minstrel: An early naval ballad

Martha Krieg mkrieg at rc.net
Wed Apr 23 19:58:17 PDT 2008

This is a really funny song!  The sailors really don't think much of 
the sea-sick pilgrims, do they? Thanks for posting the words. 
Actually pronounced, they might not be so incomprehensible in most 
cases. We are addicted to standard spelling.  Not much can be done 
about the sailing terms - except that I don't think they've changed 
much over the centuries.

There aren't that many really weird words. "boorde" is board, as in 
dining table. Use the Middle English Dictionary for the rest.  (If I 
get time later, I'll look some of them up)
Quick guesses:
gamys = games
grames - distresses,  hast = haste, takelyng = tackling
to ny = too nigh = too close
bote-swayne = boatswain, bosun
bestowe the boote  -- probably = stow the boat
>A boy or tweyne anone up-styen,            Soon a boy or two climb up
And overthwarte the sayle-yerde lyen;     and lie across the sail-yard
Hale the bowelyne! now, vere the shete!    Haul the bowline! now, 
veer the sheet!
no lust = no desire  (being sea-sick, food is the last thing on their minds)
hale in the brayles   = haul in the brails   ( = small ropes to tie 
the sails up to the yards, or pleat them up to expose less surface)
yeve = give

hit = it
hem/him = them or him

especially amusing:  the guys who read so long they think their heads 
are going to split into three parts!

>After being disappointed to learn that there aren't any early
>surviving Dutch sea shanties, on a lark I looked at this book:
>The early naval ballads of England by Halliwell-Phillipps,
>J. O. (James Orchard), 1820-1889
>... and found that he had one pre-1600 English naval ballad.
>The primary source is "in a manuscript of the time of Henry VI. in the
>library of Trinity College, Cambridge, R. iii. 19."
>It'd probably take a fair amount of work to figure out what all the
>words mean, much less mutate it to a form that could be understood by
>the modern ear, so if you work on it, please report back.
>-- Gregory
>Men may leve all gamys,
>That saylen to Seynt Jamys;  [ St. James == the shrine of St. James 
>of Compostella ]
>For many a man hit gramys;
>    When they begyn to sayle.
>For when they have take the see,
>At Sandwyche, or at Wynchylsee, [ these are place names ]
>At Brystow, or where that hit bee,
>    Theyr herts begyn to fayle.
>Anone the mastyr commaundeth fast
>To hys shyp-men in all the hast,
>To dresse hem sone about the mast,
>    Theyr takelyng to make.
>With "howe! hissa!" then they cry,
>"What, howte! mate, thow stondyst to ny,
>Thy felow may nat hale the by;"
>    Thus they begyn to crake.
>A boy or tweyne anone up-styen,
>And overthwarte the sayle-yerde lyen;--
>"Y how! taylia!" the remenaunte cryen,
>    And pull with all theyr myght.
>"Bestowe the boote, bote-swayne, anon,
>That our pylgryms may pley thereon;
>For som ar lyke to cowgh and grone,
>    Or hit be full mydnyght."
>"Hale the bowelyne! now, vere the shete!--
>Cooke, make redy anoone our mete,
>Our pylgryms have no lust to ete,
>    I pray God yeve him rest."
>"Go to the helm! what, howe! no nere?
>Steward, felow! a pot of bere!"
>"Ye shall have, sir, with good chere,
>    Anone all of the best."
>"Y howe! trussa! hale in the brayles!
>Thow halyst nat, be God, thow fayles,
>O se howe well owre good shyp sayles!"
>    And thus they say among.
>"Hale in the wartake!" "Hit shall be done."
>"Steward! cover the boorde anone,
>And set bred and salt thereone,
>    And tarry nat to long."
>Then cometh oone and seyth, "be mery;
>Ye shall have a storme or a pery."
>"Holde thow thy pese! thow canst no whery,
>    Thow medlyst wondyr sore."
>Thys menewhyle the pylgryms ly,
>And have theyr bowlys fast theym by,
>And cry afthyr hote malvesy,
>    "Thow helpe for to restore."
>And som wold have a saltyd tost,
>For they myght ete neyther sode ne rost;
>A man myght sone pay for theyr cost,
>    As for oo day or twayne.
>Som layde theyr bookys on theyr kne,
>And rad so long they myght nat se,--
>"Allas! myne hede woll cleve on thre!"
>    Thus seyth another certayne.
>Then commeth owre owner lyke a lorde,
>And speketh many a royall worde,
>And dresseth hym to the hygh borde,
>    To see all thyng be well.
>Anone he calleth a carpentere,
>And biddyth hym bryng with hym hys gere,
>To make the cabans here and there,
>    With many a febyl cell.
>A sak of strawe were there ryght good,
>For som must lyg theym in theyr hood;
>I had as lefe be in the wood,
>    Without mete or drynk.
>For when that we shall go to bedde,
>The pumpe was nygh our bedde hede,
>A man were as good to be dede,
>    As smell thereof the stynk.
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Martha Krieg   mkrieg at rc.net  in Michigan

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