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The Coasts of High Barbary


This ballad is an American variant of an older ballad. There is an
entry in the Stationers' Register January 14, 1595 for a ballad 'The
Soldier's Joy'. The entry states that this ballad is to be sung to the
tune. The ballad was given new words and experienced a
resurgence of popularity in America between the years of 1795 and
1815 - when Barbary pirates were attacking American ships.
America (and most other nations) paid tribute to the pirates until the
government took action in 1801. The pirates were not completely
defeated until 1815. This song is not normally considered a shanty.
However, there is a capstain shanty variant called 'High Harbaree'.

The original ballad refers to two merchant vessels, The George
Aloe, and The Sweepstake which were bound for Safee. The
George Aloe anchored but the Sweepstake continued, being
overtaken by a French ship. Her crew was thrown overboard. The
George Aloe then pursued the French ship and defeated her.
Though the French crew begged for mercy the English replied they
would show them the same mercy that the French showed the crew
of the Sweepstake.

Music by - The Corsairs


Lyrics

Look ahead, look a stern,
Look the weather in the lee,
Blow high! Blow low! And so sailed we.
I see a wreck to the windward
And a lofty ship to lee,
A sailing down all on
The coasts of High Barbary


O are you a pirate
Or a man-o-war? cried we.
Blow high! Blow low! And so sailed we.
O no! I'm not a pirate
But a man-o-war, cried he.
A sailing down all on
The coasts of High Barbary


We'll back up our topsails
And heave our vessel to;
Blow high! Blow low! And so sailed we.
For we have got some letters
To be carried home by you.
A sailing down all on
The coasts of High Barbary


For broadside, for broadside
They fought all on the main;
Blow high! Blow low! And so sailed we.
Until at last the frigate
Shot the pirate's mast away.
A sailing down all on
The coasts of High Barbary


For quarters! For quarters!
The saucy pirates cried,
Blow high! Blow low! And so sailed we.
The quarters that we showed them
Was to sink them in the tide.
A sailing down all on
The coasts of High Barbary


With cutlass and gun,
O we fought for hours three;
Blow high! Blow low! And so sailed we.
The ship it was their coffin
And their grave it was the sea.
A sailing down all on
The coasts of High Barbary



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