I don’t know how closely you all have been following TikTok* trends over the past year, but for the record, I’ve been singing sea chanteys since before they were cool. Once upon a time, before one could fly across the ocean in a matter of hours, people might be separated from their loved ones for years at a time. It had been two or three years since I’d been able to visit any of my family before I flew west last month, so maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that sea songs, with their themes of love across great distances, have come to my mind often in the long months of the pandemic. Anyway, I wanted to share the lyrics of one of my very favorite sea songs, “Adieu, Sweet Lovely Nancy,” which was written sometime in the mid 19th century.
Adieu, sweet lovely Nancy, ten thousand times adieu,
I am going across the ocean, love, to seek for something new.
Come change your ring with me, dear girl,
Come change your ring with me,
That it might be a token of true love while I am on the sea.
When I am far upon the sea, you’ll know not where I am.
Kind letters I will write to you from every foreign land.
The secrets of your heart, dear girl,
Are the best of my good will,
So let your body be where it might; my heart will be with you still.
There’s a heavy storm arising, see how it gathers round,
While we poor souls on the ocean wide are fighting for the crown.
With nothing to protect us, love,
Or to keep us from the cold
On the ocean wide, where we must fight like jolly seamen bold.
There are tinkers, tailors, and shoemakers lie snoring fast asleep,
While we poor souls on the ocean wide are ploughing through the deep.
Our officers commanding us,
And them we must obey,
Expecting every moment for to get cast away.
But someday the wars will be over, there’ll be peace on every shore,
We’ll return to our wives and our families, and the girls that we adore.
We’ll call for liquor merrily,
And spend our money free,
And when our money is all gone – we’ll boldly go to sea.
*kind of like YouTube, but for much shorter videos. It’s pretty popular, but don’t ask me to explain it much more than that because I’m not hip enough to be on it (although I have a couple pastor friends who have become low-key celebrities on it).