Songs Of The Sea: Jolly Roving Tar

Sea shanties are musical snapshots in time. They convey a sense of what conditions were like for sailors during the heyday of piracy and many are still sung today to celebrate the history of ships and the navy.

Rum was a common theme in various shanties and it crops up a few times in Jolly Roving Tar.  A sea shanty with a bittersweet tone, Jolly Roving Tar has multiple interpretations.

Context

Jolly Roving Tar refers to a sailor who is having a grand time at sea with drink and camaraderie, but there’s an underlying sorrow to the song. One possible meaning behind the shanty is that of a girl who is yearning for her beloved ‘tar’ to return from sea and that she’s willing to follow him despite his rakish ways and rough behaviour.

Another meaning is that alcohol will always be a seafarer’s friend, so long as he has the money to pay for it. But when it’s all gone he’s left in a heap and he can only count on his crewmates to get him out of the hole he’s dug for himself.

Lyrics

Ships may come and ships may go
As long as the sea does roll.
Each sailor lad just like his dad,
He loves the flowing bowl.

A trip on shore he does adore
With a girl who’s nice and round.
When the money’s gone
It’s the same old song,
“Get up Jack! John, sit down!”

Come along, come along, You jolly brave boys,
There’s lots of grog in the jar.
We’ll plough the briny ocean
With the jolly roving tar.

When Jack comes in, it’s then he’ll steer
To some old boarding house.
They’ll welcome him with rum and gin,
And feed him on pork scouse.

He’ll lend, spend and he’ll not offend
Till he’s lyin’ drunk on the ground
When the money’s gone
It’s the same old song,
“Get up Jack! John, sit down!”

Come along, come along, You jolly brave boys,
There’s lots of grog in the jar.
We’ll plough the briny ocean
With the jolly roving tar.

Jack, he then, oh then he’ll sail
Bound down for Newfoundland
All the ladies fair in Placentia there
They love that sailor man.

He’ll go to shore out on a tear
And he’ll buy some girl a gown.
When the money’s gone
It’s the same old song,
“Get up Jack! John, sit down!”

Come along, come along, You jolly brave boys,
There’s lots of grog in the jar.
We’ll plough the briny ocean
With the jolly roving tar.

When Jack gets old and weather beat,
Too old to roam about,
They’ll let him stop in some rum shop
Till eight bells calls him out.

Then he’ll raise his eyes up to the skies,
Sayin’ “Boys, we’re homeward bound.”

When the money’s gone it’s the same old song,
“Get up Jack! John, sit down!”

Come along, come along, You jolly brave boys,
There’s lots of grog in the jar.
We’ll plough the briny ocean
With the jolly roving tar.

Want to hear another rowdy rum drinking song? Check out A Drop of Nelson’s Blood and how that phrase became associated with rum.

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