Moby Dick

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The Basics

Time Required:

This is a 4 day lesson.

Subject Area

Expansion and Reform of the United States 1812-1860.

10th / 11th Grade Global and US History in conjunction with Language Arts reading of Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick.

 

Standards: Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12

 

Author: Paul Freely (2013)

 

The Lesson

Introduction

After the United States gained Independence, it started using the new found freedom of the seas to establish itself as a maritime nation. As the United States became a sea going nation, its sailors sang work songs known as “shanties” to develop a rhythm, camaraderie and teamwork on the long voyages far from home.  Sea Shanties have a rich varied history going back to the English, French and Spanish Merchant sailors of the Early Age of Exploration. It is because of the various places the songs come from which show the beginning of the great “melting pot” that would become America. This lesson will be used in conjunction with the Language Arts reading assignment of Herman Melville’s classic sea tale, “Moby Dick.” 

Shanty singing was a very important part of the seafaring life and a part of its special flavor as well as a practical necessity in the work that daily and hourly went forward, and in a folk sense, shanties are a perfect characterization of sailordom.

The song selections incorporated into this lesson illustrate different types of shanties used on a daily basis by the sailors at sea, and when in port enjoying time with friends. While work songs are not new, most students are not aware of the importance of the shanty. They also serve as a new way of thinking about the national events dryly explained in textbooks. 

 

Guiding Questions

  • What jobs were available in the early 1800s and what was the work like?
  • What technology was available to make work easier?
  • How did everyday life reflect the changes in the work place?
  • Why would men and boys go to sea?

 

Objectives: After completing this lesson students will:

  • Analyze several primary source songs, art, journal entries and log entries from various US merchant ships.
  • Evaluate the working class American society according to observations in the primary source documents.
  • Develop a shanty, song or poem about the daily tasks of their lives.

 

Resources / Materials: (all songbooks have full lyrics)

-The Burl Ives Song Book, Burl Ives, Ballantine Books, New York, 1953.

- The Book of Navy Songs, The Trident Society (Editor), US Naval Institute Press, 1985.

- Songs of the Sailor, Compiled and edited by Glenn Grasso, Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic,    CT, 1998.

-Shanties from the Seven Seas, Stan Hugill. Dover Publications, New York, 1987.

 

Music Selections

All shanties courtesy of Captain Rick Nestler’s CD UnderwayWhat Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor? – Paddy Lay Back- Paddy Doyle’s Boots- Dead Horse & Fiddler’s Green.

Roll the Old Chariot Along – Live performance from the 2011 Sloop Clearwater Celebration.

 

List of Discussion Questions and Vocabulary: shanty, capstan, halyard, poop deck.

 

Procedures (incorporate a song activity for each day)

 

Day 1 ("Drunken Sailor") – The class will start with an instrumental version of the song playing as the students come in the classroom.  For this lesson we will be using the “Story Behind the Song Teaching Tools and Strategy.  The class will listen to the song twice. The 1st time without a note sheet and students listening with their eyes closed. Students will then be given a note sheet with the following questions: What strikes you most about this song? What musical phrase is especially memorable? What makes it so memorable: melody, rhythm, lyrics?  A combination? What voice(s) do you hear?  What instruments do you hear? Who were the song’s “consumers”: performers, listeners, singers, accompanists? How was the song performed? How is it listened to? How was it accompanied?Who do you imagine singing this song? When and where do you picture this song being performed? What might you be feeling or thinking if you sang or heard this song in some of these situations? What physical movement can you picture going along with this song (marching, dancing, working, playing a game, etc.) The class will now listen to the song again and answer the questions on the sheet. (The song can be played as many times as the teacher feels is necessary for the students to more fully answer the questions.)

 

At the end of the period the completed note sheets will be the students exit ticket and will be collected for the next day assignment.

 

Day 2 ("Paddy Lay Back") – The class will be using the same strategies and questions as day 1. However the song “Paddy Lay Back” will be used and reviewed by the class. What strikes you most about this song? What musical phrase is especially memorable? What makes it so memorable: melody, rhythm, lyrics?  A combination? What voice(s) do you hear?  What instruments do you hear? Who were the song’s “consumers”: performers, listeners, singers, accompanists? How was the song performed? How is it listened to? How was it accompanied?Who do you imagine singing this song? When and where do you picture this song being performed? What might you be feeling or thinking if you sang or heard this song in some of these situations? What physical movement can you picture going along with this song (marching, dancing, working, playing a game, etc.)

 

Day 3 – In this class we will be taking the two note sheets and the students will be given an assignment to write their own shanty in the style of "Drunken Sailor" or "Paddy Lay Back". They must write the lyrics and decide what instruments they want to use. This will allow them an opportunity to let the “creative juices” flow.  One idea is “What Do You Do With A Failing Student?”

 

Day 4 – ("Roll the Old Chariot Along" and "Fiddler’s Green") – The class will do a compare and contrast exercise by using the Song Comparison graphic organizer from the VAT with the two songs listed above. The Song Comparison graphic organizer is a comparison tree with differences listed on the outside columns and similarities listed in the inside column. It can be used to compare two verses within a song), but is especially helpful when comparing two songs. Even songs that are very different, from very different eras and styles, can be compared easily using this format. The class will listen to each song twice and then once completed will write a critical comparison essay. The essays are to compare the message and tone of each song looking at the message of each song, its voice, and accompaniment. The class will have the rest of the period to write the essay, and will finish it for homework if necessary.

 

Closure: As the class is working through these lessons, they will be reading “Moby Dick” in their English Language Arts class. They will have an opportunity to use the essay and song they have developed within their end of quarter project and work folder assessment.

 

Evaluation: Assessment

Students can draw upon their activities, lyrics, and background information to write their essay. The essay must have an introduction, three paragraphs in the body, and a conclusion.

 

Reflection: These lessons are based upon the knowledge that my students are mixed between Special and Regular Education. Because of this fact I have left room for differentiation of the lessons. Some of the student’s products will be based upon their writing skills where others will be based upon their artistic skills. This will be on a case by case basis.

 

Appendix 1

Song Lyrics

 

Capstan Shanty

This is an example of a capstan shanty. It was a moderate tune sung to raising the anchor. In order to raise the anchor bars were inserted into the capstan and sailors would walk around it, turning the capstan to raise the anchor. Sailors would stamp on the deck on the words "Way Hay and Up She Rises."

 

"What do you do with a drunken sailor?"

 

(Chorus)

Way, hay up she rises,
Way, hay, up she rises,
Way, hay, up she rises,
Earlye in the morning!

What do you do with the drunken sailor?
What do you do with the drunken sailor?
What do you do with the drunken sailor?
Earlye in the morning?

Put in a long boat till he’s sober,

Put him in the scuppers with the hose pipe on him,

Hoist him aboard with a running bowline,

Put him in the brig until he's sober,

Make him turn to at shining bright work,

Put him in a boat and row him over,

Hoist him up to the topsail yardarm,

Make him clean out all the spit-kids,

Shave his belly with a rusty razor,

Put him bed with captain’s daughter,

You ain’t seen the captain’s daughter,

And that’s what you do with a drunken sailor.

(Other verses can be added as needed to finish raising the anchor.)

This is another example of a Capstan shanty. Longer than “Drunken Sailor,” it tells a story of a sailor’s journeys.

"Paddy Lay Back"

I was broke and out of a job in the city of London;
I went down to the Shadwell Docks to get a ship.
Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
Heave a pawl!
Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!


There was a Yankee ship a-laying in the basin.
Shipping master told me she was going to New York!
Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
Heave a pawl!
Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!


If I ever get my hands on that shipping master,
I will murder him if it's the last thing that I do!
Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
Heave a pawl!
Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!


When the pilot left the ship the captain told us
We were bound around Cape Horn to Callao!
Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
Heave a pawl!
Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!


And he said that she was hot and still a-heating,
And the best thing we could do was watch our step.
Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
Heave a pawl!
Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!


Now, the mate and second mate belonged to Boston,
And the captain b'longed in Bangor down in Maine.
Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
Heave a pawl!
Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!


The three of them were rough-n'-tumble fighters.
When not fighting amongst themselves
      they fought with us.
Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
Heave a pawl!
Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!


Oh, they called us out one night to reef the tops'ls.
There was belayin'-pins a-flyin' around the deck.
Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
Heave a pawl!
Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!


We came on deck and went to set the tops'ls.
Not a man among the bunch could sing a song.
Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
Heave a pawl!
Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!


Oh, the mate he grabbed ahold of me by the collar.
'If you don't sing a song I'll break your blasted neck!'
Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
Heave a pawl!
Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!


I got up and gave them a verse of 'Reuben Ranzo.'
Oh, the answer that I got would make you sick.
Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
Heave a pawl!
Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!


It was three long months before we got to Callao,
And the ship she was a-called a floating hell.
Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
Heave a pawl!
Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!


We filled up there at Callao with saltpetre,
And then back again around Cape Horn!
Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
Heave a pawl!
Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!

 

A ceremonial shanty

“A Dead Horse” was a ceremonial shanty sung at the end of a sailor's first month at sea. It was to celebrate the end of the sailor's debt to the ship - when he started working for himself.

 

The dead horse metaphor is from the practice of horse-trading. When a deal was made there was no going back, even if the horse died right after the deal was struck. So you could be paying for something that was never any use.

Sailors were traditionally paid a month in advance when they signed on. With the advance he could pay for boots, knives, weather gear, etc. However many agents took the advance money and shanghaied sailors aboard , other sailors spent the money on drink and women before sailing, and some were cheated out of it by merchants. So very often the sailor had nothing to show for a month's work. Hence, the "dead horse."  To this day when a sailor in the US Navy takes an advance on their pay they are paying off “a dead horse.”

For the ceremony sailors fashioned horses of shipboard scrap to drag around the deck. They hoisted them aloft and threw them into the ocean.

"A Dead Horse"

A poor old man came riding by
Chorus 1
And we say so, and we hope so
A poor old man came riding by
Chorus 2
Oh, poor old horse.

Says I, "Old man, your horse will die."
Chorus 1
Says I, "Old man, your horse will die."
Chorus 2

And if he dies we'll tan his skin
Chorus 1
And if he don't we'll ride him again.
Chorus 2

For one long month I rode him hard
Chorus 1
For one long month we all rode him hard.
Chorus 2

But now your month is up, old Turk
Chorus 1
Get up, you swine, and look for work
Chorus 2

Get up you swine and look for graft
Chorus 1
While we lays on and drags ye aft
Chorus 2

He's as dead as a nail in the lamp-room door
Chorus 1
And he won't come worrying us no more
Chorus 2

We'll use the hair of his tail to sew our sails
Chorus 1
And the iron of his shoe to make deck nails
Chorus 2

We'll hoist him up to the fore yard-arm
Chorus 1
Where he won't do sailors any harm
Chorus 2

We'll drop him down with a long, long roll
Chorus 1
Where the sharks will have his body and the
Devil take his soul.

 

Furling the Sails

This shanty was used specifically for "tossing the bunt," or furling the sail. Two or three verses were usually enough for the job. When doing this job a sailor was usually high up the mast spread in the sail or pulling it up (furling). The sailor’s rule was one hand for the ship to do the job and the other hand to hold on and protect himself.

 

"Paddy Doyle’s Boots"

Yes, aye, and we'll haul, aye,
To pay Paddy Doyle for his boots;
We'll tauten the bunt, and we'll furl, aye,
And pay Paddy Doyle for his boots.

Yeo, aye, and we'll sing, aye,
To pay Paddy Doyle for his boots;
We'll bunt up the sail with a fling, aye,
And pay Paddy Doyle for his boots!

Yeo, aye an we'll haul, aye,
To pay Paddy Doyle for his boots;
We'll skin the ol' rabbit an' haul, aye,
To pay Paddy Doyle for his boots!

 

A halyard shanty (stamp & go or walkaway)

The sailors lined up on the halyard with their backs to the falls and marched pulling on the line continuously until they could go no farther eventually dropping the line and running back to pick up the line and march again  repeating this until the sail was raised. The shantyman sang the first line of each verse while the crew sang the rest of the song with him.

 

"Roll the Old Chariot Along"

Chorus

And we'll roll the old chariot along, (3X)

And we'll all fall in behind.

Well now, a little bit of wind it wouldn't do us any harm, (3X)

And we'll all hang on behind.

Chorus

Well now, a little tot of rum, it wouldn't do us any harm (3X)

Chorus

Well now, a little bit of sun. . .,

Chorus

Well now, a little understanding . . .,

Chorus

Well now, a little bit of peace . . .,

Chorus

Well now, a little bit of lovin’ . . .,

Chorus 2X end

 

 

The Non-Traditional Shanty

Sailors still write songs about the sea, and their life afterwards.  I include this song as a story shanty and while not from the era, it is a modern telling of sailor’s heaven.

 

"Fiddler’s Green"

By John Connolly

As I went out walkin’ one evenin’ so rare

To view the calm seas and to take the salt air

I heard an old fisherman singin’ this song,

Oh take me away boys, me time is not long

(chorus):

Wrap me up in me oilskins and jumper

No more on the docks I'll be seen

Tell me old shipmates I'm takin’ a trip mates

And I'll see you someday in Fiddler's Green

Now Fiddler's Green is a place I've heard tell

Where fishermen go when they don't go to hell

The weather is fair and the dolphins do play

And the cold coast of Greenland is far, far away


(chorus)

The weather is fine and there's never a gale

The fish jump on board with a swish of their tails

You lie at your leisure - there's no work to do

The skipper's below brewin’ tea for the crew

(chorus)

When you’re in port and the voyage is through

There's pubs and there's clubs and there's lasses there too

The girls are all pretty, and the beer is all free

And there's bottles of rum hangin’ from every tree

(chorus)

Oh I don't want a harp, not a halo for me

Give me a deck and a good rollin’ sea

And I'll sing these old tunes as we sail along

With the wind in the riggin’ just singing this song    

(chorus)

Interestingly enough, John Connolly wrote this song in the 1960s and it is not a traditional shanty. Pete Seeger brought it back after a tour of Ireland and apparently played it for the Clancy Brothers. It is unclear whether they got it from Pete or went straight to the source. However the song is sung at sailor / pirate-themed events today.

 

 

 

 

 

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