“Old Sailor's Song”


No tune given, basically a poem recounting the various travails of sailors. Nine stanzas; begins "Come listen unto me a while and I will tell you then, the hardships and the misery of life on a merchantman..."

Supplemental text

Old Sailor's Song
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

From Joanna C. Colcord, Songs of American Sailormen (1938 edition),
p. 138-140. Collected from H. H. Chamberlain of Round Pond, Maine.

Come listen unto me a while
And I will tell you then
The hardships and the misery
Of life on a merchantman.
At four o'clock in the morning
The mate will turn you to
To wash and scrub the paint work,
If there is nothing else to do.

At seven bells the watch is called,
Our Captain comes on deck;
Then his is growling at the mate
If the stu'nsails are not set.
Then reeve your tack and halyards,
Your sail now hoist away,
Or else you may expect no peace
The remainder of the day.

(7 additional stanzas)


Colcord says this was secured from Fannie Hardy Eckstorm, co-author of _Minstrelsy of Maine_ (though it is not in that collection), which would date it to around 1927. - SL

Curiously, the song does not appear in Jean Patten Whitten's description of the Eckstorm folk song collection (_Fannie Hardy Eckstorn: A Descriptive Bibliography_), at least not under this title or filed under Colcord's first line.

The lyrics fit "Bold Jack Donahoe"/"Jim Jones at Botany Bay," and there are enough similarities that I think that may have been the tune intended. - RBW


  1. Colcord, pp. 138-140, "Old Sailor's Song" (1 text)
  2. ST Colc138 (Partial)
  3. Roud #4705
  4. BI, Colc138


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1938
Keywords: sailor work hardtimes
Found in: US