A song for whale hunters and graduate students the world over about a project that never seems to end and for which one is paid very little.
Amy first heard this song from The Woods Tea Company. It was collected by A.L. Lloyd from sources in Newfoundland, and appears in Dan Milner and Paul Kaplan's song book, A Bonny Bunch of Roses, as well as on recordings by A.L. Lloyd, Kallet Epstein and Cicone, and the Battlefield Band (who put the pub in Edinburgh). It's often called "Wings of a Gull" or "The Weary Whaling Ground." We added an Irish tune, a shape note hymn and .04% (by volume) of Moby Dick.
Oh if I had the wings of a gull, me boys,
I would spread them and fly home.
I would leave old Greenland's icy ground,
For the right whale here is none.
Oh the weather's rough and the winds do blow,
And there's little comfort here.
And I'd sooner be snug in an Edinburgh pub
A-drinking of strong beer.
Oh, a man must be mad or he's wanting money bad
To adventure catching whales,
For he may be drowned when the fish he turns around
Or his head smashed in by the tail.
Oh the work seems grand to a young green hand
And his heart is high when he goes,
But in a very short burst he would sooner hear a curse
Than the cry of "There she blows!"
Thy words the raging winds control,
And rule the boisterous deep
Thou mak'st the sleeping billows roll
The rolling billows sleep,
The rolling billows sleep
"All hands on deck now, for God's sake!
Move briskly if you can."
And you stumble on deck so dizzy and so sick,
For your life you don't give a damn.
High overhead the great flukes spread
And the mate gives the whale the iron
And soon the blood in a purple flood
From his spout hole comes a flyin'.
These trials we bear for nigh on four years
'Til our flying jib points to home.
We're supposed for our toil to get a bonus on the oil
And an equal share of the bone.
But we go to the agent to settle for the trip
And there we have cause to repent,
For we've slaved away four years of our lives
And earned about three pounds ten.
from With Teeth
released August 17, 1999
(trad. Canadian) with Virginia (Words: Isaac Watts; Music: Oliver Brownson) and The Gravel Walk (trad. Irish)
JD: drums, backing vocals; AK: vocals, whistle, backing vocals; TR: dulcimer, backing vocals; JS: bass, stick, backing vocals; HZ: violin, backing vocals
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