Naval Songs & Ballads - online book

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

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Frolic narrates how he had learned to sympathise with the sufferings of sailors by being himself impressed. Both are reprinted in John Ashton's Modern Street Ballads, pp. 228, 232.
During the great war, the patriotic sea-song and songs about sailors, such as those written by the Dibdins and their imitators, had attained enormous popularity on shore, and some at sea too. Charles Dibdin's first naval song, Blow high, blow low, was produced about 1776, and he continued to produce till about 1810. It was said by a biographer that ' he brought more men into the navy in war time than all the press-gangs could,' and he boasted in his autobiography, ' My songs have been the solace of sailors in long voyages, in storm, in battle; and they have been quoted in mutinies to the restoration of order and discipline {Autobiography, i. 8). Except in a very few cases, such as Tom Bowling, this popularity was not lasting. 'It is doubtful,' says Sir C. Bridge, ' if they were even very popular in the forecastle. At places of enter­tainment on shore, some of them may have been heard with pleasure by seamen, but the great majority of them were either never favourites afloat, or at any rate had but a short-lived popularity. By the middle of the nineteenth century, when the old fore-bitter had still a vigorous existence, C. Dibdin's songs were very rarely sung on board ship' (Intro­duction to Stone's Sea Songs and Ballads, p. xiii).
Novelists and playwrights imitated Dibdin. Captain Marryat, who brought together a few genuine old songs in Poor Jack, inserted some nautical songs of his own composition in Snarleyow, the best of which is reprinted in this collection (p. 322). Others, apparently never published, which include defences of flogging and impressment, are to be found in his Life by his daughter. Captain