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Songs of the Fleet

Word count: 933

Song Cycle by Charles Villiers Stanford, Sir (1852 - 1924)

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1. Sailing at dawn [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

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One by one the pale stars die before the day now,
One by one the great ships are stirring from their sleep,
Cables all are rumbling, anchors all a-weigh now,
Now the fleet's a fleet again, gliding towards the deep.

  Now the fleet's a fleet again, bound upon the old ways,
  Splendour of the past comes shining in the spray;
  Admirals of old time, bring us on the bold ways!
  Souls of all the sea-dogs, lead the line to-day!

Far away behind us town and tower are dwindling,
Home becomes a fair dream faded long ago;
Infinitely glorious the height of heaven is kindling,
Infinitely desolate the shoreless sea below.

  Now the fleet's a fleet again, bound upon the old ways, etc.

Once again with proud hearts we make the old surrender,
Once again with high hearts serve the age to be,
Not for us the warm life of Earth, secure and tender,
Ours the eternal wandering and warfare of the sea.

  Now the fleet's a fleet again, bound upon the old ways, etc.


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]

2. The song of the sou'wester [ sung text not yet checked against a primary source]

Language: English

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The sun was lost in a leaden sky,
And the shore lay under our lee;
When a great Sou' Wester hurricane high
Came rollicking up the sea.

He played with the fleet as a boy with boats
Till out for the Downs we ran,
And he laugh'd with the roar of a thousand throats
At the militant ways of man:

  Oh! I am the enemy most of might,
  The other be who you please!
  Gunner and guns may all be right,
  Flags a-flying and armour tight,
  But I am the fellow you've first to fight -- 
  The giant that swings the seas.

A dozen of middies were down below
Chasing the X they love,
While the table curtseyed long and slow
And the lamps were giddy above.

The lesson was all of a ship and a shot,
And some of it may have been true,
But the word they heard and never forgot
Was the word of the wind that blew:

  Oh! I am the enemy most of might, etc.

The Middy with luck is a Captain soon,
With luck he may hear one day
His own big guns a-humming the tune
"'Twas in Trafalgar's Bay."

But wherever he goes, with friends or foes,
And whatever may there befall,
He'll hear for ever a voice he knows
For ever defying them all:

  Oh! I am the enemy most of might, etc.


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]

3. The middle watch [ sung text not yet checked against a primary source]

Language: English

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In a blue dusk the ship astern
Uplifts her slender spars,
With golden lights that seem to burn
Among the silver stars.

Like fleets along a cloudy shore
The constellations creep,
Like planets on the ocean floor
Our silent course we keep.

And over the endless plain,
Out of the night forlorn
Rises a faint refrain,
A song of the day to be born -- 
Watch, oh watch till ye find again
Life and the land of morn.

From a dim West to a dark East
Our lines unwavering head,
As if their motion long had ceased
And Time itself were dead.

Vainly we watch the deep below,
Vainly the void above,
They died a thousand years ago -- 
Life and the land we love.

But over the endless plain,
Out of the night forlorn
Rises a faint refrain,
A song of the day to be born -- 
Watch, oh watch till ye find again
Life and the land of morn.


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]

4. The little admiral [ sung text not yet checked against a primary source]

Language: English

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Stand by to reckon up your battleships -- 
Ten, twenty, thirty, there they go.
Brag about your cruisers like Leviathans -- 
A thousand men a-piece down below.

But here's just one little Admiral -- 
We're all of us his brothers and his sons,
And he's worth, O he's worth at the very least
Double all your tons and all your guns.

Stand by, etc.

See them on the forebridge signalling -- 
A score of men a-hauling hand to hand,
And the whole fleet flying like the wild geese
Moved by some mysterious command.

Where's the mighty will that shows the way to them,
The mind that sees ahead so quick and clear?
He's there, Sir, walking all alone there -- 
The little man whose voice you never hear

Stand by, etc.

There are queer things that only come to sailormen;
They're true, but they're never understood;
And I know one thing about the Admiral,
That I can't tell rightly as I should.

I've been with him when hope sank under us -- 
He hardly seemed a mortal like the rest,
I could swear that he had stars upon his uniform,
And one sleeve pinned across his breast.

Stand by, etc.

Some day we're bound to sight the enemy,
He's coming, tho' he hasn't yet a name.
Keel to keel and gun to gun he'll challenge us
To meet him at the Great Armada game.

None knows what may be the end of it,
But we'll all give our bodies and our souls
To see the little Admiral a-playing him
A rubber of the old Long Bowls!

Stand by, etc.


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]

5. Fare well [ sung text not yet checked against a primary source]

Language: English

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Mother, with unbowed head
Hear thou across the sea
The farewell of the dead,
The dead who died for thee.

Greet them again with tender words and grave,
For, saving thee, themselves they could not save.
To keep the house unharmed
Their fathers built so fair,
Deeming endurance armed
Better than brute despair,

They found the secret of the word that saith,
"Service is sweet, for all true life is death."

So greet thou well thy dead
Across the homeless sea,
And be thou comforted
Because they died for thee.

Far off they served, but now their deed is done
For evermore their life and thine are one.


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]

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