Music Of The Waters - online book

Sailors' Chanties, Songs Of The Sea, Boatmen's, Fishermen's,
Rowing Songs, & Water Legends with lyrics & sheet music

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4                Music of the Waters.
vocational conditions so accurately, that any divergence from the exact expression would puzzle a seaman exceed­ingly. The idiosyncrasies of the forecastle are many, and one can readily sympathize with the feelings of the Judge 'who was so much puzzled by Jack's evidence, which Mr. Clark Russell- speaks of in his humorous preface to his book on " Sailors' Language."
A man must go to sea to understand (as a sailor), the shades of signification in the terms ; no books give them, they cannot be mastered by listening to seamen talking, and to seek for an explanation of any nautical phrase which strikes one as being peculiar, is only to let oneself deeper and deeper into the mire. Therefore, if the words Jack sets to his music seem wanting in meaning and lacking in sense, we must attribute it to the difference that exists between the seamen's mode of expressing themselves and ours. The sailor does not lack for singing; he sings at certain parts of his work—indeed he must sing if he would work.
On vessels of war, the drum, fife, or boatswain's whistle furnish the necessary movement regulator. There is a vast difference between the merchant sailor and his fellow " salt," the man-o'-war's man, whom they call "Johnny Haul-taut," or " John o' Fight." They hold each other in mutual derision, although without any unfriendly feeling. Accus­tomed to the comparative independence and free life of a merchant-vessel, they look with scorn on the binding disci­pline and severe penalties of a man-o'-war, and laugh contemptuously as they watch the crew in uniform dress walk round the windlass, and weigh anchor like mechanical dummies:—
" Your work is very hard, my boys, Upon the ocean sea, And for your reefing topsails, I'd rather you as me— I feather my oar unto the shore, So happy as I be in the Guard-ship, ho ! "

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III