Reuben Ranzo
Download Midi File
Lesley Nelson-Burns


Information
Lyrics
This song was a popular halyard shanty, particularly popular among whalers.

In several versions the Captain's daughter teaches Ranzo navigation (and other things), and they eventually marry. There are other endings as well; the crew throws Ranzo overboard because he is so dirty, he steals the captain's turkey and is lashed, and in other endings Ranzo has several adventures under the sea after he is thrown overboard.

There are several theories as to the identity of Reuben Ranzo.

  1. Ranzo may have been an abbreviation of Lorenzo, a common Portuguese name. In this theory Ranzo was a native of the Azores who, like many of the island, shipped aboard a whaler as a harpooner.
  2. A Danish naval hero of the sixteenth century was named Daniel Rantzau. He was a hero of Denmark's Seven Years' War with Sweden and is often referred to in Danish sea songs. However, Hugill says it is unlikely he had a connection with whalers.
  3. Another theory is that Ranzo was a Russian or Polish Jew with a name similar to Ronzoff. Jews were rarely at sea and were rumored to not like soap and water. In addition tailor was a common occupation of Jews.
  4. He may have been a Latin-American greenhorn. 'Reuben,' 'Reub' and 'Rube' were common terms for farmer.

Because many shantymen sang 'Renzo,' Hugill believes the Lorenzo origin is most probable.*

*The stones used to clean the ship's decks were called holy stones.

Hurrah! for Reuben Ranzo,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo
Hurrah! for Reuben Ranzo
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo

Reuben was no sailor,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo
Reuben was a tailor;
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo

Ranzo joined The Beauty,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo
And did not know his duty:
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo

His skipper was a dandy,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo
And was too fond of brandy;
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo

He called Ranzo a lubber,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo
And made him eat whale blubber;
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo

The Beauty was a whaler,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo
Ranzo was no sailor;
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo

They set him holy stoning,*
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo
And cared not for his groaning;
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo

They gave him lashes twenty,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo
Nineteen more than plenty -
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo

Reuben Ranzo fainted,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo
His back with oil was painted;
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo

They gave him cake and whisky,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo
Which made him rather frisky;
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo

They made him the best sailor,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo
Sailing on that whaler;
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo

They put him Navigating,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo
And gave him extra rating;
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo

Ranzo now is skipper,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo
Of a China Clipper;
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo

Ranzo was a tailor,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo
Now he is a sailor;
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo

Related Links
From Fifty Sailor's Songs or Chanties and
*Shanties from the Seven Seas
See Bibliography for full information.