Ben Backstay

Ben Backstay loved the gentle Anna,
Constant as purity was she,
Her honey words, like succ'ring manna,
Cheer'd him each voyage he made to sea.

One fatal morning saw them parting,
While each the other's sorrow dried,
They, by the tear that then was starting,
Wow'd to be constant till they died.

At distance from his Anna's beauty,
While howling winds the sky deform,
Ben sighs, and well performs his duty,
And braves for love the frightful storm.

Alas, in vain —the vessel batter'd,
On a rock splitting, open'd wide;
While lacerated, torn, and shatter’d,
Ben thought of Anna, sigh'd, and died.

The semblance of each charming feature,
That Ben had worn around his neck,
Where art stood substitute for nature,
A tar, his friend, saved from the wreck.

In fervent hope, while Anna, burning,
Blush’d as she wish'd to be a bride,
The portrait came—joy turn'd to mourning—
She saw, grew pale, sunk down, and died.

Sea Songs and Ballads by Dibdin, 1865

Ben Backstay was our boatswain,
A very merry boy,
For no one half so merrily
Could pipe all hands ahoy,
And when unto his summons
We did not well attend,
No lad than he more merrily,
Could handle the rope's end.

Singing chip chow, cherry chow,
Fol de riddle ido.
Singing chip chow, cherry chow,
Fol de riddle ido.

While sailing once, our captain,
Who was a jolly dog,
Served out to all the company,
A double share of grog.
Ben Backstay he got tipsy,
All to his heart's content,
And he being half seas over,
Why overboard he went.

A shark was on the larboard bow,
Sharks don't on manners stand,
But grapple all the come near,
Just like your sharks on land.
We heaved Ben out some tackling
Of saving him some hope's,
But the shark had bit his head off,
So he couldn't see the ropes.

Without his head his ghost appeared
All on the briny lake;
He piped all hands ahoy and cried:
"Lads, warning by me take;
By drinking grog I lost my life,
So, lest my fate you meet,
Why, never mix your liquors, lads,
But always take them neat."

From An American Sailor's Treasury by Frank Shay (1991)