This Dreadful Life

Song of a sailor who enjoyed the hard life of a sailor until he smartened up and decided otherwise. This was written by Kevin Brown of the Ancient Mariners Chanteymen who also helped on the chorus.


[These are the lyrics as sung by Cliff during the concert, which vary slightly from other performers… The folk music progression in action]


When I was just a young man
I left my family
Set out upon the ragin’ main,
To serve Amerikee.

When the fight was over,
I found I needed more,
I signed on board a packet ship,
Bound for some distant shore.

cho: I have sailed across the ocean,
I have rolled upon the sea,
And this dreadful life I’m livin’
Is just the life for me.

I went down to a native bar,
When we pulled into shore,
Got drinkin’ ale and whiskey,
‘Til I was good and poor.

When I awoke, beside me,
Lay a girl I didn’t know,
Which proves that heathen whiskey
Can lay a sailor low.


It’s haulin line and ropes, me boys,
And pushin’ capstan ’round;
Workin’ at the pumps, me boys
And prayin’ for that sound.

The sound of the bosun callin’,
To send us all below,
And end the pain of every day,
A sailor’s come to know.


When we sailed into Bank Street
At the old New London port
Could hear the music playin’
Saw the dancin’ on the wharf.

The people there were happy
‘Cause our ship was comin’ in,
Hoping friends and their relations
Would not go to sea again.


When the mighty ocean tells me
With a piece of broken deck
That life on land’s not half as bad,
As livin’ through a wreck

So I am goin’ home, me boys,
To the friends I used to know,
And hoist a jar to every man
Who has the urge to go.

last cho: 2x

I have sailed across the ocean,
I have rolled upon the sea,
And this dreadful life I used to live
Is not the life for me.

(c) Kevin Brown, Westbrook, CT, USA


2 Responses to This Dreadful Life

  1. John Lethbridge says:

    Hi Cliff! I am John Lethbridge of Fishermans Friends England. We are about to record a sound track for a film. If we use Dreadfull life would you be happy with a credi or would you want royalties?
    Kind Regards

    • Joseph says:

      Hello Mr. Lethbridge,

      I will see Cliff later today and I will pass on your message. I have also contacted Kevin Brown – the composer of the song – for his input. I suspect both gents will be very happy to be in touch with you shortly.

      Best regards

      Joseph Morneault

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