Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
A Whaling Song: ‘When spring returns with western gales’
By John Osborn (1713–1753)
 
WHEN 1 spring returns with western gales,
  And gentle breezes sweep
The ruffling seas, we spread our sails
  To plough the watery deep.
 
For killing northern whales prepared,        5
  Our nimble boats on board,
With craft, and rum, (our chief regard,)
  And good provisions stored.
 
Cape Cod, our dearest native land,
  We leave astern, and lose        10
Its sinking cliffs and lessening sands,
  While Zephyr gently blows.
 
Bold, hardy men, with blooming age,
  Our sandy shores produce;
With monstrous fish they dare engage,        15
  And dangerous callings choose.
 
Now towards the early dawning east
  We speed our course away,
With eager minds and joyful hearts
  To meet the rising day.        20
 
Then, as we turn our wondering eyes,
  We view one constant show;
Above, around, the circling skies,
  The rolling seas below.
 
When eastward, clear of Newfoundland,        25
  We stem the frozen pole,
We see the icy islands stand,
  The northern billows roll.
 
As to the north we make our way,
  Surprising scenes we find;        30
We lengthen out the tedious day,
  And leave the night behind.
 
Now see the northern regions where
  Eternal winter reigns;
One day and night fills up the year,        35
  And endless cold maintains.
 
We view the monsters of the deep,
  Great whales in numerous swarms;
And creatures there, that play and leap,
  Of strange unusual forms.        40
 
When in our station we are placed,
  And whales around us play,
We launch our boats into the main,
  And swiftly chase our prey.
 
In haste we ply our nimble oars,        45
  For an assault design’d:
The sea beneath us foams and roars,
  And leaves a wake behind.
 
A mighty whale we rush upon,
  And in our irons throw;        50
She sinks her monstrous body down
  Among the waves below.
 
And when she rises out again,
  We soon renew the fight;
Thrust our sharp lances in amain,        55
  And all her rage excite.
 
Enraged she makes a mighty bound;
  Thick foams the whiten’d sea;
The waves in circles rise around,
  And widening roll away.        60
 
She thrashes with her tail around,
  And blows her redd’ning breath;
She breaks the air, a deafening sound,
  While ocean groans beneath.
 
From numerous wounds, with crimson flood,        65
  She stains the frothy seas,
And gasps, and blows her latest blood,
  While quivering life decays.
 
With joyful hearts we see her die,
  And on the surface lay;        70
While all with eager haste apply
  To save our deathful prey.
 
Note 1. Dr. John Osborn was born at Sandwich, in Massachusetts, in 1713, and died near Boston in 1753. His famous Whaling Song was for more than half a century on the tongue of every Cape Cod sailor, and it is still frequently heard in the Pacific. [back]
 
 
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