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Weary Whaling Grounds

  • (Trad)

    If I had the wings of a gull, my boys
    I would spread them and fly home
    I'd leave old Greenland's icy grounds
    For of right whales there is none

    And the weather's rough and the winds do blow
    And there's little comfort here
    I'd sooner be snug in a Deptford pub
    A-drinking of strong beer

    A man must be mad or want money bad
    To venture catching whales
    For we may be drowned when the fish turns around
    Or our head be smashed by his tail

    Though the work seems grand to the young green hand
    And his heart is high when he goes
    In a very short burst he'd as soon hear a curse
    As the cry of, There she blows

    All hands on deck now, for God's sake
    Move briskly if you can
    And he stumbles on deck, so dizzy and sick
    For his life he don't give a damn

    And high overhead the great flukes spread
    And the mate gives the whale the iron
    And soon the blood in a purple flood
    From the spout-hole comes a-flying

    These trials we bear for nigh four years
    Till the flying jib points for home
    We're supposed for our toil to get a bonus on the oil
    And an equal share of the bone

    But we go to the agent to settle for the trip
    And we find we've cause to repent
    For we've slaved away four years of our life
    And earned about three pound ten

    (as sung by A. L. Lloyd)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1967:] Chase of right whale, West Greenland, 1840-50.
    By the 1840s, British whaling reached a low ebb; only fourteen vessels were leaving our ports. But during the 1850s, the industry began to look up, for the introduction of steam power meant that whalers could push to new grounds far to the north, and then batter their way back through some fifty miles of pack ice until the open sea was reached again. Three emotions dominated the oldtime whalerman: exultation in the chase, a longing for home, and disgust at the conditions of his trade. This latter mood descended heaviest on him when the fishing was poor and he became 'whalesick' (like homesick, only sick for whales). The man who made the complaint of The Weary Whaling Grounds must have been very whalesick. An odd point: The song speaks of leaving 'old Greenland's icy grounds' and indicates a trip of four years' duration. The very long trips only occurred in the Southern fishery; the Greenland season was usually but a matter of months, though ships sometimes stayed all winter at the entrance to the Davis Strait so as to make an early start next season. [...]
    Every crew has its notorious moaner, and in whaleships when the whales are scarce the number of moaners multiplies. Not that there wasn't plenty to moan about, especially for the men engaged in the Southern whaling round Cape Horn and up the wet and blusterous coast of Chile. Long voyages, stale food, vast stretches of boredom punctuated with brief frenzied and perilous bursts of action; as the lyric says: 'The pleasures are but few, my boys, on them bitter whaling grounds.' (Notes A. L. Lloyd, 'Leviathan!')

Quelle: England

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