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Blow ye Winds in the Morning

[ Roud 2012 ; Ballad Index LxU044 ; trad.]

Michael Cooney sang Blow, Ye Winds in 1973 on the National Geographic Society’s album Songs & Sounds of the Sea. The album’s booklet commented:

’Tis advertised in Boston, New York, and Buffalo,
A hundred hearty sailors, w-whaling for to go…

Michael Cooney, accompanied by his sparkling five-string banjo, sings one of the best of the whaling songs. Blow, Ye Winds comes from an old English ballad concerning the adventures of a clever lady and an amorous knight. But the traditional sailor’s words are straight from the heart of the whalerman’s bitter experiences—promises made on land usually differed radically from the harsh realities of life aboard a whalership.

Steve Turner sang Blow ye Winds on his 2016 CD Spirit of the Game. He noted:

Gale Huntington’s books of American whaling songs [Songs the Whalemen Sang] have for many years provided a rich source of songs for me and this song is on of the most popular of them all with whaling voyages being so long and whales so few and far between, most of them having already been killed to fuel the 19th century oil lamps and there being few other sources of oil. The down time tended to be filled with scrubbing decks, painting the ship, fighting amongst themselves, and finally, for a little culture, exchanging songs. The majority of these tended to be sentimental parlour ballads to remind them of home, as well as the working songs of which this is a famous example. The song seemingly originated as a tale of what it must have been like to be a green novice whaler and has had many verses added along the way, to such an extend that I could cherry pick what I considered to be the best five.

See also the whaling song The Eclipse (Roud 5650) that uses a very similar chorus.


Blow ye Winds in Joanna C. Colcord: Songs of American Sailormen

’Tis advertised in Boston, New York and Buffalo,
Five hundred brave Americans, a-whaling for to go, singing

Chorus (after each verse):
Blow, ye winds in the morning, and blow, ye winds, high-o!
Clear away your running gear, and blow, ye winds, high-o!

They send you to New Bedord, that famous whaling port,
And give you to some land-sharks to board and fit you out.

They send you to a boarding-house, there for a time to dwell;
The thieves they there are thicker than the other side of hell!

They tell you of the clipper-ships a-going in and out,
And say you’ll take five hundred sperm before you’re six months out.

It’s now we’re out to sea, my boys, the wind comes on to blow;
One half the watch is sick on deck, the other half below.

But as for the provisions, we don’t get half enough;
A little piece of stinking beef and a blamed small bag of duff.

Now comes that damned old compass, it will grieve your heart full sore.
For theirs is two-and-thirty points and we have forty-four.

Next comes the running rigging, which you’re all supposed to know;
’Tis “Lay aloft, you son-of-a-gun, or overboard you go!”

The cooper’s at the vise-bench, a-making iron poles,
And the mate’s upon the main hatch a-cursing all our souls.

The Skipper’s on the quarter-deck a-squinting at the sails,
When up aloft the lookout sights a school of whales.

“Now clear away the boats, my boys, and after him we’ll travel,
But if you get too near his fluke, he’ll kick you to the devil!”

Now we have got him turned up, we tow him alongside;
We over with our blubber-hooks and rob him of his hide.

Now the boat-steerer overside the tackle overhauls,
The Skipper’s in the main-chains, so loudly he does bawl!

Next comes the stowing down, my boys; ’twill take both night and day,
And you’ll all have fifty cents apiece on the hundred and ninetieth lay.

Now we are bound into Tonbas, that blasted whaling port,
And if you run away, my boys, you surely will get caught.

Now we are bound into Tuckoona, full more in their power,
Where the skippers can buy the Consul up for half a barrel of flour!

But now that our old ship is full and we don’t give a damn,
We’ll bend on all our stu’nsails and sail for Yankee land.

When we get home, our ship made fast, and we get through our sailing,
A winding glass around we’ll pass and damn this blubber whaling!