Notes

Original poem by
Angus Cameron Robertson

Printable version

MP3 Sample

The Old Tea-Clipper Days

Poem by Angus Cameron Robertson (Master Mariner)

Adapted and musically arranged by Charlie Ipcar 3/5/10

Tune: after traditional Johnny Todd

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I have sailed in old tea-clippers,
Robin Hood an' Halloween;
Sailed in ships so taut an' trim,
With the wind abaft the beam;
As the risin' gale grows stronger,
Filling out each snow-white sail,
"Look sharp, lads, she rolls to leeward,
Now she dips her weather rail!"

Chorus:
I have sailed in old tea-clippers,
Robin Hood an' Halloween;
Sailed in ships so taut an' trim,
With the wind abaft the beam.

I can see her decks a-heelin',
Green with slime amidships too;
I can hear ol' Bill the bos'un
Cursin' out our bully crew;
I can see their hairy faces,
Laughing in the briny spray,
Hauling on the tacks an' braces,
Roarin' chanties, wild an' gay.

(chorus)

I have stabbed the moldy hardtack
With my sheath-knife thro' an' thro';
Flickin' out the crawlin' weevils,
Lest they end up in the stew;
We have felt the pangs of hunger;
How we loved that cracker hash --
"Dandy-funk" an' "Dog's Body,"
"Some brown sugar?" "Why just a dash!"

(chorus)

I have tacked an' run before it,
Where the Roarin' Forties dwell;
I have wallowed in the Doldrums
Where the sun's as hot as Hell!
Mind that dark an' freezin' blizzard,
As we rounded old Cape Horn,
An' when we passed the "Flyin' Dutchman"
With her tops'ls rent an' torn.

(chorus)

Image of the Ship Thermopylae
The header graphic is titled
"Thermopylae" Off Victoria Harbour
by Phil W. Smith,
from A Book of Famous Ships, by Cicely Fox Smith,
published by Metheun & Co., London, UK, 1924, facing p. 94.

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Notes:

"Abaft the beam" is the bearing of something further back than the ship's middle.

"Dandy-funk" is a pudding made of crumbled hardtack, fat, and molasses served to sailors as a special treat.

"Dog's body" is a mixture of dried peas and eggs boiled in a bag (pease pudding) as one of the staple foods served to sailors in the early 1800s.

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The Old Tea-Clipper Days

By Angus Cameron Robertson (Master Mariner)
Born 1867 Skye, Scotland.
Published 1927, Dunedin, New Zealand

I have sailed in old tea-clippers,
Full rigged clippers, lofty, trim;
Bounding o'er the laughing waters
With the wind abaft the beam,
And her lovely, snowy-white wings-
All a-pulling in the gale:
Now behold, she rolls to leeward,
Now she dips her weather rail.

I can see her slanting wet decks,
Green with slime amidships too:
I can hear old Bill, the bos'un
Cursing at our bully crew:
I can see each hairy visage
Laughing in the briny spray
Swinging on the topsail halliards,
Singing chanties wild and gay.

Oh! the rushing of the waters
As we haul and pull with glee,
Lashing, driving in our faces,
Filling seaboots to the knee,
With our soul and body lashings
Hauled full taut around the waist,
While the bos'un curse like thunder,
"Damn your eyes! Belay! Make Haste!"

We have split the hardy pantiles
With our sheath-knives thro' and thro;
And took out the crawling maggots
Ere we hashed them for the crew,
We have felt the pangs of hunger
As we made some cracker hash -
"Dandy-fank" and "spotted harry,"
Mixed with sugar brown, a dash.

We have tacked and ran before it,
In the roaring forties - well -
We have wallow'd in the Tropics
Where the sun's as hot as Hell!
In a stark and stinking blizzard,
We have weathered old Cape Horn;
And we passed the "Flying Dutchman"
With his topsails rent and torn.

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