Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Nelson's Blood

Today is a special occasion, a holiday in the truest sense of that word, for those of us who live and breathe  nautical history. On this day in 1758 Admiral Horatio 1st Viscount Nelson was born in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, England. Perhaps the greatest naval hero of modern times, it would take the U.S. another 50 plus years to produce his like in the person of Admiral David Farragut. And we've had some awesome naval heroes on this side of the pond, let me tell you.

But I digress. To honor The Great One, Triple P will stray a bit from the usual SMS format and give you a shanty instead. A shanty, that is, written to commemorate Nelson's life and tragic death. Known alternatively as "Nelson's Blood" or "The Golden Chariot", the song became popular among English speaking seaman not long after Nelson's death in 1805.

The phrasing, as with most sea songs, is repetitive and easy to sing. Various versions of the song exist (find my favorite, by The Corsairs, on their album "Songs from the Road" available for download here) but they all refer to Nelson's blood. Legend has it that the Admiral's body was packed in a barrel of rum for transport home aboard his flagship Victory. Men were said to sneak swigs from the barrel in order to gain a bit of Nelson's greatness. Thus rum took on the moniker: Nelson's Blood.

While the story may hold some truths, most of it is probably apocryphal Be that as it may, the shanty is a wonderful way to remember Admiral Nelson. It's also great to sing while hoisting a tankard of Nelson's blood.

A drop of Nelson's blood wouldn't do us any harm,
A drop of Nelson's blood wouldn't do us any harm,
A drop of Nelson's blood wouldn't do us any harm;
And we'll all hang down behind.

So we'll roll the Golden Chariot along,
We'll roll the Golden Chariot along,
We'll roll the Golden Chariot along;
And we'll all hang down behind.

The image is of men following Nelson's funeral wagon to the place of his burial, which many a Royal Navy sailor by land at the time did. Various other stanzas become more bawdy as they go, referring to things that "wouldn't do us any harm" such as a night in jail, a saucy wench and a fat old cook. The chorus of following the Golden Chariot continues throughout and most singers of the shanty end with the drop of Nelson's blood refrain.

So, a mug o' grog and a hearty Huzzah! for Admiral Nelson. Happy Saturday, Brethren. May fair winds follow you, and your Nelson's blood always be the best of quality.

Header: The Apotheosis of Nelson by Pierre-Nicola LeGrand c 1818 via Wikipedia


Blue Lou Logan said...

...and a plate of Irish stew wouldn't do us any harm. Yum, stew.

Wasn't gonna have another drink tonight (I'm done with antibiotics, YAY!!!), but I gotta raise one with you and the Brethren. Alas, the rum is cheap, but a pirate can't be picky between prizes (or paychecks). Here's to Nelson, and to Saturdays.

(PS--I'm getting some music ready over here for the Journal, too.)

Pauline said...

Cheers, mate! I'm with you on the antibiotics - 9 more treatments and I'm done with radiation.

Can't wait to see what you've got cooked up over at the Journal. Of course I think of you every time I do a "musical" post :)

Take care, brother; Huzzah!

Timmy! said...

Huzzah for Lord Nelson! And for the Corsairs, Pauline.

Pauline said...

Both are great, although tie goes to Admiral Nelson I must say.

Charles L. Wallace said...

Ah, Nelson! What a great story, Pauline, and thankee.... indeed, a drop of Nelson's blood wouldn't do no harm: (Nelson - my mother's maiden name ;-)

Rick said...

My dad used to sing this with an a capella folk quartet he was in - I think, though, they used to sing 'the old chariot' rather than the golden chariot! Still a rousing shanty!

Rick said...

Nearly forgot - got an idea for a Sailor Mouth Saturday for you Pauline - Killick. Not only a term for an improvised anchor, 'tis a nickname for a leading RN seaman and the name of Aubrey's steward!!

Pauline said...

Wally: Seriously? Maybe you're related? You've got the sea in your blood either way :)

Rick: It's a good one, and nice to hear around the house as well as the dock. Killick's a good one, too. It will also be an opportunity to talk about dear old Preserved as you note.