Whaling Shanty: Wearing Whaling Grounds (Wings of a Gull)

Seamen on long voyages frequently sang shanties (or Chanties) both to alleviate the boredom of the long days, and to help keep the rhythm of a repetitive task.

For American Experience's Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World, actors performed the shanty Weary Whaling Grounds (Wings of a Gull.)

 

Weary Whaling Grounds (Wings of a Gull)

Oh if I had the wings of a gull, me boys, I would spread em and fly home
I would leave old Greenland's icy grounds for of right whales there is none
The weather's rough and the winds do blow, there is little comfort here
I'd rather be snug in a New Bedford  pub a-drinking of strong beer

For a man must be mad or wanting money bad for to venture catching whales
For he might be drowned when the fish turns around or his head smashed in by the tail
Though the work seems grand to the young green hand and his heart is high when he goes
In a very short burst you would rather hear the curse than the cry of "Thar she blows!"

Now it’s up on deck, and  for God's sake, move briskly if you can
And he stumbles on decks so dizzy and so sick, for his life he don't give a damn
High overhead the white flukes spread, and the mate gives the whale the iron
And soon the blood in a purple flood from the spout-hole comes a-flying

These trials we bear for nigh on four years till the flying jib points for home
We're supposed for our toil to get a bonus on the oil, and an equal share of the bone
When we go to the agent to settle for the trip, and there we find cause for repent
For we slaved away four long years of our lives and we not earn one red cent

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  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • Rosalind P. Walter
  • NEH