85 - The King of the Southern Sea

Recorded in the 1839 Sailor's Journal, but attributed to the Glasgow Chronicle there, the chorus of this song or poem is also quoted by Hermann Melville in Moby Dick. N.J. Sporle apparently set it to music but we haven't found a recording yet…

The song takes a dark turn in the third verse when awe at the whale's might turns to praise for his useful oil.

Oh, the whale is free of the boundless sea,

He lives for a thousand years;

He sinks to rest on the billow’s breast,

Nor the roughest tempest tears.

The howling blast as it hurries past,

Is music to lull him to sleep ;

And he scatters the spray in his boisterous play,

As he dashes the King of the deep.

Oh, the rare old whale, 'mid storm and gale,

In his ocean home will be;

A giant in might, where might is right,

And king of the boundless sea.

A wond’rous tale could the rare old whale

Of the mighty deep disclose,

Of the skeleton forms, of by-gone storms,

And of treasures which no one knows,

He has seen the crew, when the tempest blew,

Drop down from the slipp’ry deck,

Shaking the tide from his glassy side,

And sporting with ocean and wreck.

Then the rare old whale, &c.

Then the whale shall be still dear to me,

When the midnight lamp burns dim,

For the student’s book and his fav’rite nook

Are illumin’d by the aid of him

From none of his tribe could we e’er imbibe,

So useful, so blessed a thing,

Then we’ll on land go hand in hand,

To hall him the Ocean King,

Oh, the rare old whale, &c.