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The Cruel Ship's Captain

  • Trad

    A boy to me was bound apprentice
    Because his parents they were poor
    So I took him from St. James's Workhouse
    All for to sail on the Greenland shore

    One day this poor boy he did annoy me
    Nothing to him then did I say
    But I rushed him to my frozen yard-arm
    And I kept him there till the very next day

    When his eyes and his teeth did hang towards me
    With his hands and his feet bowed down likewise
    And with a bloody iron bar I killed him
    Because I wouldn't hear his cries

    As sung by A. L. Lloyd

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1967:] Chase of the right whale, East Greenland, c. 1810.
    By 1760, thirty-five whaling vessels, sailing out of London, Hull, Whitby and Leith, were fishing in the waters between Spitsbergen and East Greenland. The right whale was the main quarry, [...] it was the Arctic grounds that occupied most of our nineteenth century whalers. As a result of merciless hunting, the greater number of whales had migrated westward from Spitsbergen by the end of the eighteenth century, and were found off the east coast of Greenland. But by the 1820s, they began to move westward again, into the Davis Straits. Until 1820, three-fifths of the northern whalers had been using the East Greenland grounds. By 1830, only four ships were still fishing there; the rest were trying their luck up in Baffin Bay.
    In 1820 there had been eight English whaling ports - London, Hull, Whitby and Newcastle being the chief ones, with Berwick, Grimsby, Liverpool and King's Lynn of secondary importance. By 1930, Liverpool, Grimsby and Lynn had abandoned the trade, London owned only a couple of whalers, and Hull owned thirty-three out of a total of forty-one. In Scotland, however, the trade was growing. [...]
    Early in the nineteenth century, a whale skipper was charged in King's Lynn with the murder of an apprentice. A broadside ballad, in the form of a wordy gallows confession and good night, appeared, and in course of circulating round the East Anglian countryside it got pared down to the bone. The poet George Crabbe was interested in the case, and took it as a model for his verse-narrative of 'Peter Grimes', which subsequently formed the base of Britten's opera. The opera is in three acts. The same ground is covered in three verses by a song as bleak and keen as a harpoon head. (Notes A. L. Lloyd, 'Leviathan!')

Quelle: England

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