The Common Sailor
I am a man before the mast, I plough the trackless sea
And on this simple subject, won't you please enlighten me?
Common sailors we are called, pray tell me the reason why
This sneering adjective unto us which you so often reply
Don't call us common sailors any more, any more
Don't call us common sailors any more
Good things to you we bring, why call us common men?
We're as good as any lubber on the shore
When speaking of a man on shore I never hear you say
He is a common this or that, be his calling what it may
Be he a travelling tinker, a scavenger or sweep
Then why term common unto those who travel on the deep?
For is it not your proudest boast that England rules the waves?
But could you say as much if none its dangers brave?
Among the nations of the world what would old England be
But for those battles dearly won by her children on the sea
How would you get your luxuries, will you just tell to me
Unless these men from foreign lands brought you sugar, coffee and tea?
And when the merry Christmas comes how would your pudding taste
Unless these men from foreign lands brought you spices, fruits and grapes?
Say you are invited to the boons and many more
To the common British sailor that seeks the foreign shore
Young ladies of our country too you should our calling bless
For the foreign silks and satins of which you make your dress
To be admired by gentlemen undoubtfully you do
Then don't despise such gallant men that bring such dainties to you
And lads that like the fragrant weed, while smoking at your ease
Just think upon those sleepless nights we spend upon the seas
And all of you that slight us so I'd have you go and try
One night upon the stormy sea when raging winds are high
Amidst the driving, blinding snow, the pelting hail and rain
It would be a tempting circumstance if they caught you there again
But we ask not for you pity, but give to us our due
Respect us in proportion for the good things that we do
And the good things that you ask us for we will faithfully procure
It shall be brought without delay unto your very door
Excuse our little awkwardness, we are not perfect, quite
Our heads, I own, are sometimes wrong, but I hope our hearts are right
I hope the time will soon be past
When folks on shore despise a man who sails before the mast
And lastly this wholesome track by nobody be forgot
With lords and dukes and all the highest folds must share our common lot
from The Oxford Book of Sea Songs, Roy Palmer, ed.