Wednesday, September 19, 2012

History: Stomp and Go

A glorious International Talk Like a Pirate day to all members of the Brethren, seafarers, freebooters, buccaneers, privateers and lubbers. This day, as the inimitable Captain Swallow pointed out this morning, is a day off for those of us who practice the way of the sea every day. That means it's up to the rest of you to hoist the sails and turn the capstan today. And to my mind, that means you'll need some chanties to help ye along.

Sea songs, often called chanties or shanties, probably originated with simple counting. Though it sounds crazy, it makes perfect sense. Those captured by the original boucaniers at sea wrote of these French corsairs pushing their windlasses or pulling on rigging with the continuous and melodic chant of "Un, Deux, TROIS". In this case, the emphasis is on the third syllable, and that is when the true exertion is expected from each man.

By the late 18th century, these chants may have been considerably influenced by African work songs and singing, rather than chanting, became the norm on the New World side of the Atlantic. In the Royal Navy, where singing was prohibited as it was considered a hindrance to the giving of orders, fiddles or fifes were played while men pushed and heaved. The sailors, always clever in circumventing orders, developed a way to continue rhythmic signalling without the use of voice. Known as a "stomp and go", the slap of bare feet on the ship's deck became a way of keeping time to the work at hand.

Here are a few links to help you not only talk like a pirate today, but sing like one. First, a very ancient work song that probably originated at sea some time in the late 15th or early 16th century. The song was used in the movie Robin Hood, with Russell Crowe, and is a simple repetition of a few rhyming lines. Though the movie probably makes this shanty older than it actually was, it still has a nice ring to it.

Next, songs from the movie The Phantom Ship. Made in the 1930s, the film features a number of late 19th century shanties that will probably be very familiar to the Brethren.

Finally, a fully realized "song" that was popular in both the Royal Navy and the American Navy by 1800. This version is one of my favorite pieces of music from the movie Master and Commander.

Enjoy, Brethren; and don't ye dare forget yer old ship mates on this ITLAPD!

Header: T-shirts for the Anchorage, Alaska Pirate Pub Crawl 2012; you can get one at the official Facebook page (I'm wearing mine right now)


Timmy! said...

Ya gotta love the sea chanties, Pauline! Happy TLAP day!

Pauline said...

Those sea airs do make you want to sing along. I hope it was a good ITLAPD for everyone.

Blue Lou Logan said...

Happy (belated) ITLAPD to all the official brethren and unofficial scoundrels everywhere.