Naval Songs & Ballads - online book

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

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collection also contains Purcell's song of Britons, strike home, from the opera of Bonduca, 1695, which is founded on Fletcher's play of the same name. It was an adjuration to the ancient Britons to avenge the wrongs which their country and Queen had suffered from the Romans, but seems to have been adopted in the navy as a suitable battle-song. An eighteenth-century pamphlet, describing an action between an English privateer and a French ship, relates the following incident:—' The master-at-arms had one of his arms and part of his body torn away: in this bloody condition he was carried down to the surgeon, who saying it was impossible to save his life, and the poor man finding himself dying, bravely in his last moments sung the song of " Britons, strike home," and expired with the words in his mouth ' (A faithful Narrative of the cruel Sufferings of Captain Death and his crew, by Samuel Stoakes, 1757 [?], p. 6).
Songs imported from plays or operas were not likely to become popular on board ship until after they had obtained general popularity on shore. One of the characteristics of the ballad literature of the last quarter of the seventeenth century is the great increase in the number of ballads describing the lives, adventures, loves, marriages, meetings and partings of sailors. Most of them were written for consumption on shore, but some doubtless became popular at sea. The printed collection of ballads contain many speci­mens. In the Bagford Ballads there are reprints of The Mariners Misfortune, a tale of a ship­wrecked sailor and a maiden who for his sake went to sea in disguise; The Seaman s Adieu to his pretty Betty, and The Fair Maid's Choice, which is ' Of all sorts of tradesmen a seaman for me' {Bagford Ballads, i. 247, 274, 289). In the Rox-