15 Men on a Dead Man’s Chest – History and Lyrics

15 Men on a Dead Man’s Chest (Yo-ho-ho and a Bottle of Rum) might be the most famous pirate song, ever. It was popularized as the song, Derelict, in the 1901 musical, Treasure Island. The lyrics were by Young E. Allison, who’d written the poem years earlier.

Definition of derelict in pirate talkThis was sung by the Treasure Island character, Billy Bones.

15 Men on a Dead Man’s Chest

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!

* * * * *

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 mate was fixed by the bos’n’s pike,
The bos’n brained with a marlinspike
And Cookey’s throat was marked belike
It had been gripped
By fingers ten;
And there they lay,
All good dead men,
Like break-o’-day in a boozing-ken —
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

* * * * *

Fifteen men of a whole ship’s list —
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Dead and bedamned, and the rest gone whist! —
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
The skipper lay with his nob in gore
Where the scullion’s axe his cheek had shore —
And the scullion he was stabbed times four.
And there they lay,
And the soggy skies
Dripped all day long
In up-staring eyes —
At murk sunset and at foul sunrise —
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

* * * * *

Fifteen men of ’em stiff and stark —
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Ten of the crew had the Murder mark —
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
‘Twas a cutlass swipe, or an ounce of lead,
Or a yawing hole in a battered head —
And the scuppers glut with a rotting red.
And there they lay —
Aye, damn my eyes! —
All lookouts clapped
On paradise —
All souls bound just contrariwise —
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

* * * * *

Fifteen men of ’em good and true —
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Every man jack could ha’ sailed with Old Pew —
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
There was chest on chest full of Spanish gold,
With a ton of plate in the middle hold,
And the cabins riot of stuff untold.
And they lay there
That had took the plum,
With sightless glare
And their lips struck dumb,
While we shared all by the rule of thumb —
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

* * * * *

More was seen through the sternlight screen —
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Chartings ondoubt where a woman had been —
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
A flimsy shift on a bunker cot,
With a thin dirk slot through the bosom spot
And the lace stiff-dry in a purplish blot.
Or was she wench …
Or some shuddering maid…?
That dared the knife
And that took the blade!
By God! she was stuff for a plucky jade —
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

* * * * *

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!
We wrapped ’em all in a mains’l tight,
With twice ten turns of a hawser’s bight,
And we heaved ’em over and out of sight–
With a yo-heave-ho!
And a fare-you-well!
And a sullen plunge
In the sullen swell
Ten fathoms deep on the road to hell —
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

* * * * *

[Copied from our book, Talk Like a Pirate – Pirate Words, Phrases, History, and Character Tips]