Naval Songs & Ballads - online book

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

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1870 there are many about sailors at sea and on shore, but they are mostly amatory or romantic. The most interesting are stories about shipwrecks or crudely realistic ditties about sprees on shore which illustrate the history of the merchant service rather than the navy. Such titles as The Liverpool Landlady, The Sailors Frolic or Life in the East, and Rolling Down Wapping are a sufficient indiĀ­cation of their contents. Amongst this miscellaneous mass there are a few ballads relating to incidents in naval history occurring between 1815 and the Crimean war. They are poor things, lacking in the spirit and the vigorous realism which often redeem the doggerel verses of the previous century.
For that reason it will suffice to quote a few of those which survive, and to print half a dozen of the best as specimens.
The bombardment of Algiers by Lord Exmouth on August 27, 1816, was the first important naval event after the peace of 1815. It is narrated in a ballad printed by James Catnach, in, which a sailor who had served on board the Superb undertook to tell ' how we fought like any lions bold to set the Christians free.' Three verses may be quoted :
' On the twenty-seventh of August, just by the break of
day, We espied the city of Algiers to windward of us lay ; " All hands, all hands to quarters," it was the general cry, " Come load your guns with round and grape before we
draw too nigh."
' The first was the Queen Charlotte so nobly led the van, She was followed by the Superb, Captain Atkins gave
command, The next was the Leander with all her warlike crew, She was followed by the Impregnable, Rear-Admiral of
the Blue.'