Naval Songs & Ballads - online book

3 Centuries Of Naval History In Shanties & Sea Songs With Lyrics & Notes

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With the reign of William III. there was a great increase in the number of naval ballads pub­lished, due to the increased interest which the nation took in maritime affairs.
The war with France was popular both with the navy itself and with the people. ' Lewis, that Christian Turk,' was generally hated as a sovereign who designed to ruin all Protestant princes, and« sought to ' lay a heavy yoke' on the free English nation. This is the argument set forth in The Boatswain s Call to induce sailors to enter the navy. Impressment was necessary. ' Some,' continues the ballad, ' dread and fear the press as much as dying,
' And skulk like frighted slaves here in distraction To hide in dens and caves from warlike action.'
But for the moment popular feeling was in favour of impressment. So at all events the ballad called The Maidens Frolic seems to prove, which relates how ' six lusty lasses pressed fourteen tailors.' Another ballad, The Undaunted Seaman, describes a sailor resolving to venture his life ' to subdue the pride of France ' in spite of ' his love's sorrowful lamentation.' A fourth relates a maid's attempt to buy her lover's discharge for ten pounds.
1 Not ten pounds or twenty will buy his discharge, Fair maid, you must patiently bear ; He shall go to sea for his King to engage, And he must bid adieu to his dear.'
Thus the captain answers, and the maid is convinced, and resigns herself to the parting (pp. 97-106).
The first task the navy took part in was the reconquest of Ireland. Unfortunately there seem to be no ballads extant either on the relief of London­derry or the fight in Bantry Bay. Crofton Croker's Historical Songs of Ireland, published by the Percy