Fire Down Below

A collection of sea chanteys, hauling and pulling shanties, sailor’s songs, and sea chants.

On Halloween 2007, Ted and I got married. Our wedding was pirate-themed: pirate invitations, pirate garb requested of all guests, pirate everything. The guy who designed and constructed our wedding clothes was one of the people from the costume department on the original Pirates of the Caribbean film (the perks of living in LA?); my wedding dress was loosely modeled on Tia Dalma’s outfit in At World’s End. I didn’t walk down the aisle to the Wedding March – the violinist played the song from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride for us while Brian – in privateer finery – escorted me to the altar. During our reception, there were nonstop pirate shanties, sailing songs, and nineteenth-century drinking songs on rotation.

Thirteen years later, I’ve got a tween that is tiktok obsessed, so of course I heard ALL about the resurgence of the sea chantey. I was saving these scents for our thirteenth anniversary – which was in 2020 – but we were drowning in pandemic horrors and the nightmare of creeping authoritarianism, so our anniversary was spent quietly and with too-little fanfare. Well, better late than never! Maybe I can talk Lilith into doing covers of some of these?

(Lilith, please – cover some of these as a favor to your ma, but maybe not the ones with the filthy lyrics til you’re a wee bit older. Actually, never mind. Let’s put a pin in this until you’re eighteen.)

Surely, the Sea Shanty (Chanty, Chantey) Renaissance is a sign of brighter times ahead! Happy (belated!) 13th Anniversary, Teddy!

  • A Hundred Years Ago Perfume Oil

    Well a hundred years on the eastern shore
    Oh yes, oh
    Oh, a hundred years on the eastern shore
    A hundred years ago

    Well its Bully John from Baltimore
    Well I knew him well on the eastern shore
    Well it’s Bully John’s the boy for me
    He’s a buckle on land and a bully at sea
    Well its been a long time and a very long time
    Well its been a long time since I made this rhyme
    Well my old mother she wrote to me
    Me darling son come home from sea
    Well I thought I heard the first mate cry
    That bleeding top main sheave is dry
    Well I thought I heard the old man say
    Well it’s one more pull and then belay

    Well a hundred years on the eastern shore
    Oh yes, oh
    Oh, a hundred years on the eastern shore
    A hundred years ago

    A woody, sea-crisp scent, sun-blasted and creaking: green vetiver and ocean mist with a blast of elemi, verbena, and wild bergamot.

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  • A-Rovin’ Perfume Oil

    In Amsterdam there dwells a maid
    Maid of Amsterdam

    In Amsterdam there dwells a maid
    Mark well what do I say
    In Amsterdam there dwells a maid
    And she is mistress of her trade

    I’ll go no more a-rovin’ with you fair maid
    A-roving, A-roving, since roving’s been my ruin
    I’ll go no more a-roving with you fair maid

    A perfume for mistresses and masters of a very specific trade: sultry red musk, heady jasmine, tobacco leaf, red sandalwood, hay sugar, golden honey, sweet carnations, and warm leather.

    Proceeds from the sale of this scent benefit Decriminalize Sex Work, a national organization pursuing a state-by-state strategy to end the prohibition of consensual adult prostitution in the United States. “We work with local organizations, advocates, and lobbyists to build community support and convince legislators to stop prostitution-related arrests. Evidence shows that decriminalizing sex work will help end human trafficking, improve public health, and promote community safety.”

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  • Asleep in the Deep Perfume Oil

    Many brave hearts are asleep in the deep so beware! Beware!
    What of the storm when the night is o’er? There is no trace or sign!
    Save where the wreckage hath strewn the shore, peaceful the sun doth shine.
    But when the wild raging storm did cease, under the billows two hearts found peace.
    No more to part, no more of pain, the bell may now toll its warning in vain.

    Loudly the bell in the old tower rings
    Biding us list to the warning it brings.
    Sailor take care! Sailor take care!
    Danger is near thee, beware! Beware!
    Beware! Beware!

    A hymn to all who sleep beneath the waves. Sailor beware! A lightless abyss of black plum, sea salt, opium tar accord, labdanum, and indigo benzoin.

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  • Boney Was a Warrior Perfume Oil

    Boney was a warrior
    Way hey ya
    A warrior a terrier
    John Francois

    Boney fought the Russians
    Way hey ya
    The Russians and the Prussians
    Jean Francois

    Moscow was a-blazing
    Way hey ya
    And Boney was a-raging
    Jean Francois

    Boney went to Elba
    Way hey ya
    Boney he came back again
    Jean Francois

    Boney went to Waterloo
    Way hey ya
    There he got his overthrow
    Jean Francois

    Then they took him off again
    Way hey ya
    Aboard the Billy Ruffian
    Jean Francois

    He went to Saint Helena,
    Way hey ya
    There he was a prisoner,
    Jean Francois

    Boney broke his heart and died
    Way hey ya
    Away in Saint Helena
    Jean Francois

    A brief and succinct biography of Napoleon jumbled with the French shanty, Jean François de Nantes. Relevant to our shared interests: Napoleon was a fragrance connoisseur, and he kept a standing order with his perfumer for a delivery of fifty bottles per month.

    A fresh, light Napoleonic-era cologne with hints of rosemary, almond, oakmoss, and jasmine.

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  • Good Ship Venus Perfume Oil

    The third mate’s name was Morgan
    By God he was a gorgon
    From half past eight he played till late
    Upon the captain’s organ

    The rest of the lyrics are too bawdy for me to post outside of a Lupercalia warning.

    Salt-crusted wooden planks warmed by cardamom, 7-year aged patchouli, tonka bean, mace, and black pepper.

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  • Hanging Johnny Perfume Oil

    They call me Hanging Johnny
    Away, boys, away!
    But I never hanged nobody
    So hang, boys, hang!

    They says I hanged my graddy
    And then I hanged my family

    They says I hanged my mother
    It is they and my brother

    I hanged a rotten liar
    But I hanged a bloody friar

    They tells I hang for money
    But hanging’s so bloody funny

    We all will hang together
    It’s all for better weather

    I’d hang to make things jolly, I’d hang all wrong and folly, we all will hang together: hemp rope, red sandalwood, and white cedar.

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  • Haul on the Bowline Perfume Oil

    Haul on the bowlin’, the bully ship’s a-rolling,
    Haul on the bowlin’, the bowlin’ haul!
    Haul on the bowlin’, Kitty is me darlin’.
    Haul on the bowlin’, Kitty comes from Liverpool.
    Haul on the bowlin’, it’s a far cry to payday.

    A short-haul shanty for getting the job done. A thumping chant of patchouli, tobacco absolute, black cedar, and cocoa bean.

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  • Leave Her, Johnny Perfume Oil

    Oh the times are hard and the wages low
    Leave her, Johnny, leave her
    Oh the times are hard and the wages low
    And it’s time for us to leave her.

    Oh my old mother she wrote to me
    ‘My dear son, come home from sea.’

    It was rotten meat and weevilly bread
    ‘You’ll eat or starve,’ the Old Man said.

    I thought I heard the Old Man say
    ‘You can go ashore and collect your pay.’

    It’s time for us to say goodbye
    For the old pierhead is drawing nigh.

    Leave her, Johnny, leave her
    Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her
    The voyage is done and the winds don’t blow
    And it’s time for us to leave her.

    A sailor’s love song to her ship: Laotian oud, white cedarwood, sweet black patchouli, spiced rum, blackened fig, and coconut.

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  • Roll the Old Chariot Perfume Oil

    Oh, a drop of Nelson’s blood wouldn’t do us any harm,
    Oh, a drop of Nelson’s blood wouldn’t do us any harm,
    Oh, a drop of Nelson’s blood wouldn’t do us any harm,
    An’ we’ll all hang on behind!

    So we’ll ro-o-oll the old chariot along!
    An’ we’ll roll the golden chariot along!
    So we’ll ro-o-oll the old chariot along!
    An’ we’ll all hang on behind!

    It is said that after Horatio Nelson’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar, his body was preserved in a cask of rum (or in some tales, brandy) in order to preserve it for transport back to England. When the cask arrived, though, it was empty of spirits, and a hole in the cask was found where the sailors had been sucking the booze out with a straw.

    Oak planks, iron, brandy, and spiced rum.

    The remains of Vice-Admiral Nelson have been omitted from this fragrance.

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  • Row Bullies Row Perfume Oil

    The boardinghouse masters came aboard in a trice
    A shouting and a promising all that was nice
    Til one old crib took a liking to me
    Says he you’re a fool, lad, to follow the sea

    And it’s row, row bullies row

    Says he there’s a job as is waiting for you
    With lashings of liquor and beggar-all to do
    Says he what you say lad, will you? – or two?
    Says I you old bastard, I’m damned if I do

    And it’s row, row bullies row

    But the best of intentions they never goes far
    After thirty two days at the door of the bar
    I tossed off me liquor and what do you think
    That rotten old bastard had doctored me drink

    And it’s row, row bullies row

    Next I remember I woke in the morn
    On a the three skysail yarder bound south round Cape Horn
    With an old set of oilskins and two pair of socks
    And an IOU nailed to the lid of my box

    And it’s row, row bullies row

    Honeyed rum, a whiff of almond, and a hint of something suspiciously soporific.

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  • The Wellerman Perfume Oil

    There was a ship that put to sea,
    And the name of the ship was the Billy at Tea
    The wind came up, her bow dipped down,
    Blow, my bully boys, blow.

    Soon may the Wellerman come
    And bring us sugar and tea and rum.
    One day, when the tonguin’ is done,
    We’ll take our leave and go.

    She had not been two weeks from shore
    When down on her a right whale bore.
    The captain called all hands and swore
    He’d take that whale in tow.

    Before the boat had hit the water
    The whale’s tail came up and caught her.
    All hands to the side, harpooned and fought her,
    She dived down below.

    A line we dropped all in pursuit
    She raised her tail, a last salute.
    But the harpoon lodged there’s no dispute
    She dived down below.

    For six long days and six long nights
    She drove us south with all her might,
    Until we were too tired to fight,
    Then we let her go.

    The line was cut, the whale was freed;
    The Captain’s mind was not on greed.
    He belonged to the sailor’s creed
    And he let that whale go.

    Sugar, tea, and rum.

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