Tom Bowling
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This English tune was written by Charles Dibdin (1740-1814) on the death of his eldest brother, Thomas Dibdin. It first appeared in The Oddities which was performed at The Lyceum in 1789. The song is also known as the Sailor's Epitaph.

Thomas Dibdin was twenty-nine years older than Charles, a father-figure as well as brother. Thomas Dibdin was captain of a ship in the East India trade who died at sea.

Charles Dibdin was the eighteenth son of a poor silvermaker. He was born in Southampton in 1740 and died in London in 1814. In 1778 he became resident composer at Covent Garden. In 1803 the British government paid him to write a series of songs to "keep alive the national feelings against the French." (1)

Dibdin's songs were said to be worth ten thousand sailors to the cause of England. His songs were also popular in Canada and America before and during the American Revolution and during the War of 1812.

For other tunes by Charles Dibdin at this site, enter Charles Dibdin in the search engine or see The Contemplator's Short Biography of Charles Dibdin.

Here a sheer hulk lies poor Tom Bowling,
The darling of our crew;
No more he'll hear the tempest howling,
For death has broach'd him to:
His form was of the manliest beauty,
His heart was kind and soft.
Faithful, below, he did his duty,
And now he's gone aloft,
And now he's gone aloft.

Tom never from his word departed,
His virtues were so rare,
His friends were many, and true-hearted,
His Poll was kind and fair:
And then he'd sing so blithe and jolly -
Ah! many's the Time and oft -
But mirth is turn'd to melancholy,
For Tom is gone aloft,
For Tom is gone aloft.

Yet shall poor Tom find pleasant weather,
When He, who all commands,
Shall give, to call life's crew together,
The word to pipe all hands:
Thus death, who Kings and tars dispatches,
In vain Tom's life has doff'd,
For though his body's under hatches,
His soul has gone aloft,
His soul has gone aloft.
Related Links
Our National Songs and
(1)The National Music of America and Its Sources
See Bibliography for full information.