We sang Blow Away The Morning Dew at secondary school in the late fifties. Unlike the present version it was severely edited and as a 12 or 13 year old I thought the whole thing was weak and inconsequential, though I liked the tune. So did Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams who each collected versions. Vaughan Williams liked it so much he included it in more than one of his orchestral works.
Calling this song a ‘grace’ is ironic. It ‘celebrates’ the standard diet of sailors in merchant ships: old meat, tough, unidentifiable, soaked in brine and described as salt horse, but it could be anything. It was boiled for hours to make it more edible (but no less palatable) and eaten with hard ship’s biscuit without vegetables most of the time. No wonder seafarers developed scurvy.
Printed in Stan Hugill’s monumental book Shanties Of The Seven Seas, the song is unique in that it came from the quarry at Portland where horses provided the power to move huge blocks of stone that were sent by ship to London and the big cities before and since Victorian times to make the grand buildings of Empire. Not only were horses ill-used, so were the many prisoners. Both were easily replaced.
The explanation is longer than the song. Perhaps you’d better listen again.
In 1759 James Wolfe led the British army of 7,700 men and Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Grozon the French of 13,390 on the Plains Of Abraham. Both generals were killed. There are two different traditional songs about the battle. The present version is one of several variants collected in Canada and the United States.
The painting is by Richard Caton Woodville 1886.
The barque Europa is pictured above, not in the Arctic where the whaleships in the song went, but the Antarctic. If you’re interested in an adventurous vacation it’s one of the fine tall ships in Classic Sailing, where you’ll also find the ketch Donna Wood seen here in Greenland & Icelandic waters in summer when whale viewing is in season. All I know about the song is that it was collected by Cecil Sharp and published in 1908.