Three Salt-Water Ballads

Song Cycle by J. Frederick Keel (1871 - 1954)

Word count: 523

1. Port of many ships [sung text checked 1 time]

It's a sunny pleasant anchorage, is Kingdom Come,
Where crews is always layin’ aft for double-tots o’ rum,
‘N’ there's dancing ‘n’ fiddling of ev’ry kind o' sort,
It's a fine place for sailor-men is that there port.
	‘N’ I wish –
	 I wish as I was there.

The winds is never nothin' more than jest light airs,
N' no one gets belayin' pinn’d, n' no one never swears,
Yer free to loaf ‘n’ laze around, yer pipe atween yer lips, 
Lollin' on the fo'c'sle, sonny, lookin' at the ships.
	‘N’ I wish –
	 I wish as I was there.

For ridin' in the anchorage the ships of all the world,
Have got one anchor down ‘n’ all sails furl’d.
All the sunken hookers ‘n’ the crews as took 'n' died
They lays there merry, sonny, swingin' to the tide
	‘N’ I wish –
	 I wish as I was there.

Drown’d old wooden hookers green wi' drippin' wrack,
Ships as never fetch’d to port, as never came back,
Swingin' to the blushin' tide, dippin' to the swell,
N' the crews all singin', sonny, beatin' on the bell
	‘N’ I wish –
	 I wish as I was there.

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Researcher for this text: Mike Pearson

2. Trade winds [sung text checked 1 time]

In the harbour, in the island, in the Spanish seas,
Are the tiny white houses and the orange trees,
And day-long, night-long, the cool and pleasant breeze
  Of the steady Trade Winds blowing.

There is the red wine, the nutty Spanish ale,
The shuffle of the dancers, and the old salt's tale,
The squeaking fiddle, and the soughing in the sail
  Of the steady Trade Winds blowing.

and o'nights there's the fire-flies and the yellow moon,
And in the ghostly palm trees the sleepy tune
Of the quiet voice calling me, the long low croon
  Of the steady Trade Winds blowing.


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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • SPA Spanish (Español) (José Miguel Llata) , "Vientos alisios", copyright © 2020, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

First published in Outlook (October 1901)

Researcher for this text: Gordon P. Briggs

3. Mother Carey [sung text checked 1 time]

     (as told me by the bo'sun)

Mother Carey? She's the mother o' the witches
  'N' all them sort o' rips;
She's a fine gell to look at, but the hitch is,
  She's a sight too fond of ships;
She lives upon an iceberg to the norred,
  'N' her man he's Davy Jones,
'N' she combs the weeds upon her forred
  With pore [drowned]1 sailors' bones.

She's the mother o' the wrecks, 'n' the mother
  Of all big winds as blows;
She's up to some deviltry or other
  When it storms, or sleets, or snows;
The noise of the wind's her screamin',
  'I'm arter a plump, young, fine,
[Brass-buttoned, beefy-ribbed]2 young seam'n
  So as me 'n' my mate kin dine.'

She's a hungry old rip 'n' a cruel
  For sailor-men like we,
She's give a many mariners the gruel
  'N' a long sleep under sea;
She's the blood o' many a crew upon her
  'N' the bones of many a wreck,
'N' she's barnacles a-growin' on her
  'N' shark's teeth round her neck.

I ain't never had no schoolin'
  Nor read no books like you,
But I knows ['t]3 ain't healthy to be foolin'
  With that there gristly two;
You're young, you thinks, 'n' you're lairy,
  But if you're to make old bones,
Steer clear, I says, o' Mother Carey,
  'N' that there Davy Jones.


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View original text (without footnotes)
First published in Speaker, 1902
1 Keel: "drown'd"
2 Keel: "Brass-button’d, beefy-ribb’d"
3 Keel: "it"

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Mike Pearson