Captain Larkins (MacEdward Leach)

Oh, come all ye jolly sailor lads
before the mast do sail,
'Twould be worth your while
a moment to listen to my tale;
And if you pay attention
I won't ye long delay,
Till I relate the hardships
that do attend at sea.

Being on December the eighteenth,
right well I recollect the day,
When Larkins he gave orders
for to get underway;
With double-reefed topsails fore and aft,
our brig before the wind,
Leaving St John's, that bonny place,
a long distance behind.

The day bein' on the twentieth,
the sea it did run high,
And flew wit' all his might
while dismal looked the sky;
The morning of the twenty-first
a dreadful sea she poked,
That carried away our roundhouse,
and her wheel in pieces broke.

Some of the tars hung to the yards
her canvas for to clue,
While under three-rigged foresail
we 'round our good ship to;
Some of the crew did try the pumps,
more with her decks did clear,
And more a reel and tackle
got her helm to secure.

For two days and two nights
lying to we did remain,
Till our wheel it was completed
and fit to run again;
And the wind from the north-nor'west
wit' vengeance still it blew,
Our Captain cries, make sail, my b'ys,
and we'll see what she can do.

From eight knots to eleven
she reeled off till Christmas day,
And ten o'clock in the forenoon
she shipped another sea;
It filled her deck from rail to rail
the breakers foamed all 'round,
'Twas every man's opinion
stern-foremost she'd go down.

The Captain and the wheelsman
was on deck at the time,
The rest o' the watch were down below
some spare sails for to find;
They did their efforts to get up
but it was all in vain,
Wit' the force of water bundling down,
her deck they couldn't gain.

For fourteen or fifteen minutes
she lay quite motionless,
It did to us great injuries,
once more our wheel did smash;
Our compass and binnacle
half a rail away it took,
It startled our companion galley's
stanchion and bulwark.

But to the Lord we're grateful,
relief he did afford,
So quickly it did abate,
the next sea it didn't board;
Twenty-seven crowded canvas
and before the wind did fly,
The 16th day we were at sea
the Rock of Gib-e-ralter she passed by.

It's for our usage, brave boys,
come listen unto me,
Perhaps 'twill be a warning
for you who'll go to sea;
We oftentimes went hungry
rather than for to complain,
Till at length it grew so very hard
our allowance was forced to claim.

According to the board of trade
our articles were read,
As neat as if it was gold dust
we were weighed one pound of bread;
For twenty-four long hours
on that a man should do,
Besides pork and beef and tea and coffee
wit' sugar allowances, too.

Peter Ansfield, our chief officer,
long life wit' him remain,
He oftentimes did pity us
and say it was a shame;
To see such l'yal hearted men
all treated as we were,
But pinchin'-slyly Captain Larkins
sayin' we got our share.

Wit' hearts like oak both stout and bold
we agreed wit' one another,
Combined we were, I do declare,
as united as brothers;
To starve there on the ocean
before Larkins we would say,
Askin' for one morsel
but our single pound a day.

So now to conclude and finish,
I have little more to say,
For the want of time and learning,
once more must go to sea;
Leaving our wives and sweethearts
in sorrow for to mourn,
May God above send down his love
and grant us a safe return.

If you're inclined my name to find,
apply to the alphabet,
The first letter of the twenty-six
do belong to it.
The third you may lay on it
and after that divide,
The seventh and eighth you may complete,
lay on the fifth beside.

The tent' and fourteent' study
on the fifteenth, bear in mind,
And the eighteenth letter will situate
as you may plainly see;
I have no hesitation to
tell you the author's name,
A-C-G-H-E-J-N-O-R, John Grace is
this man of little fame.

####.... John Grace, a seaman from Riverhead, St John's, NL ....####
Collected in 1951 from John M Curtis [c.1877-?] of Trepassey, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

John Grace's narrative style of songwriting becomes obvious when this song is compared with another variant of his songs, Harkin's Voyage.

From Sailor's Choice Nautical Terms:
Bulwark - railing around the deck of a boat to keep things from going overboard and the seas from coming aboard.

From The American Heritage Dictionary:
Binnacle - nonmagnetic stand on which a ship's compass case is supported.
Crowded - spread a large amount of sail to increase speed. Reefed - reduced the size of a sail by tucking in a part and tying it to or rolling it around a yard to lessen the area exposed to the wind.
Roundhouse - cabin on the after part of the quarter-deck of a ship.
Stanchion - upright pole, post, or support.


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