A broadsheet ballad titled `The Storm.'. The ballad refers to a ship sailing through a terrible storm but surviving the ordeal.
Printed in Seven Dials, London.
SignificanceBroadsheets were designed as printed ephemera to be published and distributed rapidly. This also meant they were quickly disposed of with many of them not surviving the test of time. The museum's broadsheet collection is therefore a rare and valuable example of how maritime history was communicated to a wide audience, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. They vibrantly illustrate many of the themes and myths surrounding life at sea. Some of them also detail stories about transportation and migration. Here is not a world of high-art but the rowdy life of the streets of Georgian and Victorian London. Being ephemera, the survival rate is poor.
HistoryThe Storm (or The Tempest)
Cease, rude Boreas, blustering railer
List, ye landsmen, all to me,
Messmates hear a brother sailor,
Sing the dangers of the sea
From bounding billows first in motion,
Where the dreadful whirlwinds rise,
To the tempest troubled ocean,
Where the seas contend with skies.
Hark! the Boatswain hoarsely bawling,
By top-sail sheets and haulards stand
Down top gallants, quick be hauling.
Down your stay-sails, hand, boys hand
Now it freshens, set your braces,
Quick the topsail sheets let go,
Luff boys, luff, don't make wry faces,
Up your top-sails nimbly clew.
Now ask you on down beds sporting,
Fondly lock'd in beauty's arms,
Fresh enjoyments, wanton courting
Free from all but love's alarms.
Round us roars the tempest louder,
Think what fear our minds enthral
Harder yet, it blows yet harder!
Now, again the boat swain calls.
The top-sail yards point to the wind, boys,
See all clear to reef each course ;
Let go the fore-sheets go ; don't mind, boys,
Though the weather should prove worse.
Fore and aft the spiritsail-yard get ;
Reef the mizen ; see all clear ;
Hands up -- each preventer brace set,
Man the fore-yard, : cheer, lads, cheer.
Now the dreadful thunder's roaring!
Peal on peal contending clash!
On our heads fierce rain falls pouring!
In our eyes blue lightnings flash!
One wide water all around us!
All above us one black sky!
Different deaths at once surround us!
Hark! what means this dreadful cry!
The foremast's gone! cries every tongue out,
O'er the lee, twelve feet 'bove deck,
A leak beneath the chest tree's sprung out,
Call all hands to clear the wreck.
Quick the lanyards cut to pieces;
Come my hearts, be stout and bold;
Plumb the well, the leak increases!
Four feet water's in the hold!
Whilst o'er the ship wild waves are beating,
We for wives or children mourn!
Alas! from hence there's no retreating;
Alas! to them there's no return.
Still the leak is gaining on us,
Both chain pumps are choak'd below
Heaven have mercy here upon us!
For only that can save us now!
O'er the lee-beam is the land, boys;
Let the guns o'erboard be thrown,
To the pump com every hand, boys;
See the mizen-mast is gone.
The leak we've found; it can't pour fast ;
We've lightened her a foot or more ;
Up and rig a jury foremast ;
She rights, she rights, boys! we're off shore.
Now once more on joys we're thinking,
Since kind fortune spar'd our lives;
Come the can boys let's be drinking,
To our sweethearts, and our wives,
Fill it up, about ship wheel it;
Close to the lips a brimmer join,
Where's the tempest now? who feels it,
Now our danger's drown'd in wine.
Broadsheets or broadsides, as they were also known, were originally used to communicate official or royal decrees. They were printed on one side of paper and became a popular medium of communication between the 16th and 19th centuries in Europe, particularly Britain. They were able to be printed quickly and cheaply and were widely distributed in public spaces including churches, taverns and town squares.
The cheap nature of the broadside and its wide accessibility meant that its intended audience were often literate individuals but from varying social standings. The illiterate may have also had access to this literature as many of the ballads were designed to be read aloud.
The ballads also covered a wide range of subject matter such as witchcraft, epic war battles, murder and maritime themes and events. They were suitably dramatic and often entertaining, but occasionally they were designed as elaborate cautionary tales for those contemplating a life of crime.
The broadside ballads in the museum's collection were issued by a range of London printers and publishers for sale on the streets by hawkers. They convey, often comically, stories about love, death, shipwrecks, convicts and pirates. Each ballad communicates a sense that these stories were designed to be read aloud for all to enjoy, whether it was at the local tavern or a private residence.