Although sometimes used as a shanty, this is based on a much older song. Very few shanties, being largely a product of the 19th century, make reference to the much earlier age of piracy, unless it is in older ballads, revived and brought into use as shanties. The lyrics may refer to the problems with North African pirates in the last half of the 18th century and the early 19th century which was the reason for the Barbary wars between the US and the Barbary states of North Africa. "High Barbaree," derives from the song "The Saylor's Onely Delighte," found even in Shakespeare and in the Stationersâ€™ Register for January 14, 1595. It tells the fate of two merchant ships, the George Aloe and the Sweepstake both sailing to Safee. While the George Aloe was resting at anchor the Sweepstake sailed on, then a French ship attacked the Sweepstake and threw the crew overboard. The George Aloe chased and defeated the French ship whose crew were shown no mercy because of the fate of the crew of the Sweepstake.
There were two lofty ships from old
Blow high, blow low, and so sail we
One was the Prince of Luther and the other Prince of Wales
Sailinâ€™ down the coast of
"Aloft there, aloft there" our jolly
"Look ahead, look astern, look to weather an' a-lee"
"There's naught upon out bow, and there's
naught upon our lee
But there's a lofty ship to wind'ard an' she's sailin' fast and free"
"Oh hail her, oh hail her" our gallant
"Are you a man-o-war or a privateer I see?"
"Oh, weâ€™re not a man-o-war nor
privateer," said she
"But we are salt sea pirate and weâ€™re looking for our fee"
Twas Broadside, to broadside a long time we lay
Until the Prince of Luther shot the pirate's mast away
With cutlass and guns we fought for hours three
But the ship it was their coffin and their grave it was the sea
"Oh quarter, oh quarter" those languished
But the quarter that we gave them we sank 'em in the tide