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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30               Music of the Waters.
It is not either necessary or would it be interesting for me to relate at any length, the manner in which many of these chanties have been obtained. I have taken down myself the greater part from the sailors ; sometimes at my own house, sometimes at one of theirs, occasionally in a hospital, or on board ship. There have been difficulties often in my way, in spite of the great kindness I have everywhere had shown me, but I have never had the experience of one of my numerous correspondents—namely that of having the chanties sung to him sotto voce. It appears that he, like many others, had entertained the idea of collecting the Sailors'songs and had accordingly made a beginning, which he has since handed over to me. " I was," he says, "some time ago making a ninety days' voyage in an old ' sailer' and as a pastime I commenced what you have since so ably completed, the task of making a collection of the working songs of the sea. I took notes of the best of the capstan and other songs included in the repertoire of our not very large crew. At first I jotted down the words and music in my note-book while the men were actually hauling at the ropes—but this method promised to yield as many versions of each song as there were sailors (for each man had his own pet way of leading), so that I was constrained to try some other plan. It was this. I selected the most vocal of the crew —a splendid fellow, as supple as a panther, and first at everything. He visited me in my cabin at stated moments, and as his presence was a grave breach of the rules, he had, like Bottom, to ' roar him as gently as any sucking dove.' In a word the songs were given out in a sort of roaring whisper, or whispering roar, which greatly exercised the curiosity of the passengers in the adjacent saloon. Even this chosen songster proved untrue to himself and gave me the same song in different ways, at different times, and this accounts, no doubt, for the discrepancies that exist between some of the songs as given by you, and as taken by myself." I believe it is for this reason, that the chanties have remained so long uncollected. Of course, I

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