The Wikipedia article on Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 18) suggests that Robert Louis Stevenson’s masterpiece Treasure Island is the fount of many of today’s stereotypes of pirates. The wooden leg, the shoulder-carried parrot, the timbers that are shivered; all of these are said to stem from Stevenson’s adventure novel. And of course, Stevenson included the pirate’s anthem, Fifteen Men on the Dead Man’s Chest, from which the title for this entry was taken.
“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest—
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest—
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”
The song as it appears in the book is not complete; at least so thought American author Young E. Allison, who in 1891 filled the gaps with his poem Derelict. Now, Barbara Tozier, Bill Tozier, David Newman, and countless Distributed Proofreaders bring you Champion Ingraham Hitchcock’s The Dead Men’s Song, “the Story of a Poem and a Reminiscent Sketch of Its Author”. The book traces the history of the song, and includes facsimiles of Allison’s drafts. It is beautifully illustrated, and contains Henry Waller’s sheet music and a midi version of the song that you can play in your media player software. Arrr, so now you know how it be sung.