159 Sea Songs chosen and edited by Roy Palmer Inside cover notes:
Men have always gone to sea, to fish for food, to explore, to travel, to fight, to smuggle, and to trade. Women have travelled too, as companions, as passengers, and also as sailors. From the first, seafaring adventures and misfortunes have been recorded in songs, often composed by the sailors themselves, and many carefully noted down, which tell of every aspect of nautical life: of battles and mutiny, of shipwreck and cannibalism, of press gangs and piracy, of work and conditions on board, families at home and sweethearts in every port.
This anthology gathers from a wide variety of sources 159 ballads and shanties, with their tunes wherever possible) ranging geographically over the seven seas and chronologically over four centuries, starting with 'John Dory' from the 1560s and concluding with 'The Final Trawl' from 1979. These songs were intended to be sung and heard, as well as read, and the impulse which produced them was never narrowly aesthetic. The purpose of shanties was to lighten labour and to forward the task in hand; that of ballads, whether forebitters or shore songs, to celebrate and to entertain. Their language is vivid and energetic, and memorable in its many different moods and forms.
In his introduction and commentaries Roy Palmer provides a wealth of technical and historical detail which gives fascinating background to the songs. A glossary of nautical terms is also included. About the author
Roy Palmer confesses that his sea-going experience is limited to voyages by ferry to France, Ireland, and various Scottish islands, but he has been fascinated since childhood by nautical life and history. He is a member of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, the Folklore Society, and the Oral History Society, and has edited many anthologies of folk songs and ballads, including A Touch on the Times (1974), Everyman's Book of English Country Songs (1979), and Everyman's Book of British Ballads (1980). Personal remarks:
This is a wonderful songbook, authorative, a mine of entertaing information and an absolute must in a collection of folk music.