Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sepia Saturday 313 : Fear Not But Trust In Providence (And A Decent Lifeboat)

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features two children who were Titanic orphans: along with their father they were passengers on the Titanic and whilst they were saved their father perished in the tragedy. It started me thinking about the dangers of the sea and that led me to another of the vintage postcards from the collection of my Great-Uncle, Fowler Beanland. The postcard features an illustration of a ship's pilot and a young girl, along with the first verse of a ballad written by the nineteenth century poet and songwriter, Thomas Haynes Bayly. The Pilot is the kind of ballad that gave the nineteenth century a bad reputation: a sticky concoction of melodrama and sentimentality. Brace yourself, here is the ballad in full:-

"Oh! Pilot! 'tis a fearful night, there's danger on the deep,
I'll come and pace the deck with thee, I do not dare to sleep."
"Go down," the sailor cried, "go down, this is no place for thee;
Fear not! but trust in Providence, wherever thou mayst be."

"Ah! Pilot, dangers often met, we all are apt to slight,
And thou hast known these raging waves, but to subdue their might",
"It is not apathy," he cried, "that gives this strength to me,
Fear not but trust in Providence, wherever thou mayst be.

On such a night the sea engulfed my father's lifeless form;
My only brother's boat went down, in just so wild a storm;
And such, perhaps, may be my fate, but still I say to thee,
Fear not but trust in Providence, wherever thou mayst be." 

You have to admit, it is hardly Bob Dylan! I tried to find a musical rendition of the song on YouTube in the hope that it might grow on me when I heard it sung, but nobody has dared to share one yet. Perhaps those two young children who feature in our theme image, feared not but trusted in Providence, who knows. But if they had placed their trust in the White Star Line providing sufficient lifeboats, that trust had been clearly misplaced.

I have just remembered that I have recently booked a Baltic cruise for the summer, so I am off to source a copy of the music so that I can learn to sing it. Just the thing for the passenger talent contest. 

See what other Sepians are up to this weekend by visiting the Sepia Saturday Blog, wherever thou mayst be.


  1. Aaagh, no! please Alan, spare us this in music. These old ballads are interesting but the message of this one is hardly the stuff to stir the soul!

  2. Please Nooooooooooooo! I have just come back from a cruise, which had cringe worthy karaoke singers! Oh Well at least they had fun!

  3. Sappy seasongs nothwithstanding, you'd never catch ME on one of those old ships -- Providence be damned!

  4. Coming from a family prone to shipwreck, I think I'll memorize it. I was on a long cruise recently and also did my share of cringing at kAreole. Very witty and enjoyable read as usual Alan.

  5. I can understand someone writing that song, but I can't understand it being popular.

  6. I think this is a source for sheet music of the song:

  7. She'll catch her death of cold in that unsuitable outfit, never mind drown. At least the pilot is sensibly kitted out in oilskins and sou'wester.
    I confess I'm not mad for cruising although I do love a good boat trip on a lake.

  8. I guess when in the middle of the ocean, tis best to trust in Providence. What else is there? If you read Deb's post, the captain pretty much said, "Every man for himself." So that's another policy to consider.

  9. Bob Dylan is a favored poet/songwriter of mine but this poem struck a chord too. It is of the type people used to recite out loud, where is that skill gone to?

  10. I think our ancestors lived with such an enormous number of uncertainties, i.e. the weather, the post, health, etc. that the only sentiment left was to "Trust in Providence." Today it is reduced to "Whatever."

  11. That song certainly wouldn't make any Top of the Pops chart, but a clip of your singing it might get a few likes I'm sure. Providence is forgotten these days, and people are always looking for someone to take the blame.

  12. Perhaps people did not think of the hazards when they embarked on a voyage over the oceans. There was no other way, then to trust in providence. For some it must have been a nightmare; the high, wild seas, the unknown, the scary stories, long month, bad food, diseases; I guess some sentimental songs went a long way.

  13. Just make sure the Old Man hasn't had one nip too many....

  14. I like Mike's reduction of to "Trust In Providence" as today's "Whatever." I would add the phrase "It is what it is." to that as well. :) It's a good thing we don't weigh all the possible negative consequences of taking a ship, plane, train - or driving anywhere for that matter - or we'd never go anywhere! And then, of course, we'd simply be struck by lightning or something.

  15. Alan, I look forward to hearing you sing this song on you tube.

  16. Perhaps humming it would be better, Alan...


Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...