Naval Songs & Ballads - online book

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

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A sailor took a more cheerful view of the situation :
' When I was on the yard the topsail for to furl,
The pilot came on board and said " There's peace with
all the world " ; But if war should come again I'm damned if I won't enter, And for my country and my king my life and limb I'll
venture.' (Fragment communicated by Sir J. K. Laughton.)
As at every peace, there were complaints that when the sailor was no more needed a thankless country turned him adrift to starve. The British Tars enforces this moral (p. 316). Sailors who remained in the service had a different cause of complaint, namely, the increasing strictness of discipline in minor matters. 'About 1806,'says Clowes, on the authority of Lord Dundonald, ' undue prominence began to be assigned to what is still vulgarly called in the service " spit and polish." Too much imĀ­portance was attached to " the brightening of brass heads, of bitts, and capstan hoops," and too little to the condition of the ship as a fighting machine' (Royal Navy, v. 19). After the peace this tendency increased, and the discomforts of a sailor's life in a smart ship with a martinet for her captain became the theme of several ballads. The Fancy Frigate, The Saucy Scylla, and The Vanguard are examples of this (pp. 316-21).
An older grievance now ended. Impressment had risen to its height during the great war with France. In a volume of Northumbrian Minstrelsy published by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne are many songs referring to the press-gang.
' Here's the tender coming pressing all the men ! Oh, dear hinny, what shall we do then ? Here's the tender coming off at Shields' bar, Here's the tender coming full of men-of-war.'