mess, ev'ry sound we hear;
Mornin' watch a-swappin' yarns that they get ashore,
Ev'ry guy with somethin' new 'bout th' night before.

Smokes a-workin' overtime, makins' hard t' find,
Jeans rolled up aroun' our knees, blouses left b'hind;
Rus'lin' out th' cleanin' gear, draggin' aft th' hose,
Sloshin' 'round t' feel th' sand oozin' 'tween our toes;
Legs a-tinglin' from th' spray, dancin' 'round with glee,
Holystonin' with th' gang – that's th' watch fer me.

Sun a-peepin' from th' sea out across th' bay,
Fishermen a-makin' sail, getting' under way;
Gulls a-whinin' overhead, lookin' fer their chow,
Bumboatmen a-comin' out, driftin''round th' bow;
Ship a-swingin' to th' tide, chains a-drawin' tight,
Deck a-wash, th' sand an' water shinin' in th' light.

Gang a-singin', fore an' aft, songs o' ev'ry kind,
Holystone a-slidin' – slidin' with a merry grind;
Wadin' 'round in sand an' slush, slippin' on th' deck,
Tiltin' up th' hose a bit to'ards a rockie's neck;
Ev'rybody's soppin' wet, hungry as c'n be,
Holystonin' with th' gang – that's th' life fer me!

Notes:

"Holystoning" involved pushing or dragging a large flat piece of sandstone across a wooden deck to sand it down to fresh wood.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Jul 07 - 09:01 PM

This one looks like another keeper. I'm in the process of trying out some tunes and changing a few words which I'll post to a separate thread. Jenness always has a fresh take on the sea experience.

Poem by Burt Franklin Jenness
From OCEAN HAUNTS, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
Empire Publishing Co., New York, US, © 1934, pp. 45-47.

SEA DREAMS

If you've ever stood a midwatch in the cavern of the night,
With the sea wolves racing past you in a pack;
With the steely star a-playing 'round the mastheads for a light,
And the bucking trades possessed to drive you back;
If you've ever seen a sunset on a copper colored sea,
When the sky was like a polished compass bowl;
And the night winds caught the spindrift from the waves and tossed it free
Till to leeward you could see a silvery shoal.

If you've ever read your compass by a fulling tropic moon,
As it slowly rose above its jungle bed;
Dripping silver in the waters of a coral-fringed lagoon,
Till it hung there like a shining capstan head;
If you've heard the whining Forties day and night about your ears,
And have cursed your packet's ceaseless, sickening roll –
With the backstays all complaining and the creaking of the gears,
Then you'll understand the fretting in my soul.

For the wind has shifted east'r'd, and the long green rollers call,
And a brown-skinned lass is beckoning to me;
The starb'r'd watch is yarning, and I'm longing for it all –
So it's any wind'll take me back to sea.


If you've heard the screws a-grumbling when the craft was cruising light
Or the scuppers gurgle back the weather seas;
If you've tailed behind a typhoon in a hellish running fight,
And have felt your oil-skins freeze about your knees;
If you've heard the crack of head seas, and have felt the settling hull
Or the stern go heaving skyward till she raced;
If you've seen her take the green ones till she quivered like a gull,
And a river ran athwart-ships at her waist.

If you've cleared the reefs of Suva, and have sighted Sydney head;
If you've lifted Sugar Loaf just after dawn;
If you've made Corrigador, and have swung the sounding lead
In the channels of the world where you have gone;
If you've cruised with lousy shipmates, and have heard them curse and brawl;
If you know the seas from Rio to Hong Kong;
If you've loafed about the waterfronts of every port of call –
Then you'll understand the burden of my song.

Oh, the wind has shifted east'r'd, and the long green rollers call,
And a brown-skinned lass is beckoning to me;
The starb'r'd watch is yarning – and I'm longing for it all,
So it's any wind'll take me back to sea.


Here's how I've adapted this poem for singing: Click here and search for lyrics!
Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 30 Jul 07 - 09:35 AM

Here's a change of pace, a nautical poem by John Masefield:

From SALT WATER POEMS AND BALLADS, John Masefield, published by The Macmillan Co., NY, © 1912, p. 51.

A Pier-Head Chorus

Oh I'll be chewing salted horse and biting flinty bread,
And dancing with the stars to watch, upon the fo'c's'le head,
Hearkening to the bow-wash and the welter of the tread
Of a thousand tons of clipper running free.

For the tug has got the tow-rope and will take us to the Downs,
Her paddles churn the river-wrack to muddy greens and browns,
And I have given river-wrack and all the filth of towns
For the rolling, combing cresters of the sea.

We'll sheet the mizzen-royals home and shimmer down the Bay,
The sea-line blue with billows, the land-line blurred and grey;
The bow-wash will be piling high and thrashing into spray,
As the hooker's fore-foot tramples down the swell.

She'll log a giddy seventeen and rattle out the reel,
The weight of all the run-out line will be a thing to feel,
As the bacca-quidding shell-back shambles aft to take the wheel,
And the sea-sick little middy strikes the bell.

Here's a link to how I've adapted this one for singing: click and go to MP3 sample

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 11:41 AM

Looks like I've been neglecting this thread. Here's another nostalgic nautical poem by Bill Adams:

From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams,
Published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, p. 53.

The old sailor ashore hearing the haunting shanty chorus as a tall-ship departs from the dock pool out the lock.

Ai-Lee-Oh

I see a ship glide through a dock
With lovely white wings,
And women watch her from the lock,
A sailor, laughing, sings,
Ai-lee-yoh,
Haul-away, yoh!


I see the houses slipping by,
Women's wet faces;
I hear a night wind piping high,
Sailors at the braces —
Hi-lee-yoh,
Haul-away, yoh!


I see the tug-boat's bobbing stern,
Ship's lights green and red,
And many lamps new lighted burn
Ashore. The sea's ahead —
Oh-yo-hoh,
Haul-away, yoh!


I see the roadways of the sea,
The stars, the sun, the moon;
From every sea drifts back to me
The faintly echoed tune —
Oh-hi-yoh,
Haul-away, yoh!


I see the ice upon the shrouds,
Eyes of men in pain;
The mastheads scrap the very clouds;
Would we were home again!
Ai-lee-yoh,
Haul-away, yoh!


I would probably standardize the chorus if I were singing this one.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 09:26 PM

Here's another one from Bill Adams with the thought that when you lose a shipmate at sea, the memory lingers.

Poem by Bill Adams
From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams,
Published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 54-55.

Man in the Sea

If ever you've heard it ringing, wild from the mast and clear,
If you've seen the watches running, their faces blanched with fear,
If you've heard the splash in the water, and the rush as the boat swings free,
Then you know the bit o' the feeling when a shipmate goes at sea.

And if you haven't heard it, if your way lies by the shore,
Far from the ways of sailormen, you'd best not shrink no more
When the night wind shakes your chimney and your window-pane
Rattles o' windy midnights to the beat o' the winter rain.

There's an empty bunk in the fo'c'sle; we've divvied up his duds;
Somewhere far astern of her, in the greeny white suds,
He's swinging to the rollers, swaying to and fro,
With the birds up above him and the fish down below.

Jimmie took his 'baccy, Joe his oilskin coat,
Neddie took the muffler that warmed his merry throat;
'Twas me that drew his sea-boots; my feet were warm and dry,
Would I had frozen, barefoot, with him yet smiling by.

For she's warping into moorings, and the voyage is past;
We've cut the cards and shuffled them; the lot is cast;
I've got to tell his woman … to tell his woman … me!
The fish … and the birds … and her man in the sea!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 09:13 PM

Another one from Bill Adams:

All Hands On Deck

"Rouse out, you sleepers! Come, now, rise and shine!"
How would you like to hear that cry again?
You rolled into your bunk at eight, and now it's nine!
You hear the wind, the lashing of the rain;
You thought they'd let you sleep until eight bells, till midnight came;
Your every limb is sore; you're aching weary; you feel vast swells
Surge under her deep keel. "Roose out there, dearie!
We're going to take the upper topsails in;
It's blowing up like hell; it's black as sin;
All hands on deck, my son!" And out you tumble
To grope for sodden sea-boots and your oilskin coat,
And wrap a towel round your throat to keep the water out,
You groan, you grumble; the one who calls you laughs, with mocking lips;
He's better used than you to the ways of ships;
He's been three years at sea, and you but one.
"We're going to furl the topsails! Ain't that fun!"
Your sopping bunk was luxury; it still is steaming
From your body's warmth while you lay there dreaming that you were back ashore;
Ah, happy days! You step out to the night, out to the sprays; you hear a sail
Crashing above you, lowered for the gale; a greyback roars aboard and knocks you down,
Before you gain your feet you almost drown!
"Where's that useless pup?" You hear the mate;
"All hands on deck, and that young lubber's late!"
Somehow you struggle up the deck's mad slope;
Somehow you find your place upon the rope;
The boatswain's bawling, "Yo-ho! Haul away! Hi-leeee!"
Who wouldn't sell a farm and go to sea?

Notes

From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 117-118.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 11 Sep 07 - 05:26 PM

Here's another one from Bill Adams focused on the grief of a flashgirl for a young sailor friend that she's just learned was lost at sea:

From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams,
Published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, p. 24.

Sailor's Mourner

"Gawd!" said a gal o' the Barbary Coast —
She was dancin' wi' me —
"Is it true, lad, that Larry, young Larry, was lost
From his ship out at sea?"

An' I says to her, "Aye! 'Tis true sure enough
That poor Larry was drowned."
An' "Gawd," said the gal o' the Coast, "but it's tough!
An' the poor boy home-bound!"

The fiddles they played on the Barbary shore
An' the dancers' feet flew,
An' "Gawd," said the gal, the young Barbary whore
"'Tis too bad that it's true!"

She trembled her lip, an' she dropped a salt tear
On paint an' on powder;
An' the crimps they came round wi' the foam on the beer,
An' the laughter grew louder.

"There's a new dance is startin'," says I to her then;
"Will ye dance it wi' me?"
An' the fiddles tuned up, an' we danced once again,
An' forgot the cold sea.

Notes:

The "Barbary Coast" was the neighborhood adjacent to the harbor area in San Francisco which was filled with bars, dance halls, brothels and other things of interest to the sailor ashore.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 16 Sep 07 - 08:14 PM

Here's some more unabashed nauttical nostalgia from Burt Franklin Jenness:

From SEA LANES, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness,
The Cornhill Publishing Co., Boston, US, © 1921, pp. 77-78

The Old Ditty Box

Old and battered now, it rests
With the spinning wheel and chests,
In the solitude and gloom
Of the dusty attic room;
Tied around with cotton line;
Carved with names in odd design;
Hinges broken; lid askew;
Warped and cracked – but always new!
Dear to me despite its knocks –
Precious durned old ditty box.

When I steal away up stairs,
'Mong the beds and broken chairs,
And I loosen that old lid,
I'm a second Captain Kidd
Hunting for his buried gold –
But no hiding place could hold
Treasures like the ones I find,
And the thoughts they bring to mind;
Dreams of ships and ports and docks –
All from that old ditty box.

When I take the treasures out,
And begin to think about
Cruising days of long ago,
Memories crowd upon me so,
I just wish that every lad
Could have all the fun I've had,
And that they could have, like me,
Golden hours of memory,
When their thoughts, like sheep in flocks,
Would come from a ditty box.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 03:50 PM

Thankyou.


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 05:45 PM

Dick-

Any time.

And at some point soon I'd love your permission to use your musical setting for a recording of "Sailortown." This will be a small run on the order of 250 copies, done in small batches from my home office. Would you please PM me your e-mail address.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 01:28 PM

Here's another poem from Burt Franklin Jenness from a new book of his poetry that I've just acquired:

From SPINDRIFT AND SAGEBRUSH, by Burt Franklin Jenness, published by The Naylor Company, San Antonia, Texas, © 1960, p. 23.

Sea Art

There's not a resolution passed beneath the gavel's head;
There is no tale however true, no tribute, vote or plea;
There are no voices lifted up in which their praise is said,
That half do justice to the men who work the ships at sea.

No lens has caught the changing hues that tip the waves at dawn;
The grace of gulls on tilted wing has never yet been drawn;
No artist lives who wields a brush that can depict a-right
The fury of a typhoon trail or paint a "dirty" night.

No more can we, in printer's ink, find pathos on the seas,
Nor can we feel the biting spray or see the tempest rage;
The sharpest pen that draws the sea but mocks its tragedies,
For human woes and tempests cannot reach the printed page.

It seems odd that such a fine nautical poet should claim frustration at portraying "the men who work the ships at sea" but he probably was all too aware of what he was missing.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 08:56 PM

Here's another one from Jenness with a little more meat:

From SPINDRIFT AND SAGEBRUSH, by Burt Franklin Jenness, published by The Naylor Company, San Antonia, Texas, © 1960, pp. 14-15.

The Bedford Nell

When the night winds blow in from the open sea,
And darkness sifts down in the busy street,
That's always the lonesomest time for me;
It's always the time when my stubborn old feet
Go hurrying down to the shipping docks,
And there I just linger and smoke and dream;
There's music to me in the creaking of blocks,
Or the grumble of winches and spitting of steam;
And the smell of the wet hemp that is paid away free,
Or the keen scent of spice from an open ship's hold,
Are like food and drink to a body like me,
For they warm up the heart when a sailorman's cold.

But that's not the reason I've haunted the piers,
And listened to yarns that the sailormen tell;
And strained my old eyes gazing seaward for years –
It's just for one look at the old Bedford Nell,
For none of the packets that I've ever seen
Could fetch my eye twice like this one that I knew;
She was just a pull-haul-y old brigantine
When we sailed out of Bedford in seventy-two,
But blast her sea-pitted old water-logged planks!
I'd know her the minute I heard her ship's bell,
And under full canvas she'd play up such pranks
I'd someway just feel 'twas the Bedford Nell;
Can I ever forget how I cursed the old shell,
With bad luck to the owners who shipped me as mate;
Those bitter nights under the Cross, and the hell
When famine-eyed seamen were raving with hate;
The days when the monsoons were scorching us sore,
And cholera was snuffing the lives of our crew;
When we hoisted the old yellow rag at the fore,
And crept into Shanghai with the watch two and two!
Yes, the ratty old hooker was logged full of grief;
She was patched with old shoring just aft the port bow
When she nigh laid her bones on the Barrier Reef,
And we limped into Sydney – Lord only knows how!
And she bears a memento of that hellish night
When a mutiny brewed in the fo'c's'le-head,
And the beggars rushed aft and began to show fight;
The bo'sun was down and the second mate dead
When we cut the dogs back, and we fought to the hatch
And we pitched 'em below, every man on his head –
And I know, to this day, there's a crimson patch
On her quarter-deck planks – for the scuppers ran red!

Oh, she leaked and she stank and her tales are too grim,
But before her sea-rotted old canvas is furled;
And before my old eyes get too watery and dim;
And before she goes down on the reefs of the world,
I must have one last look at the craft I like best,
And listen once more to the old watches' bell –
So I'm waiting each night, and I never shall rest
Till I sight my old packet – the Bedford Nell.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 09:36 PM

Come Back Cecily Fox Smith , All is forgiven ! LOL


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 09:37 PM

And 100! Some good stuff in there, Charlie.

(Yes, but I do have the power to DELETE such posts! Charley Noble)


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 09:28 AM

Leadfingers-

There really are some good poems to work with from these poets. They are not all keepers but some do a great job of "filling in the gaps" within the nautical repertoire. I also agree that the works of C. Fox Smith are a good standard to judge these poems by.

I've learned a bit more about Burt Franklin Jenness. He is evidently a stretch as an "old sailor-poet." Here's my biographical sketch:

Burt Franklin Jenness was born in New Hampshire in 1895. He prepared for his medical career at Dartmouth Medical College, the University of Southern California, Boston University, and the Naval Medical School, Washington, D.C. Dr. Jenness served as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy during World War 1, earning the retirement rank of Lieutenant Commander (Medical Corps) U. S. Navy. Creative writing was one of his major hobbies as is shown by his books of poetry – together with publications in magazines, newspapers and anthologies.

Dr. Jenness's major poetry books include:

SERVICE RHYMES (p. 1917)
MAN-O'-WAR RHYMES (p. 1918)
SEA LANES (p. 1921)
OCEAN HAUNTS (p. 1934)
SPINDRIFT AND SAGEBRUSH (p. 1960)

After retiring from the U. S. Navy, Dr. Jenness worked as Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Texas Western College, as an Official Instructor of First Aid for the American Red Cross and became Director Emeritus of Health Service for Texas Western College. He retired to El Paso, Texas, where he died in 1971.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 08:31 PM

And one more poem by Burt franklin Jenness:

From SPINDRIFT AND SAGEBRUSH, by Burt Franklin Jenness, published by The Naylor Company, San Antonia, Texas, © 1960, p. 17.

Harbor Tug

With saucy air and curtly hail;
With rakish stern and meager crew,
They bristle up beneath the rail,
And warp the giant liners through.

They fight the stubborn tides that swirl
Through drawbridge, channel, slip and reach;
And cheat the angry seas that hurl
The pounding craft on shoal and beach.

They pilot up the sleet-lashed bay
With gunnels mantled white with snow;
On icebound rivers crunch their way
With hawsers strained across their tow.

With fitful blasts and jets of steam
They weave the fretting channel rips,
And thread the traffic of the stream
Like pygmies in the world of ships.

A nice tribute to the tugboats of the world!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 01 Jan 08 - 06:22 PM

About eight of these poems are now recorded on my new CD titled OLD SAILOR-POETS: Sea Songs. Here's a link to find more information about this CD: Click here for website!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 09:57 PM

I've just acquired the earliest book of poems by Burt Franklin Jenness titled SERVICE RHYMES, © 1917. Most of the poems can be found in a later book titled MAN-O-WAR RHYMES as suspected but there are an additional 14 poems. This one I find the most compelling and unusual, for its time:

From SERVICE RHYMES, by Burt Franklin Jenness, published by Press of El Paso Printing Co., El Paso, Texas, US, © 1917, pp. 48-55.

The Black Watch

Ever heard th' black watch story?
Ask th' boys o' our old crew;
There's sea yarns a sight more gory,
But there aint a tale more true.

An' if th' boys are skeerce, your way,
('Spect they're nigh all dead by now.)
Ye can wait toll Judgment Day,
An' ye'll hear it then, I 'low.

'Cause, no matter what th' color
Uv their sweatin', shinin' hide,
Er if they called 'em black, er yaller,
They wuz white men – when they died.

An' when th' black watch answers: "Here!"
To that last roll call, on high,
In th' good book there'll appear
Th' tale o' how they come t' die.

It wuz down off San Diego
In th' spring o' ninety-eight;
Th' news it struck us like a blow,
O' how th' Maine had met her fate.

Wal, there wa'n'y no peace o' livin'
On our packet after that;
An' th' fight our crew wuz givin'
O' them Spaniards! They wuz at

'Em hot, from reveille, an' fought
'Em clean up t' taps, at night –
In their minds – but you'd 'a' thought
Ye smelled th' powder, in their fight.

O' nights they'd swarm th' decks t' tell
Jest how they'd man th' turret guns,
An' how they'd face th' shot an' shell
'Mid their dead an' dyin' ones.

An' all th' time a-grinnin' 'round
The edge o' that 'ere braggin' crowd,
Th' stokers, gapin'', stood spell-bound,
An' silent as a trooper's shroud.

Th' boys they called 'em yaller coons –
One fire-room crew wuz all
We had o' blacks – no octoroons
Or half-breed niggers, what you'd call

A black watch, they wuz, through an' through;
Six o' 'em in number four;
An' skeerce their jeers had died, that crew
Wished they had as many more.

Wal, you've read it all in hist'ry,
How we fought th' wind an' tide,
Through th' Straits, an' burned th' sea
Steamin' up on t' other side.

Fer days we bucked a sou'east trade
That 'ud freeze yer marrow bones;
O' nights a chill crep' in, that made
Us chatter like our teeth wuz stones.

Th' damp o' dog-days, too, 'u'd come,
An' heat 'twould do fer hell, I reck's,
S' cussed hot 'twould melt th' gum
O' yer hip-boots, washin' decks.

An' all th' time th' Spanish ships
Wuz racin', too, ag'in th' tide,
P'inted straight t' where th' rips
O' Santiago's harbor ride.

Wal, we kep' her, night an' day,
Under forced draught, an' our men,
Deck an' stoke-hole, worked th' way
It's like they'll never work again.

Th' fireroom heat wuz well nigh hell;
Th' furnace mouths well nigh its fire;
Th' stokers, like th' damned t' dwell
Below, kep' heapin' fuel higher.

Through th' doldrums; Caribbean;
Steamin' nor'ard o'er th' brine;
Slavin', swinin' like a peon;
Nary a man there wuz t' whine.

Bearin's hot, an' packin's burnin';
Pistons spittin' tongues o' steam;
Racin' screws a-grumblin', churnin';
Cross-seas slappin' us abeam.

Days an' weeks we watched an' groveled,
Till th' weeks rolled 'round again;
While below, th' black watch shoveled,
Stoked an' sliced – like whiter men.

Battle strung, an' nigh exhausted,
O' nights, th' crew off watch would gibe,
Taunt an' jeer, aye, oft accosted
Shamefully, th' black skinned tribe.

Scored th' black watch, too, as cowards,
'Fraid t' fight, an' 'fraid t' die;
Bid 'em shift their course t' sou'ards,
T' th' land o' mammy's lullaby.

Then th' day hove 'round fer sightin'
O' th' top-masts of our fleet –
Soon we'd be in line fer fightin';
Soon we'd feel a salvo's heat.

Th' Cap'n whistled down fer speed,
Steam-gauge, then, wuz climbin' higher;
Our faces, scorched, seemed like t' bleed,
Still th' old chief bellered: "Fire!"

I wuz standin' boiler three,
At th' water-tender's post;
Our fire-room crew wuz white – an' we,
God help us – scored th' black watch most.

'Twas nearin' time fer us t' quit,
Our watch wuz makin' fourteen-ten;
Craft a-shakin' like a broken sprit;
Safety valve a-poppin' when –

My God! I heard a hiss o' steam,
An' then a shriekin', piercin' roar –
An' fightin' through a seethin' stream,
Our men wuz gropin' fer th' door.

I tried t' reach th' valves – but fell,
An' crawled, there in th' pit, fer air –
There may be tortures worse, in hell,
But I'd sooner take my chances there.

My guts wuz burnin' seemed, an' tight
Aroun' my neck a scaldin' line
Wuz chokin' – an' afore my sight,
Streaks o' red an' green 'u'd shine.

Then things kind o' eased, y' might say –
Didn't hear a sound, no more –
Felt all sort o' snug an' comfy –
Guess I wuz nearin' t'other shore.

An' then it seemed like somethin' druv me
Nigh clean up'ards through th' air,
'N' I saw a big, black face above me –
An', God! th' whole black watch wuz there!

I c'u'd see 'em, now, a-luggin'
Uv our white men to'ards th' door –
'N' then, at my throat, that cussed tuggin'
Come – 'n' I didn't see no more.

Till I come to, up in sick-bay,
In a row o' clean, white beds,
Where, silent, on their pill'rs lay
A dozen other bandaged heads.

I looked a spell, from face t' face,
Then shet my burnin' eyes up tight –
O' them poor devils in that place,
Six wuz black, an' six wuz white!

O God! th' nights o' pain that followed,
An' th' sleepless days, as well;
They begged, an' prayed, cursed an' hollered,
Fer rufuge from a livin' hell.

But th' good Lord soon relieved 'em –
One by one th' black watch died;
In their blankets, wrapped, they heaved 'em,
Lashed t' grate-bars, overside.

NOTES

In 1898 the United States and Spain declared war on one another, following an explosion that sank the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor. The battleship Oregon made a famous dash from the Pacific around Cape Horn to join the Caribbean fleet off Santiago Harbor.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 16 Mar 08 - 05:58 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 12:08 PM

I've been neglected this thread of late. Here's another interesting one from Burt Franklin Jenness:

Signal Bill

'Twas what ye'd call a nasty night,
An' 'twa''t no time to pick a fight,
Th' we struck th' zone;
Th' fog wuz settlin' purty thick –
Screws 'u'd race, an' buck, an' kick,
An' stays 'u'd creak an' groan.

A crew at every three-inch gun,
An' all han's keyed up fer th' run –
Wuz how we cruised that night;
I tuk th' wheel – I'd never had
A taste o' war – wuz jest a lad –
But I had shipped t' fight.

An' soon ol' quartermaster Bill
An' me made friends, as seamen will,
Without much else t' do,
An' Bill wuz on th' bridge that night,
T' kinda see that things went right,
An' sort o' visit too.

Sez Bill: "Ye know it ain't a fight
That's getting' on me nerves tonight,
But I guess ye'll agree
That I have kinda wronged me kid,
Fer when th' mother died, I did
Th' getaway t' sea."

"An' I h'ain't never heard," sez Bill, –
"An' I reckon now I never will –
As how th' brat come through,
Fer I've a feelin', lad, tonight,
An' ef I'm calculatin' right,
I want t' ask ef you

Will be a father – ef –" sez he,
"Ef – what I'm thinkin' of should be –
To that-there kid o' mine."
I promised Bill I'd do my best,
Then eased a point, Sou-west b' West,
T' fetch 'er in ter line,

When, "GOD!" Sez Bill; "LOOK! Port 'er quick!"
An' pointed where th' fog hung thick
Jest off th' starb'rd bow;
'Bout then th' lookout yelled; an' aft
"All hands" wuz sounded through th' craft;
An' then, someway – somehow

We lifted like a surf-borne skiff;
Then hung an' trembled; straightened stiff;
An' settled by th' stern;
I struck th' binnacle an' hung
Until a list t' starb'rd flung
Me with an awful turn,

An' I brought up ferninst a hatch –
'N' through th' fog I leaped, t' catch
A piece of deck-house frame;
I heard Bill yell, an' like a streak
Seen 'im shoot by – an' then th' creak
O' life-boat tackle came.

The Cap'n's voice by megaphone;
Th' siren's blasts; a shriek – a groan;
Th' hiss o' boiler steam;
Th' crash o' superstructure gear;
Th' gurgle o' water – near –
An' then, I 'spect, a dream –

Fer I don't recollect th' rest,
Till, half awake, across th' breast
O' "Signal Bill" I rolled;
An' there, aboard a life-raft, sprawled
Two men – like they'd washed up – er crawled
An' one wuz stark an' cold,

Notes:

From MAN-O'-WAR RHYMES, edited by Burt Franklin Jenness, originally published by The Cornhill Publishing Co., Boston, US, © 1918, pp. 17-19; available as a new paperback reprint from Kessinger Publishing.

Evidently this poem describes the sinking of a patrol craft such as a destroyer during World War 1 after striking a submerged ledge or other obstacle in the fog.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 14 Jul 08 - 01:17 PM

It's been some time since I've added to this inventory. Here's another from Bill Adams:

By Bill Adams
From WIND IN THE TOPSAILS, edited by Bill Adams, published by George G. Harrap & Co., London, UK, © 1931, pp. 89-90.

There Goes Thermopylae

I seen her once for just a jiff; it was a misty day,
Wi' sea birds mewin' i' the rain an' porpoises at play;
I was a-coilin' up a rope above the col' grey sea,
When loud I heard the boatswain shout, "There goes Thermopylae!"

The mate swung round, the skipper turned, an' everyone did gaze
To where a fleetin' shadow flew a-down the Biscay haze;
A low green hull, white swayin' masts, a cloud o' billowed sail,
I saw as o'er the Boscay sea I stared from by the rail.

The stately China clipper, tried an' proved by many a blow,
She ran along that tossin' sea as colts in pasture go!
You would ha' thought, a-watchin' her, that soul an' heart she knew,
She seemed to leap so eagerly as through the mists she flew!

You would ha' thought, a-watchin' her, that she had soul an' heart,
So swift, so proud, so queenly quite, she clove the waves apart!
I minded as she swept from view them things that poets write,
That beauty never can decay, must ever bring delight.

We never dreamed, we sailormen what wandered to an' fro,
That lovely ships would pass away an' from the waters go;
That ugly, smokin' kettle things, wi' smoke a-trailin' far,
Would come to take the trade away, would come the seas to mar,

Wi' throbbin' screws an' heavin' sides; o' nights there comes to me
The vision of a tea clipper on Biscay's hazy sea;
Again I hear the boatswain shout, "There goes Thermopylae!"

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: GUEST,john 'the ferret'moran bush poet australia
Date: 20 Sep 08 - 08:20 PM

Hi Charley If you can recognise this poem from a couple of lines could you please include it on your web site, it is a really great site Charley

We braved the roaring forties as we came around the Cape
Then the trade wind laid her over and she cut a boiling wake
She scudded in the sunlight and beneath the evening star
And then the wide brown land was sighted as she cruised across the bar.

THANKS MATE


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Sep 08 - 10:28 AM

John-

The lines certainly are intriguing, and I'll give them a search.

I wouldn't at all be surprised if they were composed by one of your Australian poets, as is suggested by the reference to "the wide brown land."

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: olddude
Date: 21 Sep 08 - 10:33 AM

Sea Fever - John Masefield
   

I MUST go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Oct 08 - 11:21 AM

trying to find an old sailors poem about "the sailors a dancing by the capstan that stood by the quay"


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: ClaireBear
Date: 16 Oct 08 - 12:29 PM

That's a line from the an Alfred Noyes, poem, The Old Grey Squirrel, which has been converted to a song by Bob Zents and sung by Tom Lewis. You can find full lyrics in the lyrics section of Tom's site, Tom Lewis.net.

Cheers,
Claire


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 16 Oct 08 - 12:40 PM

Thanks, Claire. You certainly nailed the poem although you probably meant Bob ZentZ adapted it for singing.

Alfred Noyes also composed a sequel to "The Old Grey Squirrel" titled "The Escape of the Old Grey Squirrel." Check out his poems at the Oldpoetry website: Click here for original poem!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: ClaireBear
Date: 16 Oct 08 - 01:07 PM

Three small differences between the way Tom sings it and the original poem:

1. omission of "a-" before sailing in last line of first verse

2. addition of the word "red" before "nets" in verse 2, line 6

3. repetition of the word "never" in 5th line of fourth verse.

Yeah, I guess that makes it an adaptation, alright...


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 16 Oct 08 - 09:05 PM

Claire-

The folk process at work!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: GUEST,john the ferret moran aussie bush poet
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 06:16 AM

i still havent been able to track down that poem relating to "We braved the roaring forties as we came around the cape then the trade winds laid her over and she cut a boiling wake" Hope to see something soon keep up the good work charlie


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 11:06 AM

Thanks, John!

I'm sure your "ship" will finally come in.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: GUEST,Re Bill Adams
Date: 21 Feb 09 - 05:28 PM

I'm a little late on picking up your thread on Bill Adams but my wife's grandfather was (Capt.)Lionel Dale Douglas and shipped on the Silberhorn as an apprentice seaman with Bill Adams. Douglas was aboard from 1897 to 1900 sailing from Liverpool and Antwerp on 3 return voyages to British Columbia, Oregon and California. I am not sure how many of those voyages Adams was also a part of. I have many letters from Adams to Douglas between 1932 and 1949 in which he recounts their experiences on the Silberhorn and his subsequent non-seafaring activities ashore. Douglas went on to a long career with Canadian Pacific Steamships sailing between Vancouver and the Orient... a career that Adams appeared envious of.

Wayne Dutcher
Parksville, British Columbia
Canada
wsquared@shaw.ca


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 06 Mar 09 - 12:56 PM

Wayne-

I just got back from a two week revisit to Ethiopia where I had taught geography over 40 years ago. My wife kindly mentioned that you had posted to this thread.

It is really nice to be in contact with a family member. Please give a listen to the two poems by Bill Adams that I set to music, "Bound Away" and "Sea Cook" available on my website as MP3 samples.

My wife and I plan to be out in the Vancouver area in September, doing some music and looking at eagle nests. Maybe we could get together.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: shipcmo
Date: 28 Feb 10 - 03:56 PM

Charlie,
Back in my performing days I found that a recitation was as good as a song. I particularly remember doing "The Nantucket Skipper" by James T. Fields.
Some of these posts would go over well. Generally it takes a Bass Voice.
I used to say, that sailor's voices had been ruined by rotgut whiskey and rotten tobacco, and that I had spared no expense to achieve that result.
Following Seas,
George


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 01 Mar 10 - 09:41 AM

There are a couple more old sailor-poets I've been working with recently:

William McFee, marine engineer
Edwin J. Brady, tally clerk on the Sydney docks

I'll post some of my adaptations of their nautical poems for singing soon.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 01 Mar 10 - 09:53 AM

This nautical poem may be related to the lines posted above by "John the Ferret":

By Angus Cameron Robertson (Mariner)
Born 1867 Skye, Scotland.
Published 1927 Dunedin. NZ

THE OLD TEA-CLIPPER DAYS

I have sailed in old tea-clippers,
Full rigged clippers, lofty, trim;
Bounding o'er the laughing waters
With the wind abaft the beam,
And her lovely, snowy-white wings-
All a-pulling in the gale:
Now behold, she rolls to leeward,
Now she dips her weather rail.

I can see her slanting wet decks,
Green with slime amidships too:
I can hear old Bill, the bos'un
Cursing at our bully crew:
I can see each hairy visage
Laughing in the briny spray
Swinging on the topsail halliards,
Singing chanties wild and gay.

Oh! the rushing of the waters
As we haul and pull with glee,
Lashing, driving in our faces,
Filling seaboots to the knee,
With our soul and body lashings
Hauled full taut around the waist,
While the bos'un curse like thunder,
"Damn your eyes! Belay! Make Haste!"

We have split the hardy pantiles
With our sheath-knives thro' and thro;
And took out the crawling maggots
Ere we hashed them for the crew,
We have felt the pangs of hunger
As we made some cracker hash -
"Dandy-fank" and "spotted harry,"
Mixed with sugar brown, a dash.

We have tacked and ran before it,
In the roaring forties - well -
We have wallow'd in the Tropics
Where the sun's as hot as Hell!
In a stark and stinking blizzard,
We have weathered old Cape Horn;
And we passed the "Flying Dutchman"
With his topsails rent and torn.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Old Sailor-Poets (early 1900's)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 07:56 AM

Here's another poem by Master Mariner Angus Robertson:

By Angus Cameron Robertson (Mariner)
Born 1867 Skye, Scotland.
Published 1927 Dunedin. NZ

A Heavy Squall at Sea


Wild-frouded clouds fly 'neath a frowning heaven,
By roaring tempest toss'd and swiftly riven:
The lightning plays in awful blinding flashes:
Then quickly follow pealing thunder crashes.
The sea is roaring as 'twould roar its last,
And flying foam, in sheets, are upward cast.

Now heeling o'er till on beam ends we lay,
And yards are dipping in the angry fray:
The deaf'ning tumult roaring in the ear,
We cannot act, we cannot see or hear.
The sails are rent and up and down the stays,
The sparks are flying in a wildering blaze.

Now out to windward, on the weather side,
We dearly cling to life and there abide,
Expecting every moment in the gloom
To see our good ship plunging to her doom.
As helpless we await the final plunge!
Our fate seems balanced on a fragile hinge.

Our chance seems hopeless, yet suspense is keen,
Amid the tumult and the deaf'ning din.
The squall at last is o'er, its fury spent.
But leaves us wrecked, with sails and cordage rent --
But worse than that: five seamen and a boy --
The latter, too, his mother's hope and joy --
Are lost forever ere the dawn of day
Amid the fury and the blinding spray.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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