Sailors Choice               Sea Shanties

"...I soon got used to this singing, for the sailors never touched a rope without it. Sometimes, when no one happened to strike up, and the pulling, whatever it might be, did not seem to be getting forward very well, the mate would always say, 'Come men, can't any of you sing? Sing now and raise the dead.' And then some one of them would begin, and if every man's arms were as much relieved as mine by the song, and he could pull as much better as I did, with such a cheering accompaniment, I am sure the song was well worth the breath expended on it. It is a great thing in a sailor to know how to sing well, for he gets a great name by it from the officers, and a good deal of popularity among his shipmates. Some sea captains, before shipping a man, always ask him whether he can sing out at a rope." Herman Melville, Redburn,  (1849) 

Blow th' Man Down - A little history...
Between 1850 and the early 1900's, the fastest clipper ships were the Black Ballers, plying between England and America.  The westbound voyage was usually 4 weeks against the wind and the returning eastern voyage was about 3 weeks, going with the winds. And the more quickly a ship returned to homeport, the quicker a sailor would get paid. A position aboard the Black Ballers was one to be envied, however, the reputation of the Black Baller captains was notorious, they ran a brutal ship.  When it was said that a man was blown down, it meant that he was beaten to the ground, which was rumored to happen often aboard the Black Ballers.  The following are two versions of the song about these ships and their treatment of sailors.
 Blow th' Man Down (First Version)

Oh! Blow th' man down, bullies. Blow th' man down.
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
Oh! Blow th' man down bullies. Blow 'im right down.
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

Come all ye young fellers that follows th' sea.
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
I'll sing ye a song if ye'll listen t' me.
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

'Twas in a Black Baller I first served my time.
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
And in a Black Baller I wasted my prime.
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

'Tis when a Black Baller's preparin' for sea.
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
Th'sights in th' fo' cas'le is funny t' see.
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

Wi' sodgers an' tailors an' Dutchmen an' all.
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
As ships for prime seamen aboard th' Black Ball.
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

But when th' Black Baller gets o' th' land.
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
It's then as ye'll hear th' sharp word o' command.
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

Oh! It's muster ye sodgers an' tailors an' sich.
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
An' hear ye're name called by a son of a bitch.
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

It's "fore-topsail halyards", th' Mate he will roar.
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
Oh, lay along smartly, you son of a whore.
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

Oh, lay along smartly each lousy recroot.
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
Or it's lifted ye'll be wi' th' toe of a boot.
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!
Blow th' Man Down (Second Version)

Oh! Blow th' man down, bullies. Blow th' man down.
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
Oh! Blow th' man down, bullies. Blow 'im right down.
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

As I was walkin' down Paradise Street,
W-ay! Hey? blow th' man down!
A smart little clipper I chanced for to meet.
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

Her flag was three-coloured, I couldn't tell which.
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
An' from her appearance, I took 'er for Dutch.
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

She was round in th' corner an' bluffin th' bow.
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
An' I hailed her in English, an' took 'er in tow.
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

I tipped 'er my flipper an' off we did go.
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
To th' "Anchor an' Crown" where my money did show.
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

Oh, it's "Are ye a rouster from off th' Black Ball?"
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
"An' robbed some poor sailor o' boots, clothes an' all."
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

"Oh, no, Missus Harty. You do me quite wrong."
W-ay! Hey? Blow th' man down!
"I'm a flyin'-fish sailor, just in from Hong Kong."
Give us th' time an' we'll blow th' man down!

Sea Shanty Groups
Coblers Mondays,
3 Woodwarks Yard, Church Street, Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO22 4DG, United Kingdom
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