The True English Sailor

Melody - & text Charles Dibdin Sr.

Jack dances and sings and is always content;
In his vows to his lass he'll ne'er fail her,
His anchor's a trip when his money's all spent,
And this is the life of a sailor.

Alert in his duty, he readily flies
Where winds the tired vessel are flinging;
Though sunk to the sea-gods or toss'd to the skies,
Still Jack is found working and singing.

'Long side of an enemy, boldly and brave
He'll with broadside and broadside regale her;
Yet he'll sigh from his soul o'er that enemy's grave,
So noble's the mind of a sailor.

Let cannons roar loud, burst their sides let the bombs,
Let the winds a dread hurricane rattle.
The rough and the pleasant he takes as it comes,
And laughs at the storm and the battle.

In a fostering pow'r while Jack puts his trust,
As fortune comes smiling he'll hail her,
Resign'd still and manly, since what must be, must,
And this is the mind of a sailor.

Tho' careless and headlong, if danger should press,
And rank'd 'mongst the free list of rovers,
Yet he'll melt into tears at a tale of distress,
And prove the most constant of lovers.

To rancour unknown, to no passion a slave,
Nor unmanly, nor mean, nor a railer;
He's gentle as mercy, as fortitude brave,
And this is a true English sailor.


A characteristic eighteenth-century sea song, 'The True English Sailor' was written and composed by Charles Dibdin the elder (1745-1814) whose sailor songs were believed by Napoleon to have done more for British naval glory than all Nelson's bravery. His hundreds of songs won him recognition and a pension of 200 per annum from the government, but inefficient copyright laws lost him many times that amount in pirated songs and poems.


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