Naval Songs & Ballads - online book

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

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it, with the omission of three or four words, the stanza about Captain Crosbie, which is not in Halliwell's version, has been added. A slipsong printed by Jennings, Water Lane, Fleet Street, about the beginning of the nineteenth century, gives the verse thus:
' And there Captain Kirby proved a coward at last, And with Wade played at bo-peep behind the main-mast; And there they did stand, boys, and quiver and shake, For fear those French dogs their lives should take.'
"This was originally a much longer ballad : in the Jennings and Douce versions there are many variants and some additional lines. The third and fourth stanzas in the former run as follows :
' We took our leave of them, and made quick dispatch, And we steered our course to the island of Vache; And turning to the windward as near as we could lie, ■ On the 14th of August ten sail we did espy.
They hoisted their pendants and their colours spread, And they hoisted their bloody flag at the topmast head; Then we hoisted our jack flag at the mizen peak, And so brought up our squadron in a line most complete.'
The Douce version has this fourth stanza in slightly different words, but omits the third. It reads 'chance shot' instead of ' chain shot.' No good text can be put together till some older and more authoritative edition of the ballad is discovered. For the tune, see Chappell's Old English Popular Music, ii. 92, and also Sharpe's Folk Songs from Somerset, No. 73.
Historically the first line of the ballad is incorrect. Benbow sailed first to Barbadoes and thence to Port Royal (see Clowes, ii. 368). As to the details of the engagement, the account of the court-martial on Benbow's captains is printed in State Trials, xiv. 538-546. The fight was August 19-24, 1702 ; the trial, October 8-12, 1702. Benbow was wounded at three in the morning of August 24,' his right leg being broke, but commanded the fight to be vigorously maintained,' after which, says the report, he ' lay wounded in a cradle.'
Crosbie in verse 6 should be Kirkby. Captain Richard Kirkby, commander of the Defiance, was sentenced to be shot. In the report it is alleged ' that during the six days' engagement he never encouraged his men; but by his own example of dodging behind the mizen-mast, and falling down upon the deck on the noise of shot . . . the said men were under great dis­couragement.'