Traditional English  

What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor

Buy sheetmusic for this work at SheetMusicPlus

Drunken Sailor is a famous traditional sea shanty also known as What Should We Do with the Drunken Sailor? and Sailor's Holiday.[citation needed]

It begins with the question, "What shall we do with a drunken sailor, early in the morning?" (Or sometimes "What do you do," etc.) Each verse thereafter suggests a method of sobering—or castigating, or simply abusing—the sailor.

One of the most notable aspects of the song is that the word "early" is often pronounced "earl-lie", (throughout the song, if at all).

The song is #322 on the Roud Folk Song Index.



Such songs, shanty, were the only ones allowed in the Royal Navy. Most often, only two or three verses were sung but verses were often added until the task was completed.


The air was taken from a traditional Irish dance and march tune, "Oró Sé do Bheatha 'Bhaile" (Translated as "Óró, you are welcome home") originally in dorian mode. The same tune has also been used for other songs, possibly Ten Little Injuns[1]

The music was first reproduced in printed form in 1824–25 in Cole's Selection of Favourite Cotillions published in Baltimore. However, the lyrics were first published in 1891 under the title "What to do with a Drunken Sailor?". Another version appears in The Shanty Book, Part I, Sailor Shanties, by Richard Runciman Terry, categorised as a "Windlass and Capstan" shanty. He says of it: "Although mostly used for windlass or capstan, Sir Walter Runciman tells me that he frequently sang to it for 'hand-over-hand' hauling. Whall gives it on page 107 under the title 'Early in the morning.' It is one of the few shanties that were sung in quick time."

Recordings and performances

The song has been widely recorded under a number of titles by a range of performers including Blaggards, Dschinghis Khan, Gina, Dale Haze and the Champions, Great Big Sea, the King's Singers, Quadriga Consort, James Last, The Swingle Singers, the Brobdingnagian Bards, the LeperKhanz, Pete Seeger, Captain Bogg and Salty, Terrorvision, Authority Zero and the hungarian irish folk-punk band Paddy and the Rats. It also forms part of a contrapuntal section in the BBC Radio 4 UK Theme by Fritz Spiegl, in which it is played alongside Greensleeves. It has also been recorded by David Thomas and features on the 2006 release Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys. The French rock band Noir Désir sing it in many concerts. The Irish Rovers traditionally end their concerts with an audience sing-along of the song.

Australian composer Percy Grainger incorporated the song and lyrics into his song setting "Scotch Strathspey And Reel".

Don Janse produced a particularly artistic arrangement in the early 1960s which has been included in several choral music anthologies. The arrangement was first recorded by The Idlers. This arrangement has been performed by several collegiate groups over the years, including the Yale Alley Cats on their Live from Europe Album.

This song has been recorded by Sam Spence under the name "Up She Rises", and is frequently used as background music for NFL Films.

The song is covered by the band Authority Zero on their album 12:34 (with occasional changing of the lyrics to "What do you do with a Drunken Zero").

Holly Near recorded a version on her CD "Show Up" . The rewrite features the same tune with additional lyrics added that focus on the problem of alcohol addiction.

Cutthroat Shamrock recorded a variation called "Drunk'n Pirate" on their self titled album in 2006.

Variations and parodies

The main theme from the first movement of Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Op. 102, mimics the song.[citation needed]

The Kingston Trio recorded "Early in the Morning" the chorus of which has the same tune but these lyrics: "When you lift your eyes and/see the sun a risin'/on the far horizon/early in the morning."

American band Firewater recorded a song entitled "Snake-Eyes and Boxcars" that borrows the melody but changes the central lyric to "What shall we do with a drunken failure?"

Montreal band The Prowlers adapted the lyrics to suit the title "Drunken Skinhead" on their album "Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow", released in 2001.

Folk singer Country Joe McDonald adapted the chorus for his song Save the Whales.

The melody is often used in Spongebob Square Pants.

The song has also been used by Bleeding Hearts as the basis for 'Siren Songs' which was released in 2002 on their live acoustic album 'Anarcoustica'.

Further reading

Song text

What'll we do with a drunken sailor,
What'll we do with a drunken sailor,
What'll we do with a drunken sailor,
Earl-aye in the morning?


Weigh heigh and up she rises
Weigh heigh and up she rises
Weigh heigh and up she rises
Earl-aye in the morning

Traditional verses:

1. Put him in the long boat till he's sober,
2. Put him in the scuppers with a hose-pipe on him.
3. Shave his belly with a rusty razor.
4. Put him in bed with the captain's daughter.

Additional verses:

5. Beat him with a cat 'til his back is bleedin'
6. Put him in the bilge and make him drink it
7. Truss him up with a runnin' bowline.
8. Give 'im a dose of salt and water.
9. Stick on 'is back a mustard plaster.
10. Send him up the crow's nest till he falls down,
11. Tie him to the taffrail when she's yardarm under,
12. Soak 'im in oil 'til he sprouts a flipper.
13. Put him in the guard room 'til he's sober.
14. That's what we'll do with the drunken sailor.


1+. Keep him there and make 'im bale 'er.
2a. Pull out the plug and wet him all over,
3a. Shave his balls with a rusty razor.
4a. Give 'im a taste of the bosun's rope-end.
6a. Heave 'im by the leg with a runnin' bowline.

External links


  1. ^ Studwell, William E. (1997) "Americana Song Reader" p. 74

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Drunken_Sailor". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.

Our dream: to make the world's treasury of classical music accessible for everyone.
Help us with donations or by making music available!

Contact us     Privacy policy     Language:

Looking for classical mp3 downloads? We index the free-to-download classical mp3s on the internet.
©2018 Classic Cat - the classical mp3 and video directory. All rights reserved.