“Teach the Rover”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1906
Keywords: pirate battle

Description

Teach, an outlaw captain, goes to Carolina after the Act of Grace, but soon turns pirate. Finally he is overtaken by Maynard's crew. In the desperate battle that follows, Maynard boards the pirate ship and himself kills Teach

Supplemental text

Teach the Rover
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

From Geoffrey Grigson, The Penguin Book of Ballads, #78, pp. 261-263.
Derived from John Masefield's 1906 A Sailor's Garland.

Will you hear of a bloody Battle
  Lately fought upon the Seas,
It will make your Ears to rattle,
  And your Admiration cease;
Have you heard of Teach the Rover,
  And his Knavery on the Main;
How of Gold he was a Lover,
  He he lov'd an ill-got Tain.

(9 additional stanzas)

Notes

Edward Teach is the actual name of the pirate usually known as "Blackbeard." This song agrees with _The General History of Pirates_ (usually attributed to Daniel Defoe, but this is now much doubted) in describing him as quite successful and bloody, but available records (such as the log of a ship the _History_ asserts fought against Teach) seem to indicate that much of the _History's_ account is fiction.

It is also true that Teach's short career did not yield many rich prizes, and the records do not indicate that he harmed his victims.

According to Arthur Herman, _To Rule the Waves_, pp. 248-249, Teach was a Bristolman who had fought in the War of the Spanish Succession. He made his base in the maze that was North Carolina's Outer Banks, making it hard for large ships to pursue him. This kept him safe from the two Royal Navy sloops of war sent to hunt him down, but the captain of the _Pearle_ sent Lt. Maynard aboard a small boat to catch Teach. Their battle, on November 21, was fought in conditions of no wind, so apart from one broadside Teach managed to fire at the navy force, it was all hand-to-hand combat.

Reportedly Teach's body had been pierced by five pistol shots and 25 sword wounds. But the corpse was beheaded and the body thrown overboard, so this cannot be proved.

But, of course, what counts is not what actually happened but what people thought happened. David Cordingly, _Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates_, 1995 (I use the 1997 Harcourt Brace edition), p. 13, quotes the _History_ as follows:

"Captain Teach assumed the cognomen of Black-beard, from that large quantity of hair, which, like a frightful meteor, covered his face, and frightened America more than any other comet that has appeared for a long time.

"This beard was black, which he suffered to grow of an extravagant length; as to breadth, it came up to his eyes; he was accustomed to twist it with ribbons... and turn them about his ears; in time of action, he wore a sling over his shoulders, with three brace of pistols, hanging in holsters like bandoliers, and stuck lighted matches under his hat, which appearing on both sides of his face, his eyes naturally looking fierce and wild, made him altogether such a figure, that imagination cannot form an idea of a fury, from Hell, to look more frightful."

Some of this, like the part about the matches, is probably exaggerated, but Cordingly, pp. 13-14, quotes several sources supporting his long beard tied with ribbons.

There was, according to Cordingly, p. 24, a successful (but far from accurate) play from 1798 called "Blackbeard, or The Captive Princess." I don't know if it influenced this song; it doesn't sound like it would have.

According to Firth, the earliest version of this is from _The Worcester Garland_, a copy of which is in the British Library (1162.c.4 [89]). But he offers no date. - RBW

Historical references

References

  1. PBB 78, "Teach the Rover" (1 text)
  2. ADDITIONAL: C. H. Firth, _Publications of the Navy Records Society_ , 1907 (available on Google Books), p. 166, "The Downfall of Piracy" (1 text)
  3. ST PBB078 (Partial)
  4. Roud #8115
  5. BI, PBB078