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The Dead Horse


The 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.) Sailor's were
traditionally paid a month in advance when they signed onto a ship.
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 greedy
merchants. So very often the sailor had nothing to show for a
month's work. 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. Hence, the "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.

Music by - Nils Brown, Michiel Schrey, Sean Dagher


Lyrics

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 worring 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.



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