Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ten Fathoms Deep on the Road to Hell

Derelict
Cap'n Billy Bones his song
by Young Ewing Allison


Fifteen men on the Dead Man's Chest—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
The mate was fixed by the bos'n's pike,
The bos'n brained with a marlinspike
And Cookey's throat was marked belike,
It had been gripped
By fingers ten;
And there they lay,
All good dead men,
Like break-o'-day in a boozing-ken—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

Fifteen men of the whole ship's list—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Dead and be damned and the rest gone whist!—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
The skipper lay with his nob in gore
Where the scullion's axe his cheek had shore—
And the scullion he was stabbed times four.
And there they lay,
And the soggy skies
Dripped all day long
In upstaring eyes—
In murk sunset and at foul sunrise—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

Fifteen men of 'em stiff and stark—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Ten of the crew had the Murder mark—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
'Twas a cutlass swipe, or an ounce of lead,
Or a yawing hole in a battered head—
And the scuppers glut with a rotting red,
And there they lay—
Aye, damn my eyes—
All lookouts clapped
On paradise—
All souls bound just contrariwise—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.

Fifteen men of 'em good and true—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Every man jack could ha' sailed with Old Pew—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
There was chest on chest full of Spanish gold,
With a ton of plate in the middle hold,
And the cabins riot of stuff untold,
And they lay there
That had took the plum,
With sightless glare
And their lips struck dumb,
While we shared all by the rule of thumb—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

More was seen through the sternlight screen—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Chartings ondoubt where a woman had been!
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
A flimsy shift on a bunker cot,
With a thin dirk slot through the bosom spot
And the lace stiff-dry in a purplish blot.
Or was she wench...
Or some shuddering maid...?
That dared the knife—
And took the blade!
By God! she was stuff for a plucky jade—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

Fifteen men on the Dead Man's Chest—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest—
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
We wrapped 'em all in a mains'l tight
With twice ten turns of a hawser's bight
And we heaved 'em over and out of sight—
With a yo-heave-ho!
And a fare-you-well!
And a sullen plunge
In the sullen swell,
Ten fathoms deep on the road to hell!
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

"Dead Man's Chest" is, of course, a completely fictional sea-shanty invented by Robert Louis Stevenson for Treasure Island. But from the beginning people have thought the fragment of the song Stevenson gives too perfect not to cry out for completion. This extremely violent one, written in 1891 by Young E. Allison, from Louisville, is arguably the most popular, since it was used for some of the early musical versions of Treasure Island.

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