Friday, December 9, 2016

The sailor's prayer, 1801

The Sailor's Prayer. 1801. Lewis Walpole Library.
Leaving the strange shoals of fishermen, today we return to the safe waters of caricatures with this irreverent Woodward and Rowlandson print from 1801, which features a sailor, as always speaking in impenetrable nautical jargon:

"O mighty Neptune! hear an  honest British Tar--thou knowest I trouble not thy Godship every day, I therefore pray thee to grant my Prayer, for I love not long palavering and that there, d'ye see.

Grant me a stout ship, and honest Messmates--as the last of my old ones was popped off the Belerophon's bows at the Nile--poor Mat Mizen!! Give me plenty of Grog, and a good commander, and I'll warrant you I'll shave the Don's wiskers, and as to MOUNSEER, if I comes athwart his hauser again, I'll shiver his Jib, and dowse his three-coloured rag, and revenge the death of Mat Mizen, d--n me--I beg your honour's pardon for swearing, but its a way I have--however, I still say, if I get into Mounseer's wake, I'll back his top sails, split my Timbers.

Worthy Master Neptune! send us a good prize, I beseech thee, and be not sparing in brandy and tobacco--give us also a few chests of the Don's dollars, for Mounseer hasn't got none, no more than there is in your three-pronged boat-hook. When we arrive in port, send us handsome Doxies, and keep us from the lee-shore, that thou knowest I hat as I do an empty can, or a dry quid. Grant me but these, and capsize my Trunions if I don't ever praise thee, and the Messmate that wont join me, may he be stuck upon the lee-yard arm of a storm night! Lastly, I pray thee to keep me from the disgrace of the Bilboes-save me from a Guinea-man and a Tender, and I'll serve cheerfully, and sing King George and his Navy for ever.--Huzza! to the end of the chapter."

The sailor, seated on a chest on the deck of a ship, is smoking a white clay pipe, with an oval tobacco case and a tankard easily within reach. He wears pointed-toe shoes with gold buckles, white stockings, red and white striped pants, a blue jacket with three buttons at the cuffs, at least two of which are worn unbuttoned, and a black neck-handkerchief tied tightly around his neck with the ends hanging outside his jacket. His dark hair is short and curly.

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