I Am in Love with this Masculine Sea Chantey

Listen to those Irish tenors! *swoons*

Now, the mystery deepens. I first learned about this song, this month, not from a Irishman nor from a sailor, but from a biography of Harriet Tubman.

When you look at the following page, keep in mind that although Harriet was short and slight, she had a surprising deep, resonant voice as a result of a “lung fever” (pneumonia?) that she got as a child.

“The Underground Abuductor,” p. 85


Hale, Nathan, artist, The Underground Abductor. Amulet Books, 2015.

Lawton, Wendy, Courage to Run: A story based on the life of Harriet Tubman. Moody, 2009. Lung fever and lower voice described in Chapter 6, pp. 59 – 68.

7 thoughts on “I Am in Love with this Masculine Sea Chantey

  1. Benjamin Ledford

    Oh, now I’m in love with it too! I think I’ll spend my morning listening to sea shanties while I work.

    Funny thing, we just recently came across this (but didn’t look up the tune) in The Long Winter. Pa and the other men sing it while pumping a handcart to go help shovel out the drifts on the railroad. I’ll have to share this video with the girls.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Benjamin Ledford

    Another thought, this kind of pulls at my heart when I think of the loss of group singing. How many communities are there where you could gather the town or neighborhood together and sing for a long time, songs that you all know? That’s just one of the strongest expressions of community, and it seems like it’s pretty rare. There’s another video I’ve see online of a group singing “Rattlin’ Bog” at an Irish wedding, and it has the same effect on me. A sort of nostalgia (though I’ve never been Irish or a sailor).

    There are a lot of songs (Roll the Old Chariot Along and Rattlin’ Bog among them) that a group can easily join in to as long as there’s one person singing the lead, but the real test of thick community knowledge is when you can hear strong harmonies coming from the group. You get that in good Mennonite congregational singing, too. Gotta figure out how to revive and cultivate that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it is a real loss.
      I recently watched Glory, and there’s a scene in it where the 45th Massachusetts (first African American regiment in the Civil War) has a prayer/singing service the night before a battle that is likely to be bloody. There are so many amazing things about that scene, but one of them is the way they are all able to carry the song along and harmonize freely, sort of like vocal jazz.


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