William Jackson (of Exeter)
(1730 - 1803)

Jackson (of Exeter) : 'Twas when the seas were roaring : illustration

'Twas when the seas were roaring
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Jackson was organist of Exeter Cathedral and a theorist on music. A friend of Thomas Gainsborough, he corresponded with him on the subject of aesthetics.

Here Jackson has made a joke that he used often: a "low art" nautical ballad by John Gay has been treated in an "high art" (cantata) style.
Lyrics: John Gay

'Twas when the seas were roaring,
With hollow blasts of wind,
A damsel lay deploring,
All on a rock reclined.
Wide o'er the foaming billows,
She cast a wishful look;
Her head was crowned with willows,
That trembled o'er the brook.

Twelve months were gone and over,
And nine long tedious days;
Why did'st thou, ventrous lover,
Why did'st thou trust the seas?
Cease, cease thou troubled ocean,
And let my lover rest;
Ah, what's thy troubled motion
To that within my breast?

The merchant, robbed of pleasure,
Views tempests with despair,
But what's the loss of treasure
To the losing of my dear?
Should you some coast be laid on,
Where gold and diamonds grow,
You'd find a richer maiden,
But none that loves you so.

How can they say that nature
Has nothing made in vain?
Why then, beneath the water,
Do hideous rocks remain?
No eyes the rocks discover
That lurk beneath the deep,
To wreck the wand'ring lover
And leave the maid to weep.

Thus melancholy lying,
Thus wailed she for her dear;
Repaid each blast with sighing,
Each billow with a tear.
When, o'er the white waves stooping,
His floating corpse she spied,
Then, like a lily drooping,
She bowed her head and died.