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ation on the forecastles of British men-of-war. Justice to a bygone race demands that this should be made clear. An unavowed, perhaps unconscious, censorship was extended to other songs when these were carried on board ship from the shore. Melodious obscenities may have been endured in exceptional cases, but the immense majority of men-of-war audiences would not put up with them.
There were other places, besides the forecastles of their ships, at which blue-jackets could hear songs. An archaic form of music-hall existed from an early date at most naval ports. Sometimes it was simply an appendage to a public-house. Whatever the artistic merit of the performances may have been, I confidently call upon all those who can remember the old Blue Bell at Portsmouth, the first edition of that place of entertainment is meant—to say if, in the matter of decency, they ever fell quite to the level of those which delight West End audiences at the present day. Some of the more celebrated sea songs, or songs intended to bring before shore-going listeners the ways of seamen, rarely came under the latter's notice. For example, the earliest of C. Dibdin's sea songs was sung at Covent Garden Theatre, a place not much patronized by men-of-war's-men. For a long time the air of such a song would have been as much above the heads of an audience of sailors as the music of Wagner would be above the heads of most of their su
Fore-bitter airs pervaded the musical stage of the forecastle, and new tunes brought off from the shore were affected by them. They even passed into the religious services held on board the ships; and, when hymns were sung, they were made to conform to the forecastle pattern. Some nine or ten years ago I met with an interesting survival of this. One Sunday at Norfolk Island I attended divine service in the Pitcairn Islanders' Church. I had been told beforehand that they had a remarkable style of singing. The first hymn recalled the old Fore-bitters; and no doubt the islanders were continuing a tradition delivered to them by their ancestors who had belonged to the Bounty. The church in Norfolk Island was the last place at which music of the kind could be heard.
There was another and even larger body of British sailors who had songs and song-tunes of their ownviz. the merchant-seamen. The Fore-bitter was common to them and to the men-of-war's-men. One particular class of song was known only in the merchant-service. This was the Chanty, which was sung whilst work was being done. In the Royal Navy it was and still is the rule that work should be done in silence. The effect of stirring music in stimulating the efforts of men employed in laborious jobs was well understood : and a band of music where there was one, or a fiddler where there was no band, played lively tunes when it was desired that the labours of the ship’s company should be especially energetic. There were therefore no Chanties in the Navy. Owing to the greatly extended use of mechanical appliances in steamers of the mercantile marine, and the diminished number of sailing vessels, the merchant-seamen's Chanty is less often sung
than it used to be: but it may still be heard on board coasters.
The disappearance of the Fore-bitter and the great recent intrusion afloat of songs and airs of widely different character must be attributed to several causes. The chief of these was the introduction of steam propulsion. Voyages have been thereby greatly shortened and their duration made much more certain. For more than a generation after steam-machinery had been adopted in the Navy, men-of-war continued to make passages under sail, steam being rarely used except when the ship had to put to sea or enter a harbour irrespective of the direction of the wind. Voyages in these circumstances were long; those lasting five or six weeks were common, and those which occupied two or three months were not very rare. In some latitudes, and especially when running down the trades', long spells of fine weather were often experienced. The evenings were not infrequently delicious. The sea was too smooth to cause rolling; the sails were bulged out into silent rigidity by the fair and steady breeze; whilst, as the ship ran on her course, the wash of the water along her sides made a low and pleasing murmur. The conditions invited the minstrel to display his powers. So an informal concert was soon in progress. Steamship voyages are generally so short that both the desire and the opportunities for a similar mode of passing an evening have become rarer: and steamship conditions are not encouraging to the songster of the forecastle. The
very fact that voyages are shorter has permitted the seaman to see more of his countrymen on shore than was possible in the old sailing days. Visits to his home have become more frequent; and he and his fellows belong less to a class apart than they used to do. The occasions of sharing in the amusements of his friends have greatly increased in number; and, if places of entertainment meant almost exclusively for sailors have disappeared, sailors now form no inconsiderable section of the public for whose amusement the managers
music-halls and concert-rooms arrange their programmes. The
is that the supersession of real sailors' songs by songs intended to illustrate the habits and tone of sailors or to be enjoyed by them is now complete. In addition to this, there are now on board the great majority of ships of both the Navy and the mercantile marine considerable bodies of men who in no sense represent the seamen of former days. It is not to be expected that people who deal solely with the ship’s engines and boilers, or with the many electrical and mechanical appliances now installed afloat, would appreciate the charm of a wind
that filled the white and rustling sail and bent the gallant mast. Sweet William would now be less likely to be found high upon the yard than deep down in the stokehold or submerged torpedo-flat. For these important sections of modern crews there are traditional songs and they have to take over their minstrelsy ready made from the music-halls.
It has been said already that what they themselves would have described as shore-going' songs long ago found their way to audiences of sailors. We should probably have to go back to the sixteenth century before getting to a time at which nothing but the nautical folksong was heard on the forecastle. The Fore-bitter, however, held its own down to the appearance of sailless steamships. It was the leading ingredient in every fore-castle programme. The other songs were mere interludes, as it were. A great number of our printed sea songs were never heard afloat, or only amongst the officers. They have delighted generations of shore-going hearers; but they did not in former days, and do not now, affect audiences of sea-faring
These songs have not taken the place of the Fore-bitter : that has been taken by a very different production. The old informal forecastle concerts have ceased, and what, on board ship, is now called a "SingSong' has been substituted for them.
This entertainment requires a good deal of preparation. There is a recognized body of performers, ,