Original poem
by John Masefield

Printable version

MP3 Sample

A Ballad of John Silver

Poem by John Masefield, 1912
from SALT WATER POEMS AND BALLADS
published by The Macmillan Co., NY, 1912, pp. 64-65.

Adapted and musically arranged by Charles Ipcar 10/3/07
Tune after On the Range of the Buffalo

Back to the List of Songs

Back to the
Charlie Ipcar Home Page

We were schooner-rigged and rakish, with a long and slender hull,
And we flew the fearsome colours of the cross-bones and the skull;
We'd a big black Jolly Roger, flapping grimly at the fore,
And we sailed the Spanish Waters in those happy days of yore.

We'd a long brass gun amidships, like a well-conducted ship,
We had each a brace of pistols and a cutlass at the hip;
It's a point which weighs against us, and a fact to be deplored
That we chased the goodly merchant-men and laid their ships aboard.

Then the dead men fouled the scuppers and the wounded filled the chains,
And the paintwork all was spatter-dashed with other people's brains,
They were boarded, they were looted, they were scuttled till they sank,
And the pale survivors left us by the medium of the plank.

Then, having washed the blood away, we'd little else to do
Than to dance a lively hornpipe, as the old salts taught us to;
O! the fiddle on the fo'c's'le, and the slapping barefoot soles,
And the genial "Down the middle, Jake, and curtsey when she rolls!"

Ah! the pig-tailed, feisty pirates and the pretty pranks we played,
All have since been put a stop-to by the naughty Board of Trade;
The schooners and their merry crews are laid away to rest,
A little south the sunset in the Islands of the Blest.

Back to the top


A Ballad of John Silver

Original poem by John Masefield, 1912
from SALT WATER POEMS AND BALLADS
published by The Macmillan Co., New York, US, 1912, pp. 64-65.

We were schooner-rigged and rakish, with a long and lissome hull,
And we flew the pretty colours of the cross-bones and the skull;
We'd a big black Jolly Roger flapping grimly at the fore,
And we sailed the Spanish Water in the happy days of yore.

We'd a long brass gun amidships, like a well-conducted ship,
We had each a brace of pistols and a cutlass at the hip;
It's a point which tells against us, and a fact to be deplored,
But we chased the goodly merchant-men and laid their ships aboard.

Then the dead men fouled the scuppers and the wounded filled the chains,
And the paint-work all was spatter-dashed with other people's brains,
She was boarded, she was looted, she was scuttled till she sank,
And the pale survivors left us by the medium of the plank.

O! then it was (while standing by the taffrail on the poop)
We could hear the drowning folk lament the absent chicken-coop;
Then, having washed the blood away, we'd little else to do
Than to dance a quiet hornpipe as the old salts taught us to.

O! the fiddle on the fo'c's'le, and the slapping naked soles,
And the genial "Down the middle, Jake, and curtsey when she rolls!"
With the silver seas around us and the pale moon overhead,
And the look-out not a-looking and his pipe-bowl glowing red.

Ah! the pig-tailed, quidding pirates and the pretty pranks we played,
All have since been put a stop-to by the naughty Board of Trade;
The schooners and the merry crews are laid away to rest,
A little south the sunset in the Islands of the Blest.

Back to the top