Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas at Sea

Introduction by William L. Gills aka Bos'n Bill

For the month of December post I have chosen a  Christmas song, "Christmas at Sea" based on a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson from his 1890 collection of ballads.  Sting  arranged this song and wrote the music for it in collaboration with harpest Mary Macmaster who leads the chorus in Gaelic which translates into English as,

"I wish we were going home to Scorrybreck of the white footed cattle, To Scorrybreack of the white footed cattle, The first blessing from me, as is my right."

It tells a story of a sailor battling the elements aboard a ship in sight of the town where he was born - close enough to see snow on the roofs and smoke from the chimneys, even the smell of the meals they prepared for Christmas.

Sting was attracted to Robert Louis Stevenson's poem because, "It describes so well the powerful gravitational  pull of home that Christmas exerts..."

In this video, Sting and company are performing in Durham Cathedral in Durham county in the north-east England, the land of the moors, rivers and spectacular waterfalls.

This song grows on you the more you listen to it!  A Christmas mantra. 

To all of you - Nollaig chridheil huibh  (Gaelic)  or in English, Merry Christmas!

Lyrics to Christmas At Sea : (Poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, arranged with Mary Macmaster and sung by Sting)

All day we tacked and tacked between the North Head and the South;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, to 'scape the storm's wet mouth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head. 

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard.
We saw the cliffs and houses and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires are burning bright in every longshore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

William L. Gills aka Bos'n Bill, webmaster of this site, is the author of the book Lubber's log, published by Llumina Press; a boating journal and adventure story of the author's first time experiences in the preparation, maintenance and piloting of a new, unfamiliar boat. You can visit his website here.

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