Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Song of Captain Kidd

In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day here is something from Howard Pyle.

“The Song of Captain Kidd” is, in fact, one of Pyle’s earliest known pirate pictures, and it’s one of eleven illustrations he made at the tender age of twenty-six for Lizzie W. Champney’s “Sea-Drift from a New England Port” which was published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine for December 1879.

Pyle hand-lettered the title, but the rest of the text was typeset. The song isn’t the work of Champney, but was an “oldie” even in 1879 - and lo and behold there’s at least one site devoted to its history and where you can hear the tune. Pyle himself later wrote of it:
Maybe two hundred years have passed since Captain Kidd took his leave of the world at Execution Dock in London, yet even at this day, I suppose, seven or eight out of every ten people who read, remember at least a part of the famous ballad that has drifted down to us from that far away past - “The Song of Captain Kidd.”...

It is such popular songs as this more than almost anything else, that makes the name of an adventurer popular upon the lips and to the ears of the great public. So it is now that after 200 years, the name of Captain Kidd is that above all others suggestive of sea-roving, of the Black Roger, with its white skull and crossbones, of buried treasure, of death and of terror.
Now talk like pirates amongst yourselves.


kev ferrara said...

Hi Ian, hope you're well...

Unrelated to this particular post... I'm trying to find the quote where N.C. Wyeth accuses Pyle of teaching him a "collection of tricks." I don't think I imagined this quote, but I suppose I may have gotten it garbled. Do you recall it?


Ian Schoenherr said...

I'm not sure if anything like that is in "The Wyeths" (Gambit, 1971), but then there's also a 1909 letter Wyeth wrote to Allen True (now at Archives of American Art) in which he said:

"None of us know ANYTHING. Howard Pyle’s teaching is a terrible blight to all who studied with him. He is responsible for spoiling the possible opportunities of a number of fellows—and as for me, I KNOW his short-cut training has brought me a success that has been wholly misleading and which has placed me in a position from which it is questionable that I will ever be able to disentangle myself."

Etc. etc.

kev ferrara said...

Thanks Ian. I guess I could have been thinking of the line "short-cut training" but I'm pretty sure the quote I'm recalling has Wyeth using the word "tricks."

Anyhow, best wishes from a fellow Pyle fanatic,
kev f

P.S. You may know this already, but the new Heritage Auction online catalog has a Pyle painting from Puppet of Fate.

Ian Schoenherr said...

I'll keep an eye out for tricks - so far it's not turning up in my transcriptions.

And I'm working on a Puppet of Fate post - love that painting.