Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.
emo_snal

  • Music:

Music on the Water

   "I think I see a ship!" Thelxiope called out from atop the highest rock on their little island. Peisinoe came running and hopped up on the rock with bird-like agility.
   "Oh where Elzie?" she asked, brushing golden hair out of her face.
   "Just there." Thelxiope pointed across the twinkling waves. They both shielded their eyes and squinted at the distant vessel. Waves crashed below them, and a light salty spray blew refreshingly against their bare bodies. Their third companion, Aglaope, drifted over unhurriedly, like a moth, drifting through the tall grass and flowers and the white bones.

***

   On the Lorelei the captain on the quarterdeck was a squinting at the sails. He looked again at the rocky island and put his spyglass to his eye. The ribs of several wrecked ships jutted above the white foam among the rocks just off the island, and the current was taking them steadily towards it. They'd need to get the mainsail up to make enough way in this light wind to avoid the island.
   "Boats, if you please, let's get that main yard up immediately." he called out to the bosun on deck.
   "Aye, aye sir!" the bosun, a stout ugly fellow, called back immediately, moments later he was belowdecks shouting "all hands! all hands on deck! on deck you lousy layabouts!"

   Henry Watson, a young man who had been resting below on his off-watch, suddenly found himself propelled bodily by the bosun and his mates up into the bright sun on deck. The mainsail yard, which had been down on deck for repairs, was to be hoisted aloft immediately, Henry finally surmised by the directions the bosun was giving the hurried crew. As wide as a tree trunk and about as long, the enormous spar had to be hoisted up the mast so that the big square mainsail could be hung from it. Lines were run to blocks aloft and then down to where they wound around giant knobs called captstans which look like large turnstiles. Henry soon found himself at one of the "man-spikes" trying to turn the giant winch.
   "Heave! ... heave until your heart explodes, and then heave some more!!" the bosun bawled out enthusiastically. Henry heaved at the bar, along with all the other sailors, and it barely moved. He was already sweating, and this seemed an impossible task.

"Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies!" an old man-o-wars-man with his hair in a pigtail across the capstan from him sang out.
"Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain!" two more sailors sang out in unison. Henry was slightly confused, they hadn't been to Spain lately.
"For we've received orders for to sail to old England!" the capstan began to creak around as the sailors synchronized their efforts to the rhythm of the song.
"But we hope very soon we shall see you again" and then every sailor at the capstans burst into the chorus, and their feet beat the deck to rhythm as the capstan turned:
"We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors,
We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas,
Until we strike soundings in the channel of old England,
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues!
"

***

   Atop the island, the three beautiful women began to sing. Their song was enchanting and melodious and of such inspiring lyrics that to even describe it further could lead to your ruin. Their bewitching voices carried across the waves to the nearing vessel. The gulls ceased their shrieking and circled expectantly. The vessel continued its course though, which looked like it would just miss the island, especially as they appeared to be rigging one more sail that was bigger than all the others.
   Peisie looked at Elzie with concern, but they kept singing. Faintly across the breeze they heard drifting snatched of song from the ship:
"We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors! ... We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas!"
   The sailors couldn't hear their siren song over their own hearty singing and tramping. Their eyes were fixed on their feet as they hauled the capstan round. The grey-bearded captain had eyes only for the set of the sails and the breakers on the rocks. If he had lifted his spyglass but a little to the island's heights he surely would have been immediately ensorcelled by the three gorgeous women with nary a feather between them for clothing, but what interest did he have in the dry parts of islands?

   The sirens watched helplessly as the ship slid past the island. They paused their singing and listened to the song.

Then the signal was made for the grand fleet for to anchor,
All in the Downs that night for to meet;
Then it's stand by your catstoppers, let go your shank painters,
Haul all your clew garnets, cast off your tacks and sheets.


   They knew not what cat-stoppers or clew garnets were, but it was a beautiful song, and they could tell it was being belted out by a crew of able-bodied hearty young men, and their hearts were filled with longing. They couldn't let a ship just slip by, they simply couldn't. They waded out into the surf and renewed their song, but hte boat carried on, leaving only snatches of "we'll rant and we'll roar, like true British sailors!" in its wake.

   Trying to get closer, the girls had soon waded all the way into the sea and began to swim after the ship. The last thing they heard as the cold waves closed over their heads was

"...And we'll drink and be merry and drown melancholy,
And here's to the health of each true-hearted lass!
"
And the bosun's voice "Two-block!!"

***

Here's the song, though while pushing a capstan around it would probably be sung much much slower..


See also:
Spanish Ladies
And here's a list of other sea shanties

Tags: henry watson, lj idol entry, sailing
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