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Roud Folk Song Index #807

A foc'sle shanty which tells the grim tale of cannibalism narrowly averted. These lyrics are Martin Carthy's version which he famously performed with Dave Swarbrick on violin on his album But Two Came By, 1968.

    Ship In Distress, The

    by trad
    You [Dm] seamen bold who [C] plough the ocean
    See [F] dangers [Dm] lands- [F] men [C] never [Dm] know.
    [Dm] 'Tis not for honour or [C] promotion;
    No [F] tongue can [Dm] tell [F] what they [C] under- [Dm] go.
    In the blusterous wind and the great dark water
    Our ship went drifting on the sea,
    Her rigging gone, and her rudder broken,
    Which brought us to extremity.

    For fourteen days, heartsore and hungry,
    Seeing but wild water and bitter sky,
    Poor fellows all stood in a totter,
    A-casting lots as to who should die.
    Their lot it fell on Robert Jackson,
    Whose family was so great.
    “I'm free to die, but oh, me comrades,
    Let me keep look-out till the break of day.”

    A full dressed ship like the sun a-glittering
    Came bearing down to their relief.
    As soon as this glad news was shouted,
    It banished all their care and grief.
    Our ship brought to, no longer drifting,
    Safe in Saint Vincent, Cap Verde, she lay.
    You seamen all, who hear my story,
    Pray you'll ne'er suffer the like again.