Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Some Other Songs

Some other traditional songs.

"Spanking Jack"

Spanking Jack was so comely, so pleasant, so jolly
Tho' winds blew great guns still he'd whistle and sing
Jack lov'd his friend, and was true to his Molly,
And if honor gives greatness, was great as a king:
One night, as we droe with two reefers in our mainsail
And the scud came on low'ring upon a lee shore
Jack went aloft for to hand the top ga'ant sail,
A spray wash'd him off, and we ne'er saw him more
But grieving's a folly,
Come let us be jolly;
If we've troubles at sea, boys, we've pleasures ashore

Bonny Ben was to each jolly messmate a brother,
He was manly and honest, good natur'd and free;
If ever one tar was more true than another
To his friend and his duty, that sailor was he:
One day with the davit, to heave the cadge anchor
Ben went in a boat on a bold craggy shore,
He overboard tipt, when a shark and a spanker
Soon nipt him in two, and we ne'er saw him more
But grieving's a folly,
Come, let us be jolly;
If we've troubles at sea boys, we've pleasures ashore.

Whiffing Tom, still full of mischief of fun in the middle,
thro' life in all weathers at random would job
He'd dance and he'd sing, and he'd play on the fiddle
And swig, with an air, his allowance of grog:
Long side of a Don, in the Terrible frigate
As yard arm and yard arm we lay off the shore
In and out Whiffing Tom did so caper and jib it
That his head was shot off and we ne'er saw him more
But grieving's a folly
Come let us be jolly
If we've troubles at sea boys, we've pleasures ashore

But what of it all lads: Shall we be downhearted
Because that mayhap we now take our last sup?
Life's cable must one day or other be parted;
And death, in fast mooring, will bring us all up
Yet 'tis always the way on't--one scarce finds a brother
Fond as pitch, honest, hearty, and true to the core
But by battle or storm, or some fell thing or other,
He's popp'd off the hooks, and we ne'er see him more
But grieving's a folly,
Come let us be jolly
If we've troubles at sea boys, we've pleasures ashore1

1See "Spanking Jack" in "Spanking Jack and other Songs," a songbook bound with other songbooks under the title of "Songs," Library Company of Philadelphia, 1805.

“Thimble’s Wife,”

Thimble’s scolding wife lay dead,
‘Heigho!”says Thimble,
‘My dearest duck’s defunct in bed;
Death has cabbaged her—oh, she’s fled!
With her roley poley,
Gammon and spinnage,
Heigho!’ says Thimble,
Thimble buried his wife that nigh;
‘Heigho!’ says Thimble,
“I grieve to sew up my heart’s delight,
With her diamond ring on her finger tight;’
And her roley, poley, &c

To saw off her finger and steal the ring,
Soon came the Sexton;
She sat up an end, and she gave a fling,
Crying ‘Damme, you dog, you steal no such thing!’
With your roley poley, &c
And off ran the sexton.
She stalk’d to her home, and she made a din,
‘Heigho!’ cried Thimble,
Then popp’d out his head, and said, with a grin,
‘You are dead, dearest duck, and I can’t let you in’
With your roley poley, &c
‘O heigh!’ cried Thimble.

“The Glasses Sparkle on the Board,”

The glasses sparkle on the board,
The wine is ruby bright,
The reign of pleasure is restor’d,
Of ease and gay delight.

The day is gone, the night’s our own,
Then let us feast the soul;
If any pain or care remain,
Why drown it in the bowl.
If any pain or care remain,
Why drown it in the bowl.

This world they say ‘s a world of woe,
But that I do deny;
Can sorrow from the goblet flow,
Or pain from beauty’s eye?
The wise are fools, with all their rules,
When they would joy control;
If life’s a pain, I say again,
Let’s drown it in the bowl.
If life’s a pain, &c.

That time flies fast, the poet sings,
Then surely it is wise,
In rosy wine to dip his wings,
And seize him as he flies:
This night is ours, then strew with flow’rs
The moments as they roll;
If any pain, or care remain,
Why drown it in a bowl.
If any pain, or care remain,
Why drown it in a bowl.

When Gen’rous Wine.

When gen’rous wine expands the soul,
And pleasure hovers roubnd the bowl,
Avaunt, avaunt, ye cares of fancy’s crew,
And give the guilty wretch his due:
Avaunt ye cares, &c.

But let the juice of sparkling wine,
My grosser sense to love refine;
As Jove his nectar drinks above,
I’ll quaff whole goblets full of love,
As Jove his nectar, &c

Then why should I at life repine,
Bring me Venus, bring me wine;
Fill the ever flowing bowl,
In circles gay and pleasures roll,
Fill the ever flowing, &c.

Ever open, ever free,
Hail thou friend of jollity;
My brows with Bacchus’ chaplets crown’d,
I live to love, my cares are drown’d.’
My brows with Bacchus, &c.

“Songster’s Museum”—NY, 1824

Friend and Pitcher,

The wealthy fool with gold in store,
Will still desire to grow richer
Give me but health, I ask no more
My charming girl, my friend and pitcher.
My friend so rare, my girl so fair,
With such, what mortal can be richer,
Give me but these, a fig for care,
With my sweet girl, my friend and pitcher

From morning sun I’d never grieve,
To toil a hedger or a ditcher,
If that, when I came home at eve,
I might enjoy my friend and pitcher
My friend so rare, &c.

Though fortune ever shun my door,
I know not what can thus bewitch her;
With all my heart can I be poor,
With my sweet girl, my friend and pitcher,
My friend so rare &c


Oh! Cruel were my parents as tore mylove from me,
And cruel was the press-gang who took him off to sea,
And cruel was the little boat as rowed him from the strand,
And cruel was the great big ship as sailed him from the land.
Singing too rol loo rol loo rol, too rol loo rol loo

Oh! Cruel was the water as bore her love from Mary,
And cruel was the fair wind as wouldn’t blow contrary,
And cruel was the captain boatswain, and the men,
As didn’t care a fardin, if we never met again.
Singing too rol, &c

Oh!cruel was the splinter as broke my deary’s leg,
Now he’s oblig’d to fiddle for’t, and I’m oblig’d to beg,
A vagabonding vagrant, and a rantipoling wife,
We fiddle, limp, and scrape it, through the ups anddowns of life.

Singing too rol, &c


Blogger AimerVoyage said...

I really like these songs because they demonstrate a MAJOR curtural difference between the writers of yore and today. Today death is a very serious topic. Alot of people won't even talk about it. Songs about death are usually slow and depressing. We talk about how much they're going to be missed and how sorry we feel for them. But I think this demonstrates our selfishness more than our empathy. If you don't believe in afterlife, then what does death matter to the dead? They know nothing of it. If you do and the person was a Christian, then they're finally where they should be. If they weren't a Christian, then that was something that the person should have remedied if they were scared of Hell.
Death is so scary because we don't know how WE'RE going to deal without them. Though I think this feeling has existed forever, I think it is much more prominent now. People back then were much more accustomed to death. Because of famine and disease, there were surrounded by it. We aren't. Since they were able to accept death as an inevitable part of life, they were able to satirize it openly, as they did many other parts of life. I think this is somewhat admirable. If were are going to be able to live fully, I think we should be able to fully accept life.

4:14 PM  
Blogger elle_ecrit87 said...

I like these poems, because the basic message seems to be: life can be crap, but you can't just sit down and cry in it. For example, in the first poem when the sailor dies, and everyone decides to do be jolly insead of grieve. Maybe that's how it should be. Maybe death shouldn't be viewed as such as BAD thing. Insead of wollowing in our loss and focusing on the person's death, you focus on the life they led (which usually is quite more lengthy than their death which takes only a moment) and focus and good/happy things.
I also like the Pitcher poem about how life could go completely haywire, but if he has his friend he'd be fine. I think it's a nice and more optimistic way to look at things. I think many people may never find that person that really makes everything alright, but this poem struck a cord with me because I have a friend like that. And even when life is crap it not quite as bad as it otherwise would be if I didn't have that person. I like these poems because sometimes, you can't will your unhappiness away, but you can smile and keep walking. Just because you are sitting in chaos, doesn't mean that is all you can focus on.

2:48 PM  
Blogger AubergineClementine said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:22 PM  
Blogger AubergineClementine said...

I agree with aimervoyage. It's refreshing to see songs, even from the past, that accept death as a part of life. I like how the songs talk about honor often; that is, if a person died on the sea, for example, he died as an honorable sailor on the seas where he was meant to be. It's a lot more dramatic and interesting. This honor contributes to the overall feeling of looking at death from a somewhat positive perspective. I also agree that people back then had a different idea about death as far as the way they dealt with it. Because of a lesser knowledge of medicine and nutrition, people died younger and more often, so death was more frequent. Now when someone dies it is a little harder to look at death in such a casual way, at least in industrialized nations.

8:15 PM  
Anonymous GF said...

Mostly agreeing with what others have written here. There's a fierceness to these songs, a willingness to live despite dying. Contrast to America, where people are willing to die despite living- we have high suicide rates and more depression than you could shake a goth at.

I also rather like "But grieving's a folly/come, let us be jolly", although the line also tells you why so many people drank back then.

I'd say it was to forget.

1:24 PM  
Blogger swiffer_mop1234 said...

I agree with all the comments that have been posted so far on this entry. This type of writing is a nice break from what we have been reading in class. Instead of focusing on how life should be lived and what causes us to certain things, this basically just says be happy no matter what happens in life. These songs/poems just make you smile and laugh a little bit to yourself whenever you read them. I also think that those that have commented on this are right in that death was not as upsetting to people back then. The world seems to become more and more evil.

2:02 PM  
Blogger thisismyname said...

These songs are really interesting! As was said before, I have to agree that these songs seem pretty positive, even though the subject matter in them is very serious. "Spanking Jack," for example, tells us the stories about sailors who have been killed in some way during their travels out at sea, including poor Bonny Ben, a nice guy, who had been "nipt in two" by a shark! I'm interested in finding out from where these songs initially came. I wouldn't be surprised if the sailors made them up on the long voyages they traveled. Instead of movies and television like we have today for entertainment, they had songs. In fact, the part about the shark I mentioned earlier in this blog almost reminds me of an action movie that doesn’t take itself seriously. Some weird thing like that usually happens, and the audience cracks up at it.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Magic Chicken said...

I'm going to sound like a broken record, but I have to agree with the previous comments. Death was considerably less worrying back during the time of these songs than in the modern era. After all, with a stronger Christian faith, there was really no need to worry so much about the negatives of death: those that were good went to a better place and those who were bad went down. That's why most of the songs related to death in this post were able to pull off a much lighter atmosphere surrounding death and other down moments: the sailors could move on and be jolly if their shipmates died and if life went sour, “drown it in a bowl.” Today, death is far more serious as an issue because the grounds of faith are far more unstable than they were at the time. We have less of an idea of what to expect after death, thus, we are far more afraid of it. Additionally, singing in general was likely far less serious than it is today. In the modern era, we have advanced instruments, recording studios, better acoustics, and generally more interest in serious songs since we have better resources to spend on them. We even have televised talent competitions (though I personally don't like them)! As such, songs have the ability to be taken far more seriously, and thus, death can afford to not be taken as lightly in them.

9:11 PM  
Blogger daltonRussell said...

Like many have said before me, the first few of these songs deal with the satirizing of death. And also like the few before me, I agree with the fact that this is a good thing. This is very much something that is not done today. Death is not joked about often because it is an uncomfortable subject for many. Why should we think about losing those we love so much? “The Glasses Sparkle on The Board” and “When Gen’rous Wine” were both songs about a Rabelaisian point of view that deals with enjoying life while we can. Though I don’t think we should always live like this, I feel that it is a good way of looking at things sometimes; drink and be merry! “Friend and Pitcher” is a poem not dealing with death, but with knowing what truly matters to one in life. I liked this song because it reminds me of what I should be thankful for: the beauty around me. The last poem deals with moving on like the earlier poems did. It says at the end that sometimes we just have to look past things that aren’t able to be changed.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Beatrice Baudelaire said...

Bad things happen to good people, especially in "Spanking Jack." It's a great game of statistics but not one that particularly lends itself to the Christian faith. These poems seem to be far removed from the medieval relic-enforced "God is empirically evident" and seem to be a lot more along the lines of Rabelais in which they are all interested in secular pleasure: "If we've troubles at sea, boys, we've pleasures ashore." I appreciate the contrast to the “life that is nasty, brutish, and short,” as Hobbes described it. In class I’d like to talk a lot more about secular pleasure in contrast to America’s hard-nosed work ethic.

10:58 PM  
Blogger Larogoth said...

I liked these poems. I like how even though things didn't always seem to go the way of those mentioned in the poems, the basic message was to be jolly and full of joy. Even if one encountered losing a loved one they still made light of the experience. In "Thimble's Wife" he was even rejoicing because of his dead wife. As aimervoyage said, this is not something you would see in today's society. Reading these poems makes me wonder as to whether or not this is how people in the time of the author actually thought, or if these poems were just a bunch of satirical works.

11:25 PM  
Blogger Krangor said...

I liked these poems, especially, being a sailot myself, "Spanking Jack." The line "If we've troubles at sea, boys, we've pleasures ashore." Really captures the mentality a lot of us carried when on long deployments at sea.

For me these songs really promote an attitude of "there's nothing we can do about it, so why worry?" We can lead fuller, happier lives without the shadow of death always hanging over us. What's so bad about death anyways? I was dead for billions of years before I was born, and it's only mildly inconvienced me. What's a few billion more?

Gf, I love your line "more depression than you can shake a goth at." I'm going to yell something along those lines at the next emo kid I meet.

4:00 AM  
Blogger bob_barker_is_my_hero said...

These songs are awesome. My favorite is “Thimble’s Wife” because It’s funny how his wife dies and comes back to life but instead of being happy, Thimble tells her she’s dead and shuts the door in her face! I think these songs must have been sung to get through everyday life. I mean with people dying so often back then, due to illness and what not, they had to have some way to get through it. Their way just happened to be songs and alcohol. It surprises me how much all these old songs remind me of Rabelais. Life is there, and its short, so you might as well have fun while you’re here.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Eden Van Bibber said...

I really like these poems, which is odd considering the subject of most is death. Perhaps it is the fact that they are not dreary woe is me I’m going to die, these pieces focus more on the celebration of life while your living it. I really liked the message of the first poem, talking about the sailors continually losing friends at sea. They give tribute to the good character of each man, yet refuse to be melancholy over their deaths. The lyrics are so robust I can practically hear drunken sailors slurring them in some dark little bar. It illuminates the point that life is for the living and no matter how good a person you are, when you die you’re dead and people shouldn’t abandon their existence to focus on those who no longer have one. I really think that this view of death is far healthier than those held by the majority of people today, for the most part death in our culture is not seen as a time to honor the dead but revel in the fact that were still here and maybe it should be.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous my_name_was_taken said...

I find it interesting that in almost each of these songs, there is mention of alcohol. I think there was some chance that John was an alcoholic, as well as being suicidal. In “Spanking Jack,” while describing Tom, he says, “And swig, with an air, his allowance of grog,” then he goes on to say that when Tom, or anyone else passes on, they should not mourn, for death brings them all “up”. In his song, “Thimble’s Wife” he discusses the death of a wife, but there is no mention of drink. In, “The Glasses Sparkle on Board” there is obviously lots of discussion of drinks. Wine sparkling and bringing pleaure and happiness is one of the main themes. “When Gen’rous Wine” seems similar.
My favorite one was “Friend and Pitcher.” By pitcher, I assume he means some sort of drink. That is one of the main things in his life. One of the things he thinks he needs. He says that he will never grieve as long as he can come home to his pitcher.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Marissa Manns said...

“Spanking Jack” relates specifically to questions about death that I have always pondered. When someone dies I generally do not cry all that much. Does that make me a bad person? What you believe happens after death is your own opinion. That is not the issue at hand here. The issue is what you are going to do with your life knowing that you will die. I don’t see the need to cry about them or worry when it will happen to you. The magic that was the person no longer dwells in the dead thing that remains. Why waste life thinking about death? For the deceased- death was probably a second that happened and they were gone. I have always wondered if the departed would comfort in knowing you were hysterical about their death. Imagine if you grieved like that while they were still alive. It would be a very awkward situation especially if their death was not rapidly impending. In essence you would be upset because you know they will die someday. Rather than crying why not think of all the good times that you shared? The person who died would probably tell you to stop weeping and to enjoy your life. They would know just how quickly it passes by. I draw a lot of inspiration from the Post Secret blog. One of my favorite entries is “Psst, Here’s a secret…Your last mortal thought will be, “why did I take so many days- just like today- for granted?”

7:51 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Maybe it’s just because I was reading it on a dark and rainy day, but I really liked the poem the “The Glasses Sparkle on the Board.” I am assuming that the lines about drowning pains and cares in a bowl is referring to drinking since reference is made to wine, goblets, etc. I don’t necessarily agree with that theory, but some of the other things that the poet says make a lot of sense. “This world they say ‘s a world of woe,
But that I do deny;” . Sadly enough that’s how a lot of people view life and the world, as a sad place/thing. Yet, if people wouldn’t focus so much on the negatives, it wouldn’t be that bad. I think that’s the point that the poet is trying to make, don’t keep looking at things as bad rather look at things in a positive light. This point is reinforced with the mentioning of rules controlling joy. A lot of times people set so many rules/guidelines for themselves that they can never fully enjoy life. Like it says, “That time flies fast,” so we should enjoy life, not sit back and complain about it and feel miserable.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Edna said...

I agree with bob barker that these songs are extremely reminiscent of Rabelais’ theory on
life: enjoy it while you’re here and stop worrying about tomorrow. Despite the fact
that almost all of these songs have to do with topics such as death or separation (which
are typically seen as negative, depressing subjects in our culture today), the overall
tone of the songs were positive and humorous. Even though culture today views these topics as melancholic, I think that there are some modern writers/philosophers/artists that approach death and other issues exactly like the writers of these songs do. Therefore, I disagree with what aimervoyage said about how the songs “demonstrate a MAJOR cultural difference between the writers of yore and today.” The ‘difference’ (so to speak), depends on what type of writing the critic is examining. There are some humorous bluegrass and country songs about death, but there are also some very deep and depressing rock songs pertaining to death. So it really just hinges on which modern songs an individual chooses to compare the songs ‘of yore’ to. I also think aimervoyage cannot be certain that “people back then were much more accustomed to death” and therefore less scared of it. Personally, I think that if I was constantly surrounded by death and my chances of dieing were greater, my fear of dieing would also be greater. Just because there are multiple songs here that satirize death openly does not mean that the public at large approached dieing the same way.

10:50 AM  

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