The Handsome Cabin Boy

Surely such a filthy song should incite the outrage of censors!

BONUS: Versions by Kate Bush and Jerry Garcia in extended.

In the 19th century, broadside texts of the Handsome Cabin Boy remained steady sellers on the fairgrounds and in the backstreets of provincial towns for sixty years and more. A very widespread song, ashore as well as afloat, it is still not infrequently found among traditional singers in eastern England and north-eastern Scotland.

It's of a pretty female as you may understand
Her mind being bent for ramblin' all unto some foreign land
She dressed herself in sailor's clothes or so it does appear
And she hired with a captain to serve him for a year

The captain's wife, she being on board, she seemed in great joy
To think her husband had engaged such a handsome cabin boy
And now and then she'd slip him a kiss, and she would 'a liked to toy
It was the captain found out the secret of the handsome cabin boy

Her lips they were like roses, her hair allwas all in a curl
The sailors often smiled and said, "she looks just like a girl"
But eating of the captain's biscuit, her color did destroy
And the waist did swell of pretty Nell, the handsome cabin boy

It was in the Bay of Biscayne, our gallant ship did plough
One night among the sailors was a fearful flurry and row
They tumbled from their hammocks, for sleep it did destroy
They swore about the groaning of the handsome cabin boy

"Oh doctor, dear, oh doctor", the cabin boy did cry
"My time has come, I am undone, surely I must die"
The doctor cam a-runnin', and smilin' at the fun
To think a sailor lad should have a daughter or a son

The sailors, when they saw the joke, they all did stand and stare
The child belonged to none of them, they solemnly did swear
The captain's wife she says to him "My dear I wish you joy
For it's either you or me's betrayed the handsome cabin boy"

So each man took his tote of rum, and he drunk success to trade
And likewise to the cabin boy, who was neither man nor maid
"Here's hoping wars don't rise again, our sailors to destroy
And here's hoping for a jolly lot more like the handsome cabin boy"

     Posted By: Paul - Tue Dec 06, 2022
     Category: Disguises, Impersonations, Mimics and Forgeries | Music | Oceans and Maritime Pursuits | Fables, Myths, Urban Legends, Rumors, Water-Cooler Lore | Pregnancy

My exposure to sea chanties (or shanties, depending on who is performing them) came through Frank Zappa, who had a few recordings done and released.

I remember one that wasn't family material with a mention of buggery and broken glass in there.
Posted by KDP on 12/06/22 at 02:17 PM
Censors don't go on ships. Witness The Good Ship Venus - probably from the early 1800s - The Maid of Amsterdam - earlier than that, and it doesn't even involve red lamps - and many others. Nor will they in the future, because we'll forever be Banned from Argo.
Posted by Richard Bos on 12/10/22 at 10:00 AM
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