Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Rogues at Sea

The sea chantey is described as a song about life at sea from a narrative or personal point of view. The words can be as abruptly crude as much as hauntingly poetic. Traditional sea chanteys were sung as riggers tirelessly worked throughout the day; the constant rhythm of their songs seeing them to the end of a long day.
In 'A Dying Sailor to His Shipmates', the poignant lyrics enable us to depict the image of a sailor's final farewell to his comrades before he reaches death and is summoned to the depths of the sea:
Oh, wrap me in my country's flag
And lay me in the cold, blue sea
Let the roaring of the waves
My solemn requiem be
And I shall sleep a pleasant sleep
While storms above their vigils keep

My Captain brave shall read for me
The service of the silent air
And yay, shall lower me in the waves
When all the prayers are said
And I will find my long, long home
Among the billows and the foam
Farewell my friends, for many I leave
We've sailed together on the deep
Come, let us shake our hands
I'll sail no more but ship mains work for me

I'm bound above, my course is run
I near the port, my voyage is done
Other sea chanteys depict rather more romantic and mythical tales of life at sea. 'Lowlands Away' tells the story a lover who was lost at sea and returns as a ghost for one final encounter with his love, to tell her of his sad ending. A world away from this tale of true, honest love 'Baltimore Whores' portrays a 'love' quite different from that of the empty souls of the ghost and his lover...
The allure of the sea will never fail to entice me, and these sea chanteys provide an interesting insight into the life of those who once lived their lives at sea. They portray feelings of brute emotion, whilst also displaying a vivid picture of a seaman's encounters on the ever mysterious sea; revealing secrets and bringing myths to life.
A collection of sea chanteys, performed and reworked by artists such as Bryan Ferry and Jarvis Cocker is available on the cd 'Rogues Gallery'. For now, have a listen to these...


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