Blow High Blow Low
DESCRIPTION: "Blow high blow low let tempests tear The mainmast by the board My heart with thoughts of thee my dear And love well stored Shall brave all danger scorn all fear...." As the sailor works and rests aboard ship, he remembers his love
AUTHOR: Charles Dibdin (1745-1815)
EARLIEST DATE: 1776 (date of composition)
KEYWORDS: sailor separation lover
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Huntington-Whalemen, pp. 256-257, "Blow High Blow Low" (1 text)
ST SWMS256 (Full)
NOTES [411 words]: This is among the most popular of the works of Charles Dibdin (1745-1814), one of Britain's chief nautical songwriters.
Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft, Editors, British Authors Before 1800: A Biographical Dictionary, H. W. Wilson, 1952 (I use the fourth printing of 1965), p. 153, note that Dibdin published an autobiography, The Professional Life of Mr. Dibdin, Written By Himself, Together with the Words of Six Hundred Songs. Of this 1803 book Kunitz/Haycraft say it "gives a good deal of interesting detail about the theatrical life of the day, although it is on the whole a dreary and egotistical account, notable for its inaccuracies." They also mention as a source W. Kitchener, A Breif Memoir of Charles Dibdin, With Some Letters and Documents Supplied by His Grand-Daughter. These do not appear to have made it to Google Books yet, although Google Books does have a two-volume chronological set of his works featuring a memoir by George Hogarth, who seems to have been published several other times as well.
It should perhaps not be regarded as surprising that Dibdin's autobiography is less than accurate, because he seems to have been a rather strange figure. His education, general and musical, seems to have been limited, according to Kunitz/Haycroft. He apparently began his professional musical career around the age of fourteen, when his brother Thomas, who had experience at sea, brought him to London.
Dibdin's first major work was a musical, "The Shepherd's Artifice," which he produced in 1762. He worked for some years with the well-known producer David Garrick, but they fell out and Dibdin began staging his own one man shows. Kunitz/Haycroft say he had "two wives and an extraordinary number of enemies." One wife, Harriet Pitt, was a dancer in Covent Garden; they had three children, two of whom became known as playwrights. But Dibdin's finances were as complicated as his private life; he was bad at managing money, and was usually in poverty.
He is credited with some 1400 songs, of which the nautical songs are widely regarded as the best, and 30 (generally musical) dramas, although the latter are not considered to be very good.
Other songs in the Index attributed to Dibdin include "Tom Bowling" (which Kunitz/Haycroft consider his best; it was written to commemorate his brother Thomas), the "High Barbaree" version of "The George Aloe and the Sweepstake" [Child 285; Laws K33], and probably "Sailor's Consolation." - RBW
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