Sea Shanties were entertaining songs that were sung during voyages in order to keep the sailors and pirates motivated during long spells at sea. The word “shanty” comes from the French “chanter” (to Sing) and was often spelled “chanty”, thus sea shanties become the popular term.
Sea Shanties for Pirates’ Work and Play
Sea shanties had two equally important purposes. Firstly, they served to keep pirates motivated in their work by mimicking the rhythm of the hard, rough tasks that were common aboard pirate ships. They also, however, served as entertainment to pass the time and relieve the boredom of sea travel or the pain of home-sickness. Such songs were designed to match the rhythm of common jobs aboard a ship such as pulling rigs or mopping the decks; they synchronized the workers and made their days more enjoyable.
Types of Sea Shanties for Pirates
Most pirate sea shanties worked on a call and response format. The shantyman (song leader) would begin the shanty and the crew would reply, such as:
Shantyman: Come all ye young fellows that follows the sea
All crew: To me, way hey, blow the man down
Shantyman: Now please pay attention and listen to me
All Crew: Give me some time to blow the man down
This is a good, if very short, example of the format and structure commonly used in a sea shanty. This kind of song was intended to encourage cooperation and synchronization of action between sailors or pirates, which would make the work easier for all.
There were also many different kinds of sea shanties for pirates, depending on the kind of work being done; short drag sea shanties were designed for quick tasks and long drag shanties were for timely tasks, while pumping shanties were sung for dealing with leaking boats etc. The entertainment sea shanties were of a different nature; they reminded pirates of the great battles and pleasant places they had experienced during their voyages.