#03302
Off To The Ice Fields (George Webber)
(Old Time Sealers' Song)

We'll sound the hardy sealers praise,
a wild and cheerful strain,
Who coast each creek and shore along
across the billowy main;
Nor winter's storm nor seas alarm
can daunt his daring mind,
Unknown to fear away he'll steer,
old neptune's place to find.

The merchant men cease voyaging
when the wintry star appear,
The men-of-war are cruising far,
propelled by southern air;
But hardy sons in Newfoundland
wait not for season's change,
Mid ice and snow they'll daring go
thro' billows boldly rage.

The stormy month of March is come,
boys, muster and prepare,
To leave your home o'er seas to roam
and take the sealers fare;
Away, away, through storm and sea
a trackless course to trace,
Where sea dogs lie and sea gulls fly,
to find your favorite place.

When storms prevail to shorten sail
aloft bold sealers go,
On slippery shrouds while piping loud
the stiff northeaster's blow;
While slippery shrouds are piping loud,
they mount the quivering yard,
The canvas roll, the billows foam,
each wild lurch regard.

The gale increase take in close reef,
our watchful skipper cries,
Luff, helmsman, to give relief
whilst mountainous billows rise;
Let all but few descend below
lest stormy seas o'erwhelm,
The smartest hands on deck must stand,
the steadiest to the helm.

When night's dread noon,
with cheerless gloom o'er shadow sea and land,
And breakers o'er the tempest roar
proclaims the ice at hand;
With courage true our sealing crew
for danger then prepare,
As they boldly wedge to the water's edge
where none but sealers dare.

In yonder skirt begin the sport
where many a white coat lies,
With gaff and gun each man has sprung
to seize his distant prize;
Now, here and there, old seals appear,
the white coats are at hand,
Your hauling gear and guns prepare
and let the punts be manned.

Yon iceberg's wake has formed a lake
that lies our course along,
To warp her through our sealer crew
round bows and bulwarks strong;
Now the storm has passed we're stowed at last,
our hatches battened down,
'Tis homeward now our barque shall plow,
the sealers hopes to crown.

####.... George Webber, 1842 ....####
George Webber of Harbour Grace, was a poet, newspaperman, and editor of the Conception Bay Man (1856-1859).

The variant above was printed on page 5 of the Atlantic Guardian, volume 12, number 03 (March 1955) and published by Guardian Limited, St John's, NL, Ewart Young, editor [1913-1968]

An earlier variant was printed as Off To The Ice Fields on pages 20-21 of Murphy's Sealers' Song Book published by James Murphy [1867-1931] in St John's, NL, and printed by The Evening Telegram in 1905. The song was printed again in 1923 as Old Time Sealers' Song on p.1 of Songs Their Fathers Sung, For Fishermen: Old Time Ditties, and again in 1925 on pp.8-12 of Songs Sung By Old Time Sealers Of Many Years Ago, both published by James Murphy [1867-1931].

James Murphy's Publisher's Notes for both titles:
This song was written in 1842, years previous to the steamers going to the ice. Sailing vessels prosecuted the sealing industry in those years. Mr Webber of Harbour Grace, who edited a newspaper called the Conception Bay Man, was the author.



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