Archivi tag: La Courte Paille

Little Billee sea shanty

Leggi in italiano

A sea song with caustic humorism also entitled “Three Sailors from Bristol City” or “Little Boy Billee”, which deals with a disturbing subject for our civilization, but always around the corner: cannibalism!
The sea is a place of pitfalls and jokes of fate, a storm can take you off course, on a boat or raft, without food and water, it’s a subject also treated in great painting (Theodore Gericault, The raft of the Medusa see): human life poised between hope and despair.

The three sailors

The maritime songs can express the biggest fears with a good laugh! This song was born in 1863 with the title “The three sailors” written by William Makepeace Thackeray as a parody of “La Courte Paille” (= short straw) – that later became “Le Petit Navire” (The Little Corvette) as a nursery rhyme.(see first part): cases of cannibalism at sea as an extreme resource for survival were much debated by public opinion and the courts themselves were inclined to commute death sentences in detention.
The murder by necessity (or the sacrifice of one for the good of others) finds a justification in the terrible experience of death by starvation that pushes the human mind to despair and madness, but in 1884 the case of the sinking of Mignonette broke public opinion and the same home secretary Sir William Harcourt had to say “if these men are not condemned for the murder, we are giving carte blanche to the captain of any ship to eat the cabin boy every time the food is scarce “. (translated from here).
The ruling stands as a leading case and puts life as a supreme good by not admitting murder for necessity as self-defense

Little Billee
Bernard Partridge Cartoons

From notes of “Penguin Book” (1959):
The Portugese Ballad  A Nau Caterineta  and the French ballad  La Courte Paille  tell much the same story.  The ship has been long at sea, and food has given out.  Lots are drawn to see who shall be eaten, and the captain is left with the shortest straw.  The cabin boy offers to be sacrificed in his stead, but begs first to be allowed to keep lookout till the next day.  In the nick of time he sees land (“Je vois la tour de Babylone, Barbarie de l’autre côté”) and the men are saved.  Thackeray burlesqued this song in his  Little Billee.  It is likely that the French ballad gave rise to The Ship in Distress, which appeared on 19th. century broadsides.  George Butterworth obtained four versions in Sussex (FSJ vol.IV [issue 17] pp.320-2) and Sharp printed one from James Bishop of Priddy, Somerset (Folk Songs from Somerset, vol.III, p.64) with “in many respects the grandest air” which he had found in that county.  The text comes partly from Mr. Bishop’s version, and partly from a broadside.”  -R.V.W./A.L.L.

Ralph Steadman from “Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys, ANTI- 2006″.


There were three men of Bristol City;
They stole a ship and went to sea.
There was Gorging Jack and Guzzling Jimmy
And also Little Boy Billee.
They stole a tin of captain’s biscuits
And one large bottle of whiskee.
But when they reached the broad Atlantic
They had nothing left but one split pea.
Said Gorging Jack to Guzzling Jimmy,
“We’ve nothing to eat so I’m going to eat thee.”
Said Guzzling Jimmy, “I’m old and toughest,
So let’s eat Little Boy Billee.”
“O Little Boy Billy, we’re going to kill and eat you,
So undo the top button of your little chemie.(1)”

“O may I say my catechism
That my dear mother taught to me?”
He climbed up to the main topgallant(2)
And there he fell upon his knee.
But when he reached the Eleventh(3) Commandment,
He cried “Yo Ho! for land I see.”
“I see Jerusalem and Madagascaar
And North and South Amerikee.”
“I see the British fleet at anchor
And Admiral Nelson, K.C.B. (4)”
They hung Gorging Jack and Guzzling Jimmy
But they made an admiral of Little Boy Billee.

NOTES
Thackeray lyrics here
1) from french chemise
2) or top fore-gallant
2) his companions did not have to be very attached to the Bible (and probably Billy would have invented new ones to save time!)
4)  “Knight Commander of the Bath”, the chivalrous military order founded by George I in 1725

SEA SHANTY VERSION

According to Stan Hugill “Little Billee” was a sea shanty for pump work, a boring and monotonous job that could certainly be “cheered up” by this little song! Hugill only reports the text saying that the melody is like the French “The était a Petit Navire”, so the adaptation of Hulton Clint  has the performance of a lullaby.

I
There were three sailors of Bristol City;
They stole a boat and went to sea.
But first with beef and hardtack biscuits
And pickled pork they loaded she.
And pickled pork they loaded she
II
There was gorging Jack and guzzling Jimmy,
And likewise there was little Billee.
but when they got to the Equator
They’d only left but one split pea.
III
Then gorging Jack to guzzling Jimmy,
“I am confounded hungaree.”
Says guzzling Jimmy to gorging Jacky
“We’ve no wittles (1), so we must eat we.”
IV
Said Gorging Jack to Guzzling Jimmy,
“Oh Guzzling Jim what a fool you be..
There’s little Billy, who’s young and tender,
We’re old and tough, so let’s eat he.”
V
“Make haste, make haste” then say Guzzling Jimmy
as he drew his snickher snee (2)
“O Billy, we’re going to kill and eat you,
undo the collar of your chemie.”
VI
When William heard this information
he drope down on bended knee
“O let me say my catechism
which my dear mom taught to me”
VII
So up he went to the maintop-gallant
and he drope down on his bended knee
and than he said  all his catechism
which his dear mamy once taught to he
VIII
He scarce had said his catechism
when up he jumps “There’s land I see
Jerusalem and Madagascaar
And North and South Amerikee.”
IX
“Jerusalem and Madagascar,
And North and South Amerikee;
There’s the British fleet a-riding at anchor,
With Admiral Napier, K.C.B.”
X
When they bordered to Admiral’s vessel,
He hanged fat Jack (3) and flogged Jimmee;
as for little Bill they make him
The Captain of a Seventy-three (4).

NOTES
1)  It’s a mispronunciation of “vittles,” which is a corrupted form of “victuals,” which means “food.”
2) a particularly lethal big knife used as a weapon
3)in some versions the degree of guilt between the two sailors is distinguished, so only one is hanged
4) 73 cannon war vessel

And for corollary here is the French version “Un Petit Navire”

LINK
http://www.mamalisa.com/?t=es&p=139
http://www.bartleby.com/360/9/84.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Il_%C3%A9tait_un_petit_navire
http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=8278
http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=22872

Little Boy Billy

Read the post in English

Una canzone del mare umoristica (del tipo caustico)  intitolata anche “Three Sailors from Bristol City” o “Little Boy Billee”, che tratta un argomento inquietante per la nostra civiltà, ma sempre dietro l’angolo: il cannibalismo!
Il mare è un luogo d’insidie e di scherzi del fato, una tempesta ti può portare fuori rotta, su una barcaccia di fortuna o una zattera, senza cibo e acqua, un tema trattato anche nella grande pittura ( Theodore Gericault, La zattera della Medusa vedi): la vita umana in bilico tra speranza e disperazione.

The three sailors

Nelle canzoni marinaresche si finisce per esprimere le paure più grandi con una bella risata! Il brano nasce nel 1863 con il titolo “The three sailors” scritto da William Makepeace Thackeray come parodia di una canzone marinaresca francese dal titolo “La Courte Paille” (=la paglia corta)– diventata in seguito “Le Petit Navire” (The Little Corvette) e finita nelle canzoncine per bambini. (vedi prima parte): i casi di cannibalismo in mare come estrema risorsa per la sopravvivenza erano molto dibattiti dall’opinione pubblica e gli stessi tribunali erano inclini a commutare le sentenze di morte in detenzione.
L’omicidio per necessità (o il sacrificio di uno per il bene degli altri) trova una giustificazione nella terribile esperienza della morte per fame che spinge la mente umana alla disperazione e alla pazzia, ma nel 1884 il caso del naufragio del Mignonette  spaccò l’opinione pubblica e lo stesso ministro dell’interno dell’epoca Sir William Harcourt, ebbe a dire “se questi uomini non vengono condannati per l’omicidio, stiamo dando carta bianca al capitano di qualsiasi nave di mangiare il mozzo ogni volta che scarseggiano i viveri”. (tratto da qui).
La sentenza si pone come caso leader e mette la vita come bene supremo non ammettendo l’omicidio per necessità come autodifesa

Little Billee
Bernard Partridge Cartoons

Dalle note del “Penguin Book” (1959):
La ballata portoghese A Nau Caterineta e la ballata francese La Courte Paille raccontano la stessa storia. La nave è stata a lungo in mare e il cibo e vinito. Le pagliuzze sono pescate per vedere chi deve essere mangiato, e il capitano rimane con la cannuccia più corta. Il mozzo si offre per essere sacrificato al suo posto, ma chiede di poter restare di vedetta fino al giorno successivo. In breve tempo vede la terra (“Je vois la tour de Babylone, Barbarie de l’autre côté”) e gli uomini vengono salvati. Thackeray ha parodiato questa canzone nel suo Little Billee. È probabile che la ballata francese abbia dato origine a The Ship in Distress, apparsa nei fogli volanti dell’Ottocento. George Butterworth si è procurato quattro versioni nel Sussex (FSJ vol.IV [numero 17] pp.320-2) e Sharp ne ha stampato una da James Bishop di Priddy, Somerset (Folk Songs from Somerset, vol.III, p.64) con “per molti versi una melodia più grandiosa “che aveva trovato in quella contea. Il testo proviene in parte dalla versione di Bishop, e in parte da un foglio volante.”  -R.V.W./A.L.L.

Ralph Steadman in “Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys, ANTI- 2006″.


There were three men of Bristol City;
They stole a ship and went to sea.
There was Gorging Jack and Guzzling Jimmy
And also Little Boy Billee.
They stole a tin of captain’s biscuits
And one large bottle of whiskee.
But when they reached the broad Atlantic
They had nothing left but one split pea.
Said Gorging Jack to Guzzling Jimmy,
“We’ve nothing to eat so I’m going to eat thee.”
Said Guzzling Jimmy, “I’m old and toughest,
So let’s eat Little Boy Billee.”
“O Little Boy Billy, we’re going to kill and eat you,
So undo the top button of your little chemie.(1)”
“O may I say my catechism
That my dear mother taught to me?”
He climbed up to the main topgallant(2)
And there he fell upon his knee.
But when he reached the Eleventh(3) Commandment,
He cried “Yo Ho! for land I see.”
“I see Jerusalem and Madagascaar
And North and South Amerikee.”
“I see the British fleet at anchor
And Admiral Nelson, K.C.B. (4)”
They hung Gorging Jack and Guzzling Jimmy
But they made an admiral of Little Boy Billee.
Traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto
C’erano tre uomini di Bristol
che rubarono una nave ed andarono per mare.
C’erano Jack il Gordo e Jimmy il Trinca
e anche il giovane Billy.
Rubarono una lattina di biscotti al capitano
e una grande bottiglia di whisky.
Ma quando raggiunsero il mare aperto
non era avanzato che un pisello
secco.
Disse Jack il Gordo a Jimmy il Trinca
“Non abbiamo niente da mangiare così ti mangerò”
disse Jimmy il Trinca “Sono vecchio e rinsecchito,
è meglio mangiare il giovane Billy”
“Oh Giovane Billy stiamo per ucciderti e mangiarti
così sbottona il primo bottone della tua camiciola”
“Oh posso dire i comandamenti come la mia cara mamma mi ha raccomandato?”
S’arrampicò sulla cima dell’albero maestro
e poi si inginocchiò (sulla crocetta).
Ma quando arrivò all’11° comandamento
gridò “Yo Ho! Terra”.
“Vedo Gerusalemme e Madagascar
e il Nord e il Sud dell’America.
Vedo la flotta britannica all’ancora
e l’Ammiraglio Nelson K.C.B.”
Impiccarono Jack il Gordo e Jimmy il Trinca
ma fecero ammiraglio il Giovane Billy.

NOTE
La versione di Thackeray qui
1) dal francese chemise
2) scritto anche come top fore-gallant
2) i suoi compagni non dovevano essere molto ferrati con la Bibbia (e probabilmente Billy ne avrebbe inventati di nuovi per guadagnare tempo!)
4) sigla di “Knight Commander of the Bath” = Cavaliere Commendatore del Bagno, l’ordine militare cavalleresco fondato da Giorgio I nel 1725

LA VERSIONE SEA SHANTY

Secondo Stan Hugill “Little Billee” era una sea shanty per il lavoro alle pompe, un lavoro noioso e monotono che poteva senz’altro essere “rallegrato” da questa canzoncina! Hugill riporta solo il testo dicendo che la melodia è come la francese “Il était un Petit Navire”, così l’adattamento di Hulton Clint ha l’andamento di una ninna-nanna.


I
There were three sailors of Bristol City;
They stole a boat and went to sea.
But first with beef and hardtack biscuits
And pickled pork they loaded she.
And pickled pork they loaded she
II
There was gorging Jack and guzzling Jimmy,
And likewise there was little Billee.
but when they got to the Equator
They’d only left but one split pea.
III
Then gorging Jack to guzzling Jimmy,
“I am confounded hungaree.”
Says guzzling Jimmy to gorging Jacky
“We’ve no wittles (1), so we must eat we.”
IV
Said Gorging Jack to Guzzling Jimmy,
“Oh Guzzling Jim what a fool you be..
There’s little Billy, who’s young and tender,
We’re old and tough, so let’s eat he.”
V
“Make haste, make haste” then say Guzzling Jimmy
as he drew his snickher snee (2)
“O Billy, we’re going to kill and eat you,
undo the collar of your chemie.”
VI
When William heard this information
he drope down on bended knee
“O let me say my catechism
which my dear mom taught to me”
VII
So up he went to the maintop-gallant
and he drope down on his bended knee
and than he said  all his catechism
which his dear mamy once taught to he
VIII
He scarce had said his catechism
when up he jumps “There’s land I see
Jerusalem and Madagascaar
And North and South Amerikee.”
IX
“Jerusalem and Madagascar,
And North and South Amerikee;
There’s the British fleet a-riding at anchor,
With Admiral Napier, K.C.B.”
X
When they bordered to Admiral’s vessel,
He hanged fat Jack (3) and flogged Jimmee;
as for little Bill they make him
The Captain of a Seventy-three (4).
Traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto
I
C’erano tre marinai della città di Bristol
che rubarono una nave ed andarono per mare, ma prima la caricarono di manzo e gallette
e di maiale sotto sale
di maiale sotto sale
II
C’erano Jack il Gordo e Jimmy il Trinca
e c’era anche il giovane Billy.
Ma quando raggiunsero l’Equatore
era avanzato solo un pisello.
III
Jack il Gordo a Jimmy il Trinca
“Sono terribilmente affamato”
dice Jimmy il Trinca a  Jack il Gordo “Non abbiamo cibo, così ci mangeremo”
IV
Disse Jack il Gordo  a Jimmy il Trinca “Oh Jim il trinca, che sciocco sei,
c’è il piccolo Billy, che è giovane e tenero, noi siamo vecchi e duri, meglio mangiare lui”
V
“Sbrigati, sbrigati ” allora dice Jimmy il Trinca mentre estrae il suo snickher snee
“Oh  Billy stiamo per ucciderti e mangiarti,  disfa il nodo della camicia”
VI
Quando William udì questa notizia
si gettò in ginocchio
“Oh posso dire i comandamenti che la mia cara mamma mi ha insegnato?”
VII
S’arrampicò sulla cima dell’albero maestro e poi si inginocchiò per recitare i comandamenti che sua madre gli aveva un tempo insegnato
VII
Non aveva finito di dirli
quando si rizzò con un balzo ” Vedo terra, Gerusalemme e Madagascar
e il Nord e il Sud dell’America.
IX
Gerusalemme e Madagascar
e il Nord e il Sud dell’America
c’è la flotta britannica all’ancora
e l’Ammiraglio Nelson K.C.B.”
X
Quando salirono a bordo del vascello dell’ammiraglio
Impiccarono il grasso Jack e
frustarono Jimmy
ma fecero il giovane Billy
capitano di un 73

NOTE
1)  storpiatura di “vittles,”che sta per “victuals,”= “food.”
2) un grande coltello particolarmente letale usato come arma, non c’è un equivalente italiano
3) in alcune versioni si distingue il grado di colpa tra i due marinai, così uno solo è impiccato
4) vascello da guerra di 73 cannoni

E per corollario ecco la versione francese “Un Petit Navire”
FONTI
http://www.mamalisa.com/?t=es&p=139
http://www.bartleby.com/360/9/84.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Il_%C3%A9tait_un_petit_navire
http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=8278
http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=22872