“Six Days Shalt Thou Labor”


"Six days shalt thou labor and do all thou art able, And on the seventh -- holystone the decks and scrape the cable" (or "the seventh the same, and clean out the stable," etc.) A (sailor's) complaint about hard work and dishonoring the Sabbath


The first two lines of this are quoted in various forms; the description contains the earliest form I know, from Richard Henry Dana's _Two Years Before the Mast_. But it seems to have generalized.

We might add that, while some of the tasks described in the song are make-work, make-work was necessary at sea, especially aboard a naval vessel that had many more hands than were ordinarily needed to run the ship. Almost none of the sailors could read or do much except sail a ship; their only entertainment was grog (which had to be rationed, both because the supply was finite and because they had to be sober enough to work the ship) and maybe music. Had they not been kept busy, they would have gone stir-crazy -- or mutinied. - RBW


  1. BrownIII 228, "For Six Days Do All That Thou Art Able" (1 text)
  2. Roud #16857
  3. BI, Br3228


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1840 (Two Years Before the Mast)
Keywords: work hardtimes
Found in: US(SE)