Sailor Shanties ~ Lyrics Index
Shanties were labour songs sung by sailors of the merchant service
only while at work, and never by way of recreation. Moreover--at
least, in the nineteenth century--they were never used aboard
men-o'-war, where all orders were carried out in silence to the pipe
of the bo'sun's whistle.
Shanties may be roughly divided, as regards their use, into two
classes: (a) Hauling shanties, and (b) Windlass and Capstan. The
former class accompanied the setting of the sails, and the latter the
weighing of the anchor, or 'warping her in' to the wharf, etc. Capstan
shanties were also used for pumping ship. A few shanties were
'interchangeable,' i.e. they were used for both halliards and capstan.
The subdivisions of each class are interesting, and the nature of the
work involving 'walk away,' 'stamp and go,' 'sweating her up,' 'hand
over hand,' and other types of shanty would make good reading; but
nautical details, however fascinating, must be economized in a musical
Capstan shanties are readily distinguishable by their music. The
operation of walking round the capstan (pushing the capstan bars in
front of them) was continuous and not intermittent. Both tune and
chorus were, as a rule, longer than those of the hauling shanty, and
there was much greater variety of rhythm. Popular songs, if they had a chorus or refrain, could be, and were, effectively employed for
windlass and capstan work.
Hauling shanties were usually shorter than capstan ones, and are of
two types: those used for 'the long hoist' and those
required for 'the short pull' or 'sweating-up.' Americans called these
operations the 'long' and the 'short drag.' The former was used when
beginning to hoist sails, when the gear would naturally be slack and
moderately easy to manipulate. It had two short choruses, with a
double pull in each. In the following example, the pulls are marked
[music accent symbol].
WINDLASS & CAPSTAN SHANTIES:
Bound for the Rio Grande
Good-bye, fare ye well
Johnny come down to Hilo
Clear the track, let the Bullgine run
The Hog's-eye Man
The Wild Goose Shanty
We're all bound to go
What shall we do with the drunken sailor?
Blow, my bully boys
Blow the man down
Good morning, ladies all
Oh run, let the Bullgine run
The Dead Horse
Tom's gone to Hilo
Boney was a warrior
FORE-SHEET OR SWEATING-UP SHANTIES:
Haul away, Joe
We'll haul the bowlin'
Paddy Doyle's boots
The Shanty Book
(Curwen Edition 6308)
Collected and Edited, with Pianoforte Accompaniment, by RICHARD
RUNCIMAN TERRY, with a Foreword by SIR WALTER RUNCIMAN, Bart.
J. Curwen & Sons Ltd., 24 Berners Street, W. 1
Copyright, 1921, by J. Curwen & Sons Ltd.