The Ship in Distress sea ballad

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“You Seamen Bold” or “The Ship in Distress” is a sea song that tries to describe the horrors suffered on a ship adrift in the ocean and without more food on board. Probably the origin begins with a Portuguese ballad of the sixteenth century (in the golden age of the Portuguese vessels), taken from the French tradition with the title La Corte Paille.

This further version was very popular in the south of England
A. L. Lloyd writes ‘The story of the ship adrift, with its crew reduced to cannibalism but rescued in the nick of time, has a fascination for makers of sea legends. Cecil Sharp, who collected more than a thousand songs from Somerset, considered The Ship in Distress to be the grandest tune he had found in that country.’ (from here)
Louis Killen

Martin Carhty & Dave Swarbrick from But Two Came By 1968Marc Almond from Son Of Rogues Gallery ‘Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys ANTI 2013

I
You seamen bold who plough the ocean
See dangers landsmen never know.
It’s not for honour and promotion;
No tongue can tell what they undergo.
In the blusterous wind and the great dark water
Our ship went drifting on the sea,
Her rigging (1) gone, and her rudder broken,
Which brought us to extremity (2).
II
For fourteen days, heartsore and hungry,
Seeing but wild water and bitter sky,
Poor fellows, they stood in a totter,
A-casting lots as to which should die.
The lot (3) it fell on Robert Jackson,
Whose family was so very great.
‘I’m free to die, but oh, my comrades,
Let me keep look-out till the break of day.’
III
A full-dressed ship like the sun a-glittering(4)
Came bearing down to their relief.
As soon as this glad news was shouted,
It banished all their care and grief.
The ship brought to, no longer drifting,
Safe in Saint Vincent, Cape Verde, she gained.
You seamen all, who hear my story,
Pray you’ll never suffer the like again (5).

NOTES
1) Marc say  headgear
2) extremity: bring to the extremes to be intended also in a moral sense
3 )the one who pulled the shorter straw was the “winner”, and sacrificed himself for the benefit of the survivors, this practice was called  ”the custom of the sea”: to leave the choice of the sacrificial victim to fate, it excluded the murder by necessity from being a premeditated murder
4) the juxtaposition between the two verses with the man ready for the sacrifice and sighting at dawn of the ship that will rescue them, it wants to mitigate the harsh reality of cannibalism, a horrible practice to say but that is always lurking in the moments of desperation and as an extreme resource for survival. In reality we do not know if the ship was only dreamed of by the sacrificial victim.
5) surviving sailors rarely resume the sea after the cases of cannibalism (see for example the Essex whaling story). In 1884 an English court condemned two of the three sailors of the “Mignonette” yacht who had killed Richard Parker, the 17-year-old cabin boy (the third had immunity because he agreed to testify); the death sentence was commuted at a later time in six months in prison. A curious case is that Edgar Allan Poe in 1838 in “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket ” tells of four survivors forced into a lifeboat who decide to rely on the “law of the sea”, the cabin boy that pulled the shorter straw was called Richard Parker!

Little Boy Billy
The Banks of Newfoundland

LINK
https://mainlynorfolk.info/lloyd/songs/theshipindistress.html
http://www.mustrad.org.uk/songbook/sea_bold.htm
http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=22872
https://anglofolksongs.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/the-ship-in-distress/
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/anche-i-cannibali-hanno-un-cuoree-se-lo-mangiano-luca-luca-nave
http://www.canestrinilex.com/risorse/dudley-and-stephens-case-1884-mignonette/

The Eastern Light (the Banks of Newfoundland)

Leggi in italiano

There are several sea songs entitled “the Banks of Newfoundland”, not to be properly considered variations on the same melody, even if they share a common theme, the dangers of fishing or navigation offshore of Newfoundland.

Most sad was my misfortune in the year of ‘sixty-three

Sometimes as “The Eastern Light” the ballad of the Canadian tradition entitled “the Banks of Newfoundland” describes a fishing season on the Great Banks of Newfoundland , the fishing boat left the port of Gloucester (Massachusetts) in the month of March and our sailor was definitely drunk when boarding.

Kenneth Peacock collected it from James Rice in 1951, and published it in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Volume 1, 1965, he noted that this appears to be an American ballad of New England origin, also Helen Creighton had collected this ballad in Nova Scotia as The Gloucester Fishermen,

Jim Rice [1879-1958] of Cape Broyle from MUNFLA ♪

The Dardanelles live,  (from The Eastern Light, 2011) instrumental arrangement Matthew Byrne & Billy Sutton

I
‘Twas of my sad misfortune
in the year of seventy-three (1),
I set on board the fisher ship
all off a drunken spree (2),
her name it was The Eastern Light (3),
as you might  understand,
We were bound down on a salt sea trip to the Banks of Newfoundland.
II
The saturday day beein the first of March, we left Gloucester port
the girls all wove their handkerchiefs
as we sailed down the shore
we had a jar of rum on board
which gathered round all the crew,
We drank the health to the Gloucester girls, in bidding us adieu.
III
It’s early in the morning boys
our cook he give a bawls,
“Get out and get your breakfast, b’ys, get out and haul your trawls (4).
You’ll scarce have time to light your pipe, your dory (5) she do go,
You’ll have to make three sets today
no matter how hard it blows”
IV
We fished around  the foggy bank (6)
the space of seventeen days,
We boarded a couple of Frenchmen boat, no brandy could we raise.
The halibut they be in kind of scarce, we run our cod-fish gear,
our skipper he says ‘I’ll fill her up, if it takes a half a year.”
V
We fished around the foggy bank
our skipper he louded shout
“Come hoist aboard your dories, b’ys, and break your anchor out;
come hoist the …(?)
we’ll get her under way,
provisions are getting kind of scarce, we can no longer stay,
VI
And now the anchor’s on the bow
we are homeward bound,
And when we get to Gloucester port
we’ll pass the glasses round.
We’ll go down to Johnny McLoudy
and we’ll have a happy night,
We’ll drink the health of the Gloucester girls,
and success to the “Eastern Light”.


NOTES
* transcribed by Cattia Salto in part from here
1) the date changes for some is 1873. for others the 1863: also written as “in eighteen hundred and seventy-three”
2) in some verses not reported here the sailor curses his love for liquor, because if he had kept sober, he would never have boarded
3) a fishing vessel named “Eastern Light” 70 tons, was built in 1866, owned by “Maddocks and Company of Gloucester”, Massachusetts.
4) “Banks Dory” is the boat built in a serial way and in large quantities starting from 1850, flat-bottomed for one or two men depending on the dimension. see more.
5) but traditional fishing on the Great Banks at least until the end of the nineteenth century was done with lines (see more)
6)  The Grand Banks of Newfoundland are a group of underwater plateaus south-east of Newfoundland roughly triangular in shape often overwhelmed by storms, treacherous and dangerous due to the presence of icebergs and the frequent fog. The mixing of  the cold Labrador Current with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream helped to create one of the richest fishing grounds in the world, but it’s also causes fog in the area, and before the advent of instrumental navigation, it made the Banks very insidious

transportation song
working on a  fisher ship
the Eastern Light
captain’s death (american ballad)
shipwreck and rescue on the Banks (Canadian ballad)

LINK
https://www.mun.ca/folklore/leach/songs/NFLD1/4-12.htm
http://gestsongs.com/01/banks4.htm
http://sniff.numachi.com/pages/tiEASTRNLT.html

The Eastern Light (the Banks of Newfoundland)

Read the post in English

Ci sono parecchie  sea songs dal titolo “the Banks of Newfoundland”,  da non considerarsi propriamente come variazioni su una stessa melodia, anche se condividono un tema comune, i pericoli della pesca o della navigazione al largo di Terranova.

Most sad was my misfortune in the year of ‘sixty-three

Talvolta con il nome “The Eastern Light” la ballata della tradizione canadese intitolata “the Banks of Newfoundland” descrive una stagione di pesca sui Grandi Banchi di Terranova, il peschereccio è partito dal porto di Gloucester (Massachusetts) nel mese di Marzo e il nostro marinaio era decisamente ubriaco al momento dell’imbarco.

Kenneth Peacock che la collezionò da James Rice nel 1951, (in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Volume 1, 1965) ritiene sia stata una ballata americana originaria del New England, anche Helen Creighton ha raccolto la stessa ballata in Nuova Scozia con il titolo di The Gloucester Fishermen.

Jim Rice [1879-1958] di Cape Broyle dall’Archivio MUNFLA ♪

The Dardanelles live,  (in The Eastern Light, 2011) arrangiamento strumentale Matthew Byrne & Billy Sutton


I
‘Twas of my sad misfortune
in the year of seventy-three (1),
I set on board the fisher ship
all off a drunken spree (2),
her name it was The Eastern Light (3),
as you might  understand,
We were bound down on a salt sea trip to the Banks of Newfoundland.
II
The saturday day beein the first of March, we left Gloucester port
the girls all wove their handkerchiefs
as we sailed down the shore
we had a jar of rum on board
which gathered round all the crew,
We drank the health to the Gloucester girls, in bidding us adieu.
III
It’s early in the morning boys
our cook he give a bawls,
“Get out and get your breakfast, b’ys, get out and haul your trawls (4).
You’ll scarce have time to light your pipe, your dory (5) she do go,
You’ll have to make three sets today
no matter how hard it blows”
IV
We fished around  the foggy bank (6)
the space of seventeen days,
We boarded a couple of Frenchmen boat, no brandy could we raise.
The halibut they be in kind of scarce, we run our cod-fish gear,
our skipper he says ‘I’ll fill her up, if it takes a half a year.”
V
We fished around the foggy bank
our skipper he louded shout
“Come hoist aboard your dories, b’ys, and break your anchor out;
come hoist the …(?)
we’ll get her under way,
provisions are getting kind of scarce, we can no longer stay,
VI
And now the anchor’s on the bow
we are homeward bound,
And when we get to Gloucester port
we’ll pass the glasses round.
We’ll go down to Johnny McLoudy
and we’ll have a happy night,
We’ll drink the health of the Gloucester girls,
and success to the “Eastern Light”.
Traduzione italiana Cattia Salto
I
Per triste sventura
nell’anno del settantatré ,
mi sono imbarcato su un peschereccio
ubriaco fradicio,
il suo nome era “The Eastern Light” ,
come saprete
eravamo in partenza per un viaggio nel mare salato ai Banchi di Terranova.
II
Il sabato, il primo di marzo, abbiamo lasciato il porto di Gloucester,
le ragazze sventolavano i fazzoletti,
mentre partivamo da terra,
avevamo a bordo una bottiglia di rum
attorno a cui tutto l’equipaggio si radunò, abbiamo bevuto alla salute delle ragazze di Gloucester, che di dicevano addio.
III
Era l’alba, ragazzi
il nostro cuoco grida,
“Alzatevi a fare colazione, ragazzi,
andate a pescare,
avrete poco tempo per accendere la pipa, la vostra dory deve andare,
dovrete fare tre turni oggi
non importa quanto sia forte il vento”
IV
Abbiamo pescato sui Banchi nebbiosi
per la durata di diciassette giorni,
abbordammo un paio di barchette francesi, ma non potevamo procurarci del brandy
siccome la passera era scarsa, ricorriamo alla nostra attrezzatura per il merluzzo,
il nostro comandante dice “La riempirò, ci volesse un anno e mezzo”.
V
Abbiamo pescato sui Banchi nebbiosi
il nostro comandante ha urlato forte
“Venite a issare a bordo i vostri dory ragazzi, e leviamo l’ancora;
….,
per partire,
le provviste stanno diventando scarse, e non possiamo più restare,
VI
E ora l’ancora è a prua
siamo diretti verso casa,
E quando arriveremo al porto di Gloucester
faremo girare i bicchieri.
Faremo un salto a Johnny McLoudy
per passare una buona serata,
e berremo alla salute delle ragazze di Gloucester,
e al successo della “Eastern Light”.


NOTE
* trascritto da Cattia Salto in parte da qui
1) la data cambia per alcuni è il 1873. per altri il 1863: anche scritto come ” in eighteen hundred and seventy-three”
2) in alcune strofe qui non riportate il marinaio maledice il suo amore per i liquori, perchè se si fosse mantenuto sobrio, non si sarebbe mai imbarcato
3) un peschereccio dal nome “Eastern Light” 70 tonnellate, fu costruito nel 1866, di proprietà di “Maddocks and Company of Gloucester”, Massachusetts.
4) “Banks dory” è la barchetta costruita in modo seriale e in grande quantità a partire dal 1850,  a fondo piatto per uno o due uomini a seconda della dimensione continua.
5) letteralmente dice “trascina le reti da traino” ma la pesca tradizionale sui Grandi Banchi almeno fino alla fine dell’ottocento si faceva con le lenze (vedi)
6) i Grandi Banchi di Terranova: un tratto di mare dal fondale basso a sud-est dell’isola canadese di Terranova, di forma grosso modo triangolare spesso sconvolto dalle tempeste, infido e pericoloso per la presenza di iceberg e la frequente nebbia.  L’incrocio tra la calda corrente del Golfo e la fredda corrente del Labrador, che sollevano dal fondale le sostanze nutrienti, ne fanno una delle zone più pescose al mondo. Il mescolarsi di acque calde e fredde è causa però anche di nebbia che, prima dell’avvento della navigazione strumentale, rendeva la zona molto insidiosa. (daWiki)

transportation song
la pesca sui Banchi
the Eastern Light
morte del capitano (ballata americana)
naufragio e soccorso sui Banchi (ballata canadese)

 

FONTI
https://www.mun.ca/folklore/leach/songs/NFLD1/4-12.htm
http://gestsongs.com/01/banks4.htm
http://sniff.numachi.com/pages/tiEASTRNLT.html