Sea shanties and maritime music

"I've put in a good many hard years on shipboard," old Tom Shea told me, "and I've shipped with some queer lookin' crews, but let me tell ye that when the shanties was started everything got jolly and cheerful at once, and the men that never seen each other before acted like wot they was old friends. — And ye needn't think," he added, "that the shanties was all noise and yellin'. There was some fine singers in them old crews, and it was great to hear them at the shanties."

W. R. Mackenzie, Ballads and Sea Songs from Nova Scotia, 1928

This Day in History (February 29, 1908)

This Day in History (January 8, 1806)

The death of Lord Nelson was a national tragedy like no other for England. "From Greenwich to Whitehall Stairs, on the 8th of January, 1806, in one of the greatest Aquatic Processions that ever was beheld on the River Thames" drifted the royal shallop (barge). The event is referenced in the modern lament, Carrying Nelson Home. Nelson is mentioned in nearly a dozen other songs.

Try a random shanty sampling

The Sailor Boy
Forecastle song

The sailing trade it's a weary life
It's robbed me of my heart's delight
It's left me here in tears to mourn
Awaiting for my true love's return.

For where he is I cannot tell
Nor in whose arms does my true love dwell
For who enjoys him at this same time
Enjoys the fairest of all mankind.

There was four and twenty all in a room
And my true love Billie carriet the bloom
He carriet the bloom oot o'er them a'
If I get nae Billie I'll hae nane ava.

O father father give me a boat,
That on the ocean it may float,
That on the ocean it may float,
That I may learn the fate of my sailor boy.

She hadna been long on the deep
Till a man-o'-war vessel she chance to meet,
"Sail on sail on my jolly crew,
Does my true love Billie sail in wi' you?"

"What kind of clothes does your Billy wear,
Or what is the colour of your true love's hair?"
"His jacket's blue like the sailor bold,
And his hair it shines like the yellow gold."

O lady, lady I would rather fear,
That your true lover billy is not here,
This very last night as the wind blew high,
We lost a charming young sailor boy.

She wrung her hands and tore her hair,
Just like a lady in despair,
And cried, "Alas what can I do?
I cannot live when my Billy's gone."

O sailors, sailors go all in black,
O sailors, sailors go mournfully,
Tie a black silk scarf to your top mast high,
And mourn the loss on my sailor boy.

She threw herself into a room
And called for a paper to write a song,
At every line she dropped a tear,
At every verse cried, "My Billy dear!"

Out o'er a rock and her body's thrown,
I cannot live when my Billy's gone.