Mudcat Café message #3715208 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #157373   Message #3715208
Posted By: Lighter
08-Jun-15 - 09:45 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: Chanteys in the R.W. Gordon papers
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Chanteys in the R.W. Gordon papers
On August 16, 1923, "T. R." of Buffalo, N.Y., sent Gordon an untitled copy of the poem called "Seafarers" given on another thread by Charley Noble from a Vancouver newspaper of 1910.

Hugill, who suspected correctly that it had originated as a poem, gives a fuller version as a capstan chantey sung to the tune of "Can't You Dance the Polka?"

Parts of T.R.'s letter are interesting:

"I am sending you a copy of a poem I picked up a number of years ago. Fact is a Yank sailor gave it to me in Calcutta, India. Every time I read it it seems to impress me in a different way. No doubt we have all read something some time or other like that.

"Shortly after it was given to me I heard the man was killed in a fight....

"I am waiting for my pal to come up from the Argentine to with me on a trip to Afghanistan and Persia. We expect to be gone about five years. Rhis will be my second trip to the roof of the world.

"Have spent most of my life in the Orient, mostly China and Korea."


Shanghaied in San Francisco,
And brought up in Bombay;
They set us afloat in an old sea boat,
That steered like a stack of hay.
We panted in the Tropics,
With the pitch boiling up on deck,
We saved our lives and a little besides,
From an ice-cold North Sea wreck.

We drank our rum in Portland,
Stressed up the Bering Strait --
I toed the mark on Yank bark,
With a hard-boiled Down-East mate.
I know the streets of Santos,
And the loom of the lone Azores,
I ate my grub from a salt-horse tub
Condemned by the naval stores.

I know the track to Auckland,
The light on Sydney Head;
I kept close-hauled while the leadsman called
The depths of the Channel's bed.
I know the quays of Glasgow,
And the river at Saigon,
I drank my glass with a Chinee lass
In a house-boat at Canton.

They paid us off at London
Then Ho for a spell ashore,
Again we'll ship for a Southern trip
In a week, or hardly more.
We say goodbye to all the girls
'Tis time to get afloat,
With an aching head and a straw-stuffed bed,
A knife, a gat, and an oilskin coat.

'Tis time to leave her, Johnnie,
Sing, "Bound for the Rio Grande"
When the tug turns back, we'll follow her track,
For the long last look at land.
And when the purple disappears,
And nothing but the blue is seen,
My bones go down to Davy Jones
My soul to Fiddler's Green.


My note: The final quatrain is a little distorted. Why should the ship apparently sink in fine weather as soon as the land disappears? (In Hugill's version, the blue ocean will eventually take the sailors' bones to Davy Jones.)

The presence in T.R,'s version of a "gat" (pistol) besides the knife and oilskin is notable.

Gordon's papers include another, somewhat shorter version sent in 1922 to Robert Frothingham, his predecessor at Adventure magazine.