91 - The Weary Whaling Grounds

This is a mash up of two versions of a traditional song about the 1845-50 Greenland right whale fishing. It includes words from A.L. Lloyd's version, some lyrics by Kings of the South Seas (2015) and some new lines to focus on the violence of whaling and the whaler's longing for his family at home.

If I had the wings of a gull, my boy,
I’d spread them and fly home.
I’d leave old Greenland’s icy grounds
For of right whales there is none.
A man must be mad or want money bad
To venture catching whales.
For we may be drowned when the fish turns around
Or our heads smashed by his tail.

Though the work seems grand to a young green hand,
And his heart is high when he goes,
In a very short burst he’d as soon hear a curse
As the cry of: “There she blows!”
“All hands on deck now, for God’s sake,
Move briskly if you can.”
And he stumbles on deck, so dizzy and sick;
For his life he don’t give a damn.

High overhead the great flukes spread,
As the mate gives the whale the iron
And soon all his blood in a purple flood,
All out of his spout comes flying.
Oh the deck of the ship it shines red in the night,
As we’re burning the whale away,
The smell of death is so deep on my skin,
In this living Hell I stay.

For surely Jehovah has damned our souls
For the wickedness we do,
And I think of my son so far away
And my wife who I barely knew.
These trials I must bear for four more years,
Till the sails are set for home.
We’re supposed for our toil to get a bonus of the oil,
And an equal share of the bone.

When I go to the agent to settle the trip
It’s then I’ll have cause to repent,
For we’ve toiled away four years of our lives
And earned about three pound ten.
And the weather’s rough and the winds do blow
As I carve a whale tooth toy,
And trade my time with my own flesh and blood
As he grows from a babe to a boy.