I tried to look up for its video clip in YouTube and Google but none were like the one I searched for. Instead, I ended up with some interesting facts.
The song was based on a poem by Charles Kingsley and first published in 1851. John Hullah was the first to compose a song based on the poem although I'm not sure his melody was the same as the one I know, comparing to some solo versions and music score that I found. Derek B Scott, a Professor of Critical Musicology from University of Leeds, sang it the first time.
The music score in PDF and midi file by John Hullah can be found here: http://www.ibiblio.org/mutopia/cgibin/piece-info.cgi?id=429.
Here goes the poem:
The Three Fishers1 Three fishers went sailing away to the west,2 Away to the west as the sun went down;3 Each thought on the woman who loved him the best,4 And the children stood watching them out of the town;5 For men must work, and women must weep,6 And there's little to earn, and many to keep,7 Though the harbour bar be moaning.8 Three wives sat up in the lighthouse tower,9 And they trimmed the lamps as the sun went down;10 They looked at the squall, and they looked at the shower,11 And the night-rack came rolling up ragged and brown.12 But men must work, and women must weep,13 Though storms be sudden, and waters deep,14 And the harbour bar be moaning.15 Three corpses lay out on the shining sands16 In the morning gleam as the tide went down,17 And the women are weeping and wringing their hands18 For those who will never come home to the town;19 For men must work, and women must weep,20 And the sooner it's over, the sooner to sleep;21 And good-bye to the bar and its moaning.
(taken from Representative Poetry Online)
The poem/lyric told the story clearly. The arrangement of the music (it's an a cappella composition) added up to the holistic image of the scene.
At least I got the image of the town nearby a sea in my mind when singing the song. At bay, some women worrily looking at their husbands as they were preparing their sailing equipments, while the children stood still in silence beside their mothers. The sky didn't look friendly, the clouds were hovering and the wind blew strongly. The sun started to set and darkness was creeping on the surface of the roaring sea. As the men started sailing, some children ran to a steep hill that raised high from the sea, to get the last glance of their fathers on the horizon.
I can go on and on with this image, I'm afraid I might write too long.
Line 8-11 were sung by Soprano and Alto describing the situation and possible feeling of the women. The duet was melodiously and beautifully aching. Then came male voices in line 12-14 as cantus, like breaking into a new scene (I imagine the sudden change of scenes like in a movie, from a secluded lighthouse tower to an open, rough sea; with cracking thunder and lightning; and the men struggling in their boat). I remembered the males started with forte, and gradually lowering down the dynamics (not decrescendo, but on some starting points).
Line 15-18, again the females sang the main melody, but this time accompanied by the males singing only some words of each line. The emphasis on each syllable rhythmically by the Tenors and Basses created a sense of splashes of waves on the shore where the corpses laid.
The song is so beautiful.. sooo emotional.. Line 20 "And the sooner it's over, the sooner to sleep;", sang in piano/pianissimo, suits the feeling the best.. Since the sorrow is so strong, it feels like it's the only way to shrug off the burden.
Fuhh, I should try my best to dig through my recording collections to find the song.
Another interesting fact is that the poem has a rhyme structure of ababccd. I just noticed it and I think it's beautiful.
I found The Project Gutenberg Ebook of Journeys Through Booklands that contain Kingsley's poem and an illustration. Haaa, I'm so glad the illustration suits my former imagination:
(taken from Gutenberg.org)