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Across the Line / The Sailor’s Way

[ Roud 8239 ; Ballad Index Doe109 ; Mudcat 10945 ; trad.]

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Across the Line as title track of his 1986 album Across the Line. He was accompanied by John Kirkpatrick on accordion and Phil Beer playing fiddle and electric guitar. His sleeve notes commented:

From New Zealand comes Across the Line, an old song which I first heard sung, naturally enough, in Bradford, Yorkshire; learning it from its prime exponent, Jimmy Wild, the fairly famous international bricklayer.

Bellowhead recorded Across the Line in 2006 for their CD Burlesque and performed it live on 26 September 2007 at Shepherds Bush Empire, London; this concert was issued as the DVD Live at Shepherds Bush Empire. They commented in their CD liner notes:

Just as shanties are a truly international genre, so this arrangement draws upon material from a number of traditions. The tune is Clube Da Esquina No. 2 by Milton Nascimento, Lô Borges and Márcio Borges, on the 1972 album Clube Da Esquina (Blue Note/EMI). The “Clube Da Esquina” or “Corner’s Club”, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, was the regular watering hole of the musicians on the album. and has become synonymous with the genre they created. Benjamin Britten’s Sea Interludes inspired Pete [Flood] to write the sax interjections. The words, possibly Australian, are half-remembered from a miscellaneous shanty album by Jon from Winchester Library ten years ago.

Jon Boden also sang Across the Line on 8 July 2010 in his A Folk Song a Day project.


Bellowhead sing Across the Line

I’ve sailed the whole world over, across the seven seas,
I courted my sweetheart underneath the Kauri trees.
I travelled with the north wind, up to the Bering Strait,
Around the horn and home again; for that is the sailor’s fate.

Across the barren wasteland of the frozen Arctic sea,
Through Polynesian breezes and southern storms sailed we.
The wind all in the rigging sings a lonely lullaby;
A sailor I have always been, a sailor I will die.

Chorus (after each verse):
Across the line, the Gulf Stream,
Working your life away,
Around the horn and home again
For that is the sailor’s way.

We sailed up to the northward, we sailed up to the east,
We reefed our sail in the strongest gale and stood in the calmest sea.
Ocean bound by Dusky Sound and Pegasus through the Strait,
Port Cooper, Ocean, Tom Kane Bay; for that is the sailor’s fate.