minstrel: An early naval ballad

Martha Krieg mkrieg at rc.net
Thu Apr 24 19:24:38 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!

Martha Krieg   mkrieg at rc.net  in Michigan

More information about the minstrel mailing list