Rolling Home
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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Lyrics
According to Hugill it was "the most famous homeward-bound shanty of all," and was popular in both English and American Ships. It is believed the shanty is based on a poem by Charles Mackay, written on board ship in 1858, but Hugill speculates that Mackay could have heard the sailors at the capstan and based his poem on the original shanty.

Many collectors state the song was a forecastle song, rather than a shanty, but there are several shanty versions and Whall cites several sources which confirm it was used as a capstan shanty.

Some versions begin with "pipe all hands." The pipe was not generally used on merchant ships.

There are also Irish versions that roll home to "Dear Old Ireland."

Up aloft, amid the rigging
Swiftly blows the fav'ring gale,
Strong as springtime in its blossom,
Filling out each bending sail,
And the waves we leave behind us
Seem to murmur as they rise;
We have tarried here to bear you
To the land you dearly prize.
Rolling home, rolling home,
Rolling home across the sea,
Rolling home to dear old England
Rolling home, dear land to thee.


Now, it takes all hands to man the capstan,
Mister see your cables clear!
Soon you'll be sailing homeward bound sir,
And for the channel you will steer.
See your sheets and crew lines free sir,
All your buntlines overhauled;
Are the sheerpoles and gear all ready?
Soon for New England we will steer.
Rolling home, rolling home,
Rolling home across the sea,
Rolling home to dear old England
Rolling home, dear land to thee.


Full ten thousand miles behind us,
And a thousand miles before,
Ancient ocean waves to waft us
To the well remembered shore.
Newborn breezes swell to send us
To our childhood welcome skies,
To the glow of friendly faces
And the glance of loving eyes.
Rolling home, rolling home,
Rolling home across the sea,
Rolling home to dear old England
Rolling home, dear land to thee.


Related Links
From The Burl Ives Song Book,
Shanties from the Seven Seas and
Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman
See Bibliography for full information.