Six Sea Songs

[incomplete]

Song Cycle by Michael (Dewar) Head (1900 - 1976)

Word count: 1282

1. A sea burthen [sung text checked 1 time]

A ship swinging as the tide swings up and down,
And men's voices singing
East away, O! West away
And a very long way from London Town,
A very long way from London Town.

A lantern glowing and the stars looking down,
And the [sea smells blowing]1
East away, O! West away
And a very long way from London Town,
A very long way, a long way from London Town.

Lights in wild weather from a tavern window old and brown,
And men singing together, men singing together,
East away, O! West away
And a very long way from London Town,
A very long way, a long way from London Town.

A ship swinging as the tide swings up and down,
And men's voices singing
East away, O! West away
And a very long way from London Town,
A very long way from London Town.

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1 Head, and later editions of Smith's poem: "sea-swells flowing"

Researcher for this text: Thomas Dymit

2. Limehouse Reach [sung text checked 1 time]

[Now, I]1 fell in love with a Limehouse lass,
  But she has proved untrue:
She looked as fresh as a figurehead
  That's just been painted new:

But she's took and married a lighterman,
  So it's time for me to go,
But I would have loved you so, my dear,
  I would have loved you so!

Oh, a shake o' the forsheet pays for all
  That a sailor leaves behind,
For an alehouse shot, and a friend forgot,
  And a sweetheart false or kind.

And a bloomin' mudhook's off the ground,
  for it's time for us to go:
But I would have loved you so, my dear,
  I would have loved you so!

Now a long goodbye to Limehouse Reach,
  And a last goodbye to you:
A feller's a fool to die for love,
  Which I don't mean to do.

There are girls as smart in every port
  From here to Callao
But I would have loved you so, my dear,
  I would have loved you so!

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1 Head: "I"

Researcher for this text: Thomas Dymit

3. Back to Hilo [sung text checked 1 time]

There's a dark an' dirty wine-shop on a waterfront I know,
An' a cross-eyed Dago keeps it or he kep' it years ago
Where the sailormen an' greasers sit them down to dice and dine
An' I wish I was back again in Hilo... Hilo
Drinkin' old Jacinto's wine!

There's the blessed Andes standin' up behind it like a wall,
An' there's dust, an' stinks, an' insecks, an' there ain't much else at all,
An' them sulky Dago wenches, They was never much my line
But I wish I was back again in Hilo... Hilo
Drinkin' old Jacinto's wine.

For my mind it keeps on turn-in'  An' I ask you, ain't it queer,
When the stuff we used to get there warn't a blooming patch on beer?
To that dirty dago's wine-shop  An' them old-time pals o' mine,
But I wish I was back again in Hilo... Hilo
Drinkin' old Jacinto's wine.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Thomas Dymit

4. A dog's life [sung text checked 1 time]

Oh, a sailor's life's a dog's life, an' that's the truth, says Bill,
A sailor's life's a dog's life, look at it 'ow you will;
You break your back with workin' for 'arf a coolie's pay,
An' a sailor's life's a dog's life, look at it 'ow you may.

There's mates to kick an' 'aze you (an' you dursen't 'it 'em back)
There's cold to freeze your innards an' there's 'eat as burns you black;
There's junk as tough as green 'eart 'an weevils in the bread,
An' fistin' frozen canvas till you're wishin' you were dead.

But you bet I'm goin' to quit it next time I jump ashore;
As soon as I strike ol' 'Frisco you won't see me no more;
I'll set a course sou'westward to an island as I know,
Where we laid once loadin' copra - might be twenty year ago.

I'll lay out on the beach there where the sun is good an' 'ot,
An' I won't need no more trousis when I've wore out them I've got;
With a gunny round my middle an' a soul to call my own,
I wouldn't charge my fortune for the King's upon his throne.

But when we'd finished loading and sailing day came round,
With the pilotboat alongside and the mud hook off the ground,
And the towboat cast the hawser off and left us with a cheer,
Why, there'd be Bill a-growling as he'd done for twenty yerar.

Oh a sailor's life's a dog's life, an' that's a fact my son;
'Is pay's no more'n a coolie's, 'is work is never done;
But you bet I'm goin' to quit it fust chance as comes my way,
For a sailor's life's a dog's life, look at it 'ow you may.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

5. Lavender Pond [sung text checked 1 time]

Never a swallow wets his wing
In Lavender Pond from Spring to Spring;
Never a lily, pure and chill,
Holds her cup for the dews to fill;
Never a willow, gnarled and hoar,
Bends his bough to a reedy shore;
Never a fragrant flower spike blows there,
Never a lordly King-staff grows there,
Slender and straight where sedges shiver
And glistening Mayflies glance and quiver,
In Lavender Pond by London River.

But the Baltic barques they come and go
With their old pump-windmills turning slow,
And the tall Cape Horners rest and ride
Like stately swans on the murky tide,
And the ocean tramps all red and rusted,
Worn and weathered and salt-encrusted,
Gather and cluster near and far,
Derrick and funnel, mast and spar,
From many a port of old renown,
And lonely wharf where the booms float down,
To Lavender Pond by London Town. 

And keen and strong is the wind that comes
To the dingy streets of the Deptford slums,
Strong and keen with the scent it steals
Off piled-up acres of Kalmar deals,
[Spruce and cedar and baulks of pine,
Red with resin and drenched with brine,
Sawn from the boles that once did stand,
Rank on rank in a virgin land.
Where the cougar prowls through the silent glades
In the forest depths of the far Cascades.....]1

And the gulls go flying, the gulls go crying,
And the wind's sob and the water's sighing
Croon to the ships an old sea ditty
In Lavender Pond by London City.

Authorship

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1 omitted by Head.

Research team for this text: Brian Charles Witkowski , Chris McDonald

6. Sweethearts and Wives [sung text checked 1 time]

The very first voyage as ever I made
I went to sea in the East Coast trade
And I courted a gal at Seaton Sluice
If her name warn't Lizzie it must ha' been Luce
So I did!

And then I sailed in a Colonies clipper
With a rare old rip of a racing skipper,
And there warn't no sense nor there warn't no use
A-courtin' a gal at Seaton Sluice;
So I looked for another down Melbourne way
If her name warn't Kitty, it must ha' been May
So I did!

Oh next I sailed in a pearlin' brig
To the South Sea Isles both little and big,
Where it warn't no use, say what you may,
A-courtin' a gal down Melbourne way.
So I didn't worry with her no longer
But I soon picked up with a gal in Tonger,
An island gal as brown as a berry
Don't know her name, but I called her "Cherry", "Cherry"
So I did!

But last I signed in a Liverpool liner,
Go where you will and you won't find a finer!
And it's time, thinks I, to be settlin' down,
So I married a widder in Monkey Town,
With a bit in the bank and a "corner off"
And when I'm ashore now I lives like a toff.
And as for the gal at Seaton Sluice
I 'ope she ain't waitin', for that ain't no use,
And as for the ones at Montreal and Tonger
and Taltal and Melbourne and all,
And all the whole boilin' from France to Fiji,
I 'ope they're all married and 'appy like me.
So I do!

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Thomas Dymit