Henry's Songbook

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Twenty-Third Of March

  • (Trad)

    On the twenty-third of March, my boys, we hoisted our topsail
    Crying, Heaven above protect us from the fierce and icy gale
    We never was downhearted nor let our courage fail
    But bore away up to Greenland for to catch the Greenland whale
    For to catch the Greenland whale

    And when we come to Greenland where the bitter winds did blow
    We tacked about all in the north among the frost and snow
    Our fingertops was frozen off, and likewise our toenails
    As we crawled on the deck, my boys, looking out for the Greenland whale
    Looking out for the Greenland whale

    And when we come in the Davis Strait where the mountains flowed with snow
    We tacked about all in the north till we heard the whalefish blow
    And when we catch this whale, brave boys, homeward we will steer
    We'll make the valleys ring, my boys, a-drinking of strong beer
    We'll make them lofty ale-houses in London town to roar
    And when our money is all gone, to Greenland go for more, brave boys
    To Greenland go for more, brave boys

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1967:] Chase of right whale, Davis Strait, 1820-40.

    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 Kings Lynn of secondary importance. By 1830, 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.

    As long ago as 1725, the dock at Deptford, in south-east London, was used as a whale depot by the South Sea Company, whose interests extended as far north as Spitsbergen. To this day it is called the Greenland Dock, and it is named in many good songs. We do not know how old this particular song is, which W. P. Merrick obtained from the Lodsworth, Sussex, farmer Henry Hills around 1900. It follows a familiar pattern of whaling songs: departure, hard times on the grounds, rowdy return. The old description of the whaleman: 'head of iron and heart of gristle' well fits the anonymous characters of this piece, who can defy weather bitter enough to freeze off your finger-tips and toe-nails. (Notes A. L. Lloyd, 'Leviathan!')

Quelle: England

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aktualisiert am 08.05.2002