Boatman’s Cure - by George Ward
(lyrics here - MP3/audio-recording below - sheetmusic-pdf )
slowly...
  1. Poling up the river in a three-hand boat,
    Too deep to carry, too shallow to float (x2)
    • Refrain:
      If it doesn’t lift your spirits, it’ll leave you numb,
      Best cure for the river is a bottle of rum (x2)

  2. Listen to the forwarder struttin’ up the quay,
    Quick to tell a boatman how the river will be,
    Got to tell a boatman how the river will be.
    • If it doesn’t lift your spirits, it’ll leave you numb,
      Best cure for the forwarder’s

  3. Workin’ up the rift, the current swung her ‘ round,
    Bedbugs swum ashore, poor boatman nearly got drowned (x2)
    • If it doesn’t lift your spirits, it’ll leave you numb,
      Best cure ...

  4. Sweatin’ in the heat of day, chillin’ in the rain,
    Sleepin’ in the open, got the ague again (x2)
    •   If it doesn’t lift your spirits,  ...

  5. Frostbite in November took my toes away,
    Devil take the black fly ‘bout the last week in May (x2)
    • If it doesn’t lift your spirits, ...

  6. Sweet Annie of Schenectady, she broke my heart,
    Her face is in the fire-light, the river sings her part (x2)
    • If it doesn’t lift your spirits, ...
      Best cure for a woman is  ...

  7. Got a callus on my shoulder and my hands are raw,
    Sweetest sight some thirsty frontier maid ever saw (x2)
    • If it doesn’t lift your spirits, ...
      Best cure for wisdom is ...

  8. I fought all through this wilderness in ’59;
    I still fancy I see shadows movin’ time after time (x2)
    • If it doesn’t lift your spirits, well, it leaves you numb,
      Best cure for shadows is ...
      Only cure for shadows is ...

  9. Morning comes up early for a fast batteau,
    Shoulder to your settin’ pole, you push off and go (x2)
    • If it doesn’t lift your spirits, well, it leaves you numb,
      There ain’t no cure for livin’ in a bottle of rum.
        ain’t no cure for livin’ in a bottle of rum.

© George Ward 1991, 2008


3hand boat

rum

blackflies


woman remembered
Play Audio:
 
> alternative access to the original recording (you will need mp3 software) This is the complete song - not just a segment; it's 4 MB so you may have to wait a bit if you have only  dial-up access to the web.
sheetmusic icon
sheetmusic - pdf
Notes:
This song was originally published on George Ward’s albumPea Soup and Port: A Batteau Salute’ recorded to celebrate the launching of a replica of Gen. Philip Schuyler’s 1792 batteau.

On Tuesday, August 21, 1792, General Philip Schuyler and two other Albany, NY businessmen [ Goldsbrow Banyar, a banker and Elkanah Watson, a ‘business venturer’] began a westward journey by batteau to survey the Mohawk River – Wood Creek water route as far west as Rome, NY. The objective was to propose improvements to the route, to be constructed by the recently chartered Western Inland Lock Navigation Company. With them in the batteau traveled a surveyor [ Moses DeWitt], a carpenter [Abraham Lighthall] and a millwright [Archibald Nisbet]. Canal engineers did not yet exist in the new republic. A crew of three batteaumen [William Culbertson, Andrew Bearup and John House] completed the party. The entire expedition consumed all of two weeks. Yet because the improvement projects to which it led reflected the first measurable stirrings of that great ambition that would shortly lead to the building of the Erie Canal, its consequences for New York and for the nation were enormous.

[Bateaux had been ferrying cargo and passengers along this ancient water route for well over a hundred years before the Schuyler expedition. Many were built in Schenectady, the western terminus of the overland route from Albany that bypassed the great Cohoes Falls at the mouth of the Mohawk River. ]

The Boatman’s Cure: One cannot (at least this one cannot) read accounts of eighteenth century life in upstate New York without remarking on the repeated mention of alcohol as an essential part of daily life. In his account of Philip Schuyler’s 1792 expedition…Philip Lord, Jr. lists the following items as part of the batteau’s provisions: “[T]wo five-gallon kegs of Madeira wine (with glasses), a three-gallon keg of brandy and miscellaneous kegs of ‘rum and spirits.’ He goes on to observe that, “…fragmentary accounts of field expenses indicate liberal quantities of spirits purchased at taverns en route.” This for nine men, for fourteen days !

 © George Ward 1991
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edit: 4nov08 - howie