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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Children's Books

I am reading The World At Night by Alan Furst, a really excellent tale. Mr. Furst has written several books about life and espionage during WWII. This one takes place in France. I am reading along and this pops up in the middle of the page:

Seize hommes sur
le coffre d'un mort,
yo ho ho
la bouteille de rhum

Boisson et diable
ont tues les autres
yo ho ho
buvons le rhum

Yo ho ho? Hommes is men, mort is dead, bouteille sounds like bottle, rhum sounds like rum. Um, could this be 15 men on a Dead Man's Chest? Yes, it could and it is. I haven't heard this in like forever, so I went a Googling. I found several recordings on YouTube, but none that I thought really captured the flavor of the song, so you will just have to sing it yourself. And for that we have the lyrics (from Midi Melodies). It was never a real authentic sea chanty. It started as just a couple of lines in Treasure Island, but then it took on a life of it's own.

1. Fifteen men on a dead man's chest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.
The mate was fixed by the bosun's pike
The bosun brained with a marlinspike
And cookey's throat was marked belike
It had been gripped by fingers ten;
And there they lay, all good dead men
Like break o'day in a boozing ken
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

2. Fifteen men of the whole ship's list
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
Dead and be damned and the rest gone whist!
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
The skipper lay with his nob in gore
Where the scullion's axe his cheek had shore
And the scullion he was stabbed times four
And there they lay, and the soggy skies
Dripped down in up-staring eyes
In murk sunset and foul sunrise
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

3. Fifteen men of 'em stiff and stark
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
Ten of the crew had the murder mark!
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
Twas a cutlass swipe or an ounce of lead
Or a yawing hole in a battered head
And the scuppers' glut with a rotting red
And there they lay, aye, damn my eyes
Looking up at paradise
All souls bound just contrawise
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

4. Fifteen men of 'em good and true
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
Ev'ry man jack could ha' sailed with Old Pew,
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
There was chest on chest of Spanish gold
With a ton of plate in the middle hold
And the cabins riot of stuff untold,
And they lay there that took the plum
With sightless glare and their lips struck dumb
While we shared all by the rule of thumb,
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

5. More was seen through a sternlight screen
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Chartings undoubt where a woman had been
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.
'Twas a flimsy shift on a bunker cot
With a dirk slit sheer through the bosom spot
And the lace stiff dry in a purplish blot
Oh was she wench or some shudderin' maid
That dared the knife and took the blade
By God! she had stuff for a plucky jade
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

6. Fifteen men on a dead man's chest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.
We wrapped 'em all in a mains'l tight
With twice ten turns of a hawser's bight
And we heaved 'em over and out of sight,
With a Yo-Heave-Ho! and a fare-you-well
And a sudden plunge in the sullen swell
Ten fathoms deep on the road to hell,
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

2 comments:

Stu said...

But the french reads "16 men..."
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well they always DO think they're one up on everybods else ;-)

Charles Pergiel said...

I was just testing you. I used to know my numbers, but I don't recall ever writing them out. The Google translator agrees, seize is 16. All I can think is that seize sounds better in context than quinze. Or maybe the English copy the Frenchman saw had a smudged 5 that looked like a 6.