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Le Capitaine de San Malo

[French trad.]

Danny Spooner sang Le Capitaine de San Malo on his 2009 CD Bold Reilly Gone Away. He noted:

When I went to Brittany in 2002 I heard wonderful shanties and songs from the canals, the rivers, the coast and the sea. The Breton maritime festivals had sung English and American shanties for years and wondered why—“If we are a maritime nation, which we are, where are our shanties?” Now we all benefit from hearing the immense repertoire researched, collected and published by Le Chasse Marée.

So while we are in the Southern Pacific we might as well join a French whaling crew as they chase sperm whales using the ‘chants a ramer’ (rowing songs) Pique la Baleine and Hourra les Filles, then we will help strip the blanket piece from a whale using a “chant a hisser” (hauling song, probably a halyard shanty). Then raising a shanty like Le Capitaine de St Malo, the men would start hauling on the halyard or barring over the windlass, then the whale would be rolled so the blubber peeled off like an orange. This blanket piece might be fifteen feet long and three feet wide and weigh in at 2,000 pounds.


Danny Spooner sings Le Capitaine de San Malo

Le capitaine de St Malo
    Ali alo
Qui fait la pêche au cachalot
    Ali ali ali alo
    Ali alo

Il a trois filles qui font la peau
La première à Valparaiso,

La deuxième à Rio de Janeiro,
La troisième à San Francisco.

Il donne la goutte à ses matelots
À grande coups de barre de guindeau.

Il mange la viande, nous laisse les os.
Il boit du vin et toi de l’eau.

Le lieutenant t’envoie la haut
À coups de bottes dans le dos.

Et le second, qui est le plus beau
Si tu groumes. Il te fout à l’eau.