Songs Of The Sea: Can Of Grog

Songs Of The Sea examines different sea shanties and the story behind the lyrics. From A Drop Of Nelson’s Blood to Rolling Down to Old Maui, rum features prominently in many sea shanties and another one that comes to mind is Can of Grog. A mixture of rum and water, grog was the lifeblood of the royal navy, served up until Black Tot Day. 


Can of Grog tells the story of a sailor called Jack who gets through the day by drinking large quantities of rum. There’s a mournful tone to the shanty, as Jack is voyaging to harsh environments like Greenland and the weather conditions aren’t favourable. 

On the journey, Jack is pining for a woman called Polly and hopes to be reunited with her again. But the closest he can get to her is by drinking grog and imagining what it would be like to have her in front of him. It’s possible that the feeling of the drink matches the warmth that Polly has brought Jack in his life.


When up the shrouds the sailor goes

And ventures on the yard

The landsman who no better know

Believe his lot is hard

Bold Jack with smiles each danger meets

Weighs anchor heaves the log

Trims all the sails belays his sheets

And drinks his can of grog

If to engage they give the word

To quarters he’ll repair

Now winding in the dismal flood

Now quivering in the air

When waves against rocks to rend and roar

You’ll n’er hear him repine

Though he’s on Greenland’s icy shore

Or burning beneath the line

When sailing orders to arrive

Bold Jack he takes his leave

My dear sweetest Pol he cries

I pray now do not grieve

Thy Jack will take his daily can

Of grog and drink to thee

In hopes that thou will n’er forget

Thy sailor who’s at sea

But should thou false or fickle prove

To Jack who loves thee dear

No more upon my native shore

Can I with joy appear

But restless as the briny main

Must heartless heave the log

Shall trim the sails and try to drown

My sorrow in cans of grog


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