“The Shantyman's Life (I)”


"The shantyman's life is a wearisome one, Though some say it's free from care; It's the ringing of the axe from morning until night in the middle of the forest drear." The singer lists the hazards of his life; he plans to go home, marry, and settle down


Some versions of this song refer to a lack of liquor; Doerflinger reports that strong drink was banned in most logging camps in the years after 1860. The only recourse was a "visit to the dentist" or the like -- an excuse that obviously could only be tried so many times.

The broadside version of this is credited to George W. Stace of "La Crosse Valley, Wis[consin]." For what it's worth, La Crosse is in the heart of what used to be the Big Woods country. - RBW

Cross references

  • cf. "Barbara Allen" (tune) (the usual tune for this piece is what Charles Seeger called the "type 1" Barbara Allen tune and Bronson labelled the "Group D" tune)
  • cf. "A Cowboy's Life" (tune & meter; lyrics)


  • Pierre La Dieu, "The Shanty Man's Life" (Columbia 15278-D, 1928)
  • Pete Seeger, "The Shantyman's Life" (on PeteSeeger29)


  1. Dean, pp. 87-88, "The Shanty Man's Life" (1 text)
  2. Rickaby 9, "The Shanty-man's Life" (2 texts plus a fragment, 3 tunes)
  3. Gardner/Chickering 103, "The Shantyman's Life" (1 text plus an excerpt, 1 tune)
  4. Doerflinger, pp. 211-213, "A Shantyman's Life" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  5. Fowke/Johnston, pp. 66-67, "The Shantyman's Life" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Creighton/Senior, pp. 274, "Shantyman's Life" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Mackenzie 150, "The Lumberman's Life" (1 text)
  8. FSCatskills 1, "A Shantyman's Life" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Warner 34, "The Shanty Man" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Sandburg, pp. 390-391, "The Shanty-Man's Life" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Botkin-NEFolklr, pp. 567-568, "The Lumberman's Life" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Beck 6, "A Shantyman's Life" (1 text)
  14. Roud #838
  15. BI, Doe211


Author: George W. Stace?
Earliest date: 1858 (broadside)
Found in: Canada(Mar) US(MA,MW,NE,NW,Ro) Canada(Mar)