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A serving of BU’s nautical limericks to pep you up

After reading the limericks of Edward Lear, the English painter and writer, I felt that I should try my hand at this popular form of humourous verse. Traditional limericks are often nonsensical and even bawdy. But why not, I thought, put in some meaning and relevance to the times? The following nautical limericks are my first attempts at the craft.

[Updated] The Wellerman: A popular song misunderstood

Many folks who have fallen in love with The Wellerman (full title: ‘Soon May the Wellerman Come’) call it a “sea shanty”. Even Scottish singer Nathan Evans, whose version went viral on TikTok in late 2020, has labelled it as such. They are sadly mistaken. The Wellerman is not a shanty but a 19th-century whaling ballad or folk song from New Zealand.

Why is it important to know this?

First, because it prevents us from making the same mistake many people make when they assume that Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is a sacred song or hymn. This highly popular song, which Cohen recorded in 1984, is actually about earthly, profane love that makes references to the Bible and has erotic connotations.

Nautical limericks to cheer you up in these grim times

The coronavirus is still on a rampage, spinning off new variants that cause even more sickness and death. These are gloomy times indeed. But why fret and wear a long face? La vida es bella y corta! Life is beautiful and short. Cheer up with some limericks — short, humorous verses that are often silly, nonsensical and even lewd.

The wonder of water: A celebration in song and art

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water,” wrote W.H. Auden in his poem First Things First. This is such an obvious truth that one wonders why the seas are strewn with tonnes of plastic waste and rivers are polluted till they become dark and ugly. The following song and works of art are a tribute to life-giving andl life-sustaining water. They are a reminder as well that water is a precious resource that ought not to be taken for granted.

A soulful sea song (in memory of Capt. Mike Cuanzon)

I had wanted to write an obituary-style article about Captain Michael (“Mike”) Cuanzon, a dear friend who passed away in late March at the age of 91. However, Mike eschewed accolades. He once declined an ‘Outstanding Master Mariner’ award which a national association of ship officers had planned to bestow on him. He suggested that they give it instead to someone who was, as he put it, “hungry for recognition”. In light of this, I am sharing a song in Spanish in honour of this rare Filipino old salt.

The 10 most popular sea songs in Marine Café Blog

It is heartening to see many people visiting Marine Café Blog for its repository of downloadable sea songs and shanties. I hope to add more musical files to the database. In the meantime, here’s a list of the most downloaded songs to date in ascending order (click on the song titles to play and download).

A wonderful trio of lighthouse poems by women

I recently came across three lighthouse poems which should delight anyone who loves lighthouses. All were written by women. Does that really matter? Feminists and literary critics would probably say ‘No’. However, there is a difference between men and women in the way...

The art of Gustave Doré: Spicing up a classic sea poem

Excellent poetry, it could be argued, does not need to be complemented by art. This seems true in the case of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge about a mariner who unleashes a chain of misfortunes after killing an albatross. In a 2009 review of the poem published in the British newspaper The Guardian, Carol Rumens spoke of its hypnotic power: “The scenery remains thrillingly hellish, while laced with photographically realistic meteorological effects, and the narrative drive is irresistible.”

Why publish such a powerful poem with illustrations? It’s a reasonable question to ask, to which one could reply: WHY NOT, if the artist happens to be Gustave Doré (1832—1883)?

A salute to seagulls in poetry, music and art

Seagulls can be quite pesky. The loud, harsh sounds they make are no music to the ear. An Encyclopedia Britannica article describes seagulls as “adaptable opportunists” that feed on whatever food they can find. “Some of the larger gulls,” it notes, “prey on the eggs and the young of other birds, including their own kind.” Despite their notoriety, these birds continue to captivate many people with their beauty, resilience and freedom.

The Song of the Volga Boatmen: Hail to the human spirit

One need not be Russian to be moved by The Song of the Volga Boatmen (‘Eh, Ukhnem!’ to the Russians or ‘Yo, Heave Ho!’). This well-known traditional song was originally sung by burlaks, the men who pulled barges upstream in the old Russia. The melody is stern and gloomy, which somehow reinforces the Western stereotype of the Russian people as dour and cheerless. But the song also has a triumphant, martial air…

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