Rogue’s Gallery: The Art of the Siren, #38
Song: Van Dyke Parks: Greenland Whale Fisheries (4:41 minutes)
from Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys, ANTI- 2006.
Image: Anke Merzbach: [ the world revolving around your spinning head ], November 4, 2008.
(Many thanks to Mermaids’ Retreat!)
1.: In eighteen hundred and forty-six,
T’was March of the eighteenth day,
We hoisted our colors to the top of the mast
And for Greenland bore away, brave boys,
And for Greenland bore away.
2.: The lookout in the crosstrees stood
With a spyglass in his hand:
“There’s a whale, there’s a whale,
A whalefish,” he cried
And she blows at every span.
3.: Now the boats were launched and the men aboard,
And the whale was full in view.
Resolved it was each seaman bold
To steer it where the whalefish blew.
4.: We stuck that whale and the line played out,
And the whale made a flounder with her tail.
The boat capsized and we lost a gallant crew,
And we never caught that whale.
5.: “To lose those men,” our captain said,
“It grieves my heart full sore,
But to lose the sale of a hundred barrel whale,
Well, it grieves me ten times more.”
6.: Now Greenland is a dreadful place,
A place that’s never green,
Where there’s ice and snow, and the whalefishes blow
And the daylight’s seldom seen.
The song in Wikipedia.
Explanatory liner notes by ANTI-:
An American whaling song sometimes used as a capstan chantey. This song vividly captures both the thrill and danger of whaling in the 19th century. In some versions the captain is more grieved at the loss of his men, but this version, where he’s more grieved by the loss of the whale, was perhaps more likely.