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Gibb Sahib Origins: What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor (48) RE: Origins: Drunken Sailor-Dickens question for Gibb 06 Mar 16


Thanks, Steve. Yes, that one has been discussed here in the mega-thread about "The Advent of Chanties."

Here's a similar "years ago" reference published the same time:

Roberts, Edwin F. "Dock-side; Or, Liverpool Twenty-five Years Ago: A Local Sketch." _The United Service Magazine_ 2.319 (June 1855): 240-8.

Appears to quote from [DRUNKEN SAILOR] as heard circa 1830.

Pg. 248
//
On either side a dock-gateman is winding open the enormous watergates. The tide is up to the level of that held in the dock; and, being high water, vessels are now coming in and going out. Here is one entering the gut outward-bound, heavily laden, and looking very trim and compact. Half a dozen men and a gigantic negro are heaving away at the capstan. The topsails are hanging in the brails. As yet she is short-handed, for the whole of the crew are not aboard; but here they come, drunk and sober, leaping and tumbling upon the decks. Some go below to sleep their orgies out, and some aloft and hither and thither—and the vessel's way is quickened.
She is not yet out of the dock gates, and till then the gateman acts as a sort of pilot to her—giving directions and orders in the quick, short, stern tone which is the habit of seamen, from the fact that whatever is to be done must be done instantaneously, at once, without debate or dispute.
"Ship ahoy!" the gateman sings out, while, with a merry tramp and an enlivening song, the capstan bars go round—with some such burthen as this:
"Shove him in the long-boat till he gets sober."
//

The ultimate way-back reference is _Minstrelsy of Maine_ (1927), in which the editors claim that one of their grandmothers used to hear it sung by sailors on the Penobscot River over 100 years earlier.

For study purposes, I don't consider "Drunken Sailor" to be a chanty. According to my interpretation, it was one of a (seemingly small) repertoire of working songs that predate the advent of the chanty genre to the Anglophone sailing ships. So, one would expect to find it before the late 1830s, and we do. More notably: We find it rather *disappear* (from popularity) when chanties come in (and, yes, as ships' methods and crews changed). Authors throughout the main practice period of chanties (say, 1840s-70s) -- aside from these way-back comments -- give it no attention. It is Davis and Tozer's fanciful collection that puts "Drunken Sailor" on the table as something to consider in a discourse of "chanties." And John Masefield and others pick it up. This is where, I think, one's definition of the term "chanty" actually matters. Finer distinctions need to be made by us than were made by the popular writers of the last century.


the "Pequod" was patterned after the American whaler "Essex," launched 1799

While the whale story of _Moby Dick_ was inspired by the account of the ESSEX, the PEQUOD and life within were modeled on the 1840 whaler ACUSHNET in which Melville worked, and other experiences had by Melville as a whalerman, 1841-43. There is very little we would recognize as actual chanties in Melville's whaling accounts; I explain this due to the early date and older technology.

This paper I gave at Mystic Seaport elaborates all these thoughts far better than I could in a single Mudcat post:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8MBMfZJUEBSLWVXdnFOcE5hS3M

Cheers,

Gibb


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