Author Topic: Add: Coast of High Barbaree


Posted - 21 Aug 04 - 01:02 pm

There were two lofty ships from old England came,
Blow high, blow low, and so sailed we:
One was the Prince of Luther and the other Prince of Wales,
Cruising down along the coast of the High Barbaree.

'Aloft there, aloft!' our jolly boatswain cries.
Blow high, blow low, and so sailed we;
'Look ahead, look astern, look the weather and a-lee,
Look down the coast of the High Barbaree.'

'There's nought upon the stern, there's nought upon the lee.'
Blow high, blow low, and so sailed we;
'But there's a lofty ship to windward and she's sailing fast and free,
Sailing down along the coast of High Barbaree.'

'O hail her! O hail her!' our gallant captain cried,
Blow high, blow low, and so sailed we;
'Are you a man-o'-war or a privateer,' said he,
'Cruising down along the coast of High Barbaree?'

'O, I am not a man-o'-war nor privateer,' said he,
Blow high, blow low, and so sailed we;
'But I'm a salt-sea pirate a-looking for my fee,
Cruising down along the coast of High Barbaree.

O, 'twas broadside to broadside a long time we lay,
Blow high, blow low, and so sailed we;
Until the Prince of Luther shot the pirate's mast away.
Cruising down along the coast of High Barbaree.

'O quarter! O quarter! those pirates then did cry,
Blow high, blow low, and so sailed we;
But the quarter that we gave them we sunk them in the sea,
Cruising down along the coast of High Barbaree.

Source: Singing Together, Summer 1967, BBC Publications


This is taken from A Jubilee Book of English Folk Songs collected by H. B. Whall and published by Oxford University Press.


Posted - 21 Aug 04 - 01:15 pm

This is in the Digital Tradition as 'High Barbaree' with two tunes from Hugill; the first tune (HIGHBRB1) is a variant of the one given here and was apparently used as a forebitter. It is number 175 in the 'Shantys of the Seven Seas' abc project held here.

Edited By dmcg - 21-Aug-2004 01:21:48 PM

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 21 Aug 04 - 03:07 pm

Kenneth Loveless (ed), A Jubilee Book of English Folk-songs. London: Oxford University Press, 1958. Arranged for unison voices and piano by Imogen Holst. The melody edition included guitar accompaniments by Patrick Shuldham Shaw.

Roud 134, Laws K33. Presumably the same set published in W B Whall's Sea Songs and Shanties, and noted some time in the 1860s.

Most of the major collectors found examples in oral currency, and the song was issued on broadsides; see America Singing for an example printed in Boston (USA):

Coast of Barbary

In its earlier form, The George Aloe and the Sweepstake, the song was issued by the broadside press in the later 17th century; but was originally registered in 1590, though that ballad is lost but for a fragment quoted in The Two Noble Kinsmen (attr. Shakespeare and Fletcher, c.1613).

A broadside of c. 1689-1709 can be seen at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:

The seaman's only delight: shewing the brave fight between the George-Aloe, the Sweepstakes and certain French men at sea

More information in Roy Palmer, Boxing the Compass, 28-30, and Joseph Ebsworth, Roxburghe Ballads, VI, 408-410. Both books quote the text issued by Coles, Wright, Vere and Gilbertson (later 1650s to early 1660s), The Sailor's Only Delight, Showing the brave Fight between the George-Aloe, the Sweepstake, and certain Frenchmen at Sea.

Edited By Malcolm Douglas - 22-Aug-2004 03:38:27 PM


Posted - 26 Aug 04 - 01:06 pm

Malcolm: the BBC cover certainly says 'H. B. Whall'. Do you think this is a misprint or some other Whall?

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 26 Aug 04 - 05:20 pm

A misprint, I'm sure.

Incidentally, people will sometimes tell you that High Barbary was written by Charles Dibdin (though based on George Aloe). I've been trying to trace the source of this assertion. In Helen Hartness Flanders, Ancient Ballads Traditionally Sung in New England, Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 1965, IV, 176-187, for example, Tristram Coffin (presumably) wrote:

"This song traces back to a piece written for the British Navy by Charles Dibdin (1745-1814). Dibdin based his composition on George Aloe and the Sweepstake but retained little of his model beyond the plot outline and the 'Barbary' refrain."

This would seem to imply that he had seen the song in question, which however he does not name. In his British Traditional Ballad in North America (Austin: University of Texas Press, revised edition, 1963, 152-3) he states:

"There are many American versions of a derivative of Child 285 that go under a variation of a Coast of Barbary title. These ... trace back to a song based on [The George Aloe and the Sweepstake] and written for the British Navy by Charles Dibden" [sic].

Again, no reference is given. The book was first published in 1950.

I'd expect Coffin to know his onions, but Patrick Shuldham-Shaw and Emily Lyle (Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1981, I, 508) note, in relation to an Aberdeenshire set, that the Duncan MS contained the comment "Dibdin has a song called Blow High, Blow Low?" They add "Dibdin's song ... is quite different".

It is indeed. Beyond the fact that it includes the words "Blow High, Blow Low" and is a sea song, it bears no resemblance whatever to High Barbary. Of course, Dibdin was a very prolific songwriter with an output in the thousands, I think, and there may perhaps be another song of his somewhere which really is based on George Aloe; but if there is, no commentator seems to have said so. Bronson (Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, Princetown University, IV, 306) writes:

"Agnes D Cannon, citing G Malcolm Laws Jnr, American Balladry from British Broadsides, 1957, p 157, attributes the song to Charles Dibdin. Cf Western Folklore, XXIII, January 1964, p 7n. Laws quotes Frank Shay, presumably out of American Sea Songs and Chanties [1948], as his authority; but Laws seems concerned only with the text. Dibdin's song, Blow high, blow low, in 'The Seraglio', 1776, is an entirely independent and original composition."

The alleged Dibdin connection appears ultimately to be traceable to Shay, then; though the possibility had obviously occurred to Duncan. It has subsequently been repeated (sometimes with what appears to be added detail) as "received wisdom" by people who have not checked for themselves. Those who have, have dismissed the suggestion.

Broadside editions of Dibdin's song can be seen at the Bodleian.

Browse Titles: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z