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The Dying Sailor to His Shipmates


Paul Clayton sang The Dying Sailor to His Shipmates in 1956 on his Tradition album Whaling and Sailing Songs From the Days of Moby Dick. He noted:

Nothing in shipboard life stirred the whaler’s emotions like a burial at sea. A whaling log will contain numerous entries concerning the stale of a sick man, and then, one day, a brief note is written giving an account of his burial, perhaps with a cross or coffin drawn in the section normally reserved for whales sighted and taken. I recovered this song from a journal kept on the ship ‘Lucy Ann’, of Wilmington, Delaware, on a whaling voyage out of New Bedford front 1837 to 1839.

Bono sang Dying Sailor to His Shipmates in 2006 on the anthology Rogue’s Gallery. The album’s notes commented:

A haunting ballad of the 19th century whaling ships. As well as being musical, sailors often displayed great poetic ability, as in the lyrics of this powerful song.

Kate Locksley sang Dying Sailor to His Shipmates in 2016 on Night Fall’s EP Night Fall. They noted on their website:

American folklorist and singer Paul Clayton put a tune to this recitation he discovered in a journal kept on the ship ‘Lucy Ann’ of Wilmington, Delaware, recorded during a whaling voyage out of New Bedford, 1837-39. A log will usually record the state of any sick men, and records are kept giving accounts of any burials at sea. It doesn’t seem to be recorded in the EFDSS databases, we haven’t found it in any books, and the only other person who has recorded it is, rather unexpectedly, Bono from U2. We put it with the popular tune, Primrose Lass, also known as Four Nights Drunk.


Kate Locksley sings Dying Sailor to His Shipmates

Wrap me in my country’s flag
And lay me in the cold blue sea,
And let the roaring of the waves
My solemn requiem be.
And I shall sleep a pleasant sleep
While storms above their vigils keep.

My Captain brave shall read for me
The service of the silent dead,
And, yay, shall lower me in the waves
While all the prayers are said.
And I shall find my long way home
Among the billows and the foam.

Farewell, my friends, for many a league
We’ve sailed together on the deep.
Come, let’s shake hands, I’ll sail no more
But shipmates wear for weep.
I’m bound above, my course is run,
I near the port, my voyage is done.