Poor Old Horse Chanty

At the end of the first month at sea the crew would start to earn their pay (having had the first month’s wages in advance, often to pay debts run up in port). This would be celebrated by creating a stuffed canvas horse, which would be paraded around the ship three times at dusk by a solemn candlelight procession. It was then hoisted on a rope to the topmost yardarm where the youngest member of the crew would cut the rope on cue, dropping the horse into the sea. The traditional three-cheer salute was given, and the captain would issue a ration of grog (watered rum) to each man. The ceremony was known, says Hugill, as “paying off the dead horse” but became a rather half-hearted affair in the latter days of sail. It then became a halyard shanty.

Poor Old Horse Chanty

They say old man your horse will die,
And they say so and they hope so.
O, poor old man your horse will die,
O, poor old man!
One month a rotten life we've led.
While you lay on y'er feather bed.

For thirty* days I've ridden him,
And when he dies we'll tan his skin,

And if he lives, I'll ride him again,
I'll ride him with a tighter rein,
We’ll yank him aft t' th' cabin door.
An' hope we'll ne-ver see him more.

It's up aloft the horse must go,
We'll hoist him up and bury him low.