I sent a message to my dear — A thousand leagues and more to Her — The dumb sea-levels thrilled to hear, And Lost Atlantis bore to Her.
Behind my message hard I came, And nigh had found a grave for me; But that I launched of steel and flame Did war against the wave for me.
Uprose the deep, by gale on gale, To bid me change my mind again — He broke his teeth along my rail, And, roaring, swung behind again.
I stayed the sun at noon to tell My way across the waste of it; I read the storm before it fell And made the better haste of it.
Afar, I hailed the land at night — The towers I built had heard of me — And, ere my rocket reached its height, Had flashed my Love the word of me.
Earth sold her chosen men of strength (They lived and strove and died for me) To drive my road a nation's length, And toss the miles aside for me.
I snatched their toil to serve my needs — Too slow their fleetest flew for me — I tired twenty smoking steeds, And bade them bait a new for me.
I sent the lightnings forth to see Where hour by hour She waited me. Among ten million one was She, And surely all men hated me!
Dawn ran to meet me at my goal — Ah, day no tongue shall tell again! And little folk of little soul Rose up to buy and sell again!
We've drunk to the Queen — God bless her! — We've drunk to our mothers' land; We've drunk to our English brother (But he does not understand); We've drunk to the wide creation, And the Cross swings low for the morn; Last toast, and of obligation, A health to the Native-born!
They change their skies above them, But not their hearts that roam! We learned from our wistful mothers To call old England "home"; We read of the English skylark, Of the spring in the English lanes, But we screamed with the painted lories As we rode on the dusty plains!
They passed with their old-world legends — Their tales of wrong and dearth — Our fathers held by purchase, But we by the right of birth; Our heart's where they rocked our cradle, Our love where we spent our toil, And our faith and our hope and our honour We pledge to our native soil!
I charge you charge your glasses — I charge you drink with me To the men of the Four New Nations, And the Islands of the Sea — To the last least lump of coral That none may stand outside, And our own good pride shall teach us To praise our comrade's pride!
To the hush of the breathless morning On the thin, tin, crackling roofs, To the haze of the burned back-ranges And the dust of the shoeless hoofs — To the risk of a death by drowning, To the risk of a death by drouth — To the men of a million acres, To the Sons of the Golden South!
To the Sons of the Golden South (Stand up!), And the life we live and know, Let a fellow sing o' the little things he cares about, If a fellow fights for the little things he cares about With the weight of a single blow!
To the smoke of a hundred coasters, To the sheep on a thousand hills, To the sun that never blisters, To the rain that never chills — To the land of the waiting spring-time, To our five-meal, meat-fed men, To the tall, deep-bosomed women, And the children nine and ten!
And the children nine and ten (Stand up!), And the life we live and know, Let a fellow sing o' the little things he cares about, If a fellow fights for the little things he cares about With the weight of a two-fold blow!
To the far-flung fenceless prairie Where the quick cloud-shadows trail, To our neighbour's barn in the offing And the line of the new-cut rail; To the plough in her league-long furrow With the gray Lake gulls behind — To the weight of a half-year's winter And the warm wet western wind!
To the home of the floods and thunder, To her pale dry healing blue — To the lift of the great Cape combers, And the smell of the baked Karroo. To the growl of the sluicing stamp-head — To the reef and the water-gold, To the last and the largest Empire, To the map that is half unrolled!
To our dear dark foster-mothers, To the heathen songs they sung — To the heathen speech we babbled Ere we came to the white man's tongue. To the cool of our deep verandas — To the blaze of our jewelled main, To the night, to the palms in the moonlight, And the fire-fly in the cane!
To the hearth of our people's people — To her well-ploughed windy sea, To the hush of our dread high-altar Where The Abbey makes us We; To the grist of the slow-ground ages, To the gain that is yours and mine — To the Bank of the Open Credit, To the Power-house of the Line!
We've drunk to the Queen — God bless her! — We've drunk to our mothers' land; We've drunk to our English brother (And we hope he'll understand). We've drunk as much as we're able, And the Cross swings low for the morn; Last toast — and your foot on the table! — A health to the Native-born!
A health to the Native-born (Stand up!), We're six white men arow, All bound to sing o' the little things we care about, All bound to fight for the little things we care about With the weight of a six-fold blow! By the might of our cable-tow (Take hands!), From the Orkneys to the Horn, All round the world (and a little loop to pull it by), All round the world (and a little strap to buckle it), A health to the Native-born!
"Farewell, Romance!" the Cave-men said; "With bone well carved he went away, Flint arms the ignoble arrowhead, And jasper tips the spear to-day. Changed are the Gods of Hunt and Dance, And he with these. Farewell, Romance!"
"Farewell, Romance!" the Lake-folk sighed; "We lift the weight of flatling years; The caverns of the mountain-side Hold him who scorns our hutted piers. Lost hills whereby we dare not dwell, Guard ye his rest. Romance, farewell!"
"Farewell, Romance!" the Soldier spoke; "By sleight of sword we may not win, But scuffle 'mid uncleanly smoke Of arquebus and culverin. Honour is lost, and none may tell Who paid good blows. Romance, farewell!"
"Farewell, Romance!" the Traders cried; Our keels ha' lain with every sea; The dull-returning wind and tide Heave up the wharf where we would be; The known and noted breezes swell Our trudging sail. Romance, farewell!"
"Good-bye, Romance!" the Skipper said; "He vanished with the coal we burn; Our dial marks full steam ahead, Our speed is timed to half a turn. Sure as the ferried barge we ply 'Twixt port and port. Romance, good-bye!"
"Romance!" the season-tickets mourn, "He never ran to catch his train, But passed with coach and guard and horn — And left the local — late again!" Confound Romance! . . . And all unseen Romance brought up the nine-fifteen.
His hand was on the lever laid, His oil-can soothed the worrying cranks, His whistle waked the snowbound grade, His fog-horn cut the reeking Banks; By dock and deep and mine and mill The Boy-god reckless laboured still!
Robed, crowned and throned, he wove his spell, Where heart-blood beat or hearth-smoke curled, With unconsidered miracle, Hedged in a backward-gazing world; Then taught his chosen bard to say: "Our King was with us — yesterday!"
THE RHYME OF THE THREE SEALERS
Away by the lands of the Japanee Where the paper lanterns glow And the crews of all the shipping drink In the house of Blood Street Joe, At twilight, when the landward breeze Brings up the harbour noise, And ebb of Yokohama Bay Swigs chattering through the buoys, In Cisco's Dewdrop Dining-Rooms They tell the tale anew Of a hidden sea and a hidden fight, When the Baltic ran from the Northern Light And the Stralsund fought the two.
Now this is the Law of the Muscovite, that he proves with shot and steel, When ye come by his isles in the Smoky Sea ye must not take the seal, Where the gray sea goes nakedly between the weed-hung shelves, And the little blue fox he is bred for his skin and the seal they breed for themselves; For when the matkas seek the shore to drop their pups aland, The great man-seal haul out of the sea, a-roaring, band by band; And when the first September gales have slaked their rutting-wrath, The great man-seal haul back to the sea and no man knows their path. Then dark they lie and stark they lie — rookery, dune, and floe, And the Northern Lights come down o' nights to dance with the houseless snow; And God Who clears the grounding berg and steers the grinding floe, He hears the cry of the little kit-fox and the wind along the snow. But since our women must walk gay and money buys their gear, The sealing-boats they filch that way at hazard year by year. English they be and Japanee that hang on the Brown Bear's flank, And some be Scot, but the worst of the lot, and the boldest thieves, be Yank!
It was the sealer Northern Light, to the Smoky Seas she bore, With a stovepipe stuck from a starboard port and the Russian flag at her fore. (Baltic, Stralsund, and Northern Light — oh! they were birds of a feather — Slipping away to the Smoky Seas, three seal-thieves together!) And at last she came to a sandy cove and the Baltic lay therein, But her men were up with the herding seal to drive and club and skin. There were fifteen hundred skins abeach, cool pelt and proper fur, When the Northern Light drove into the bight and the sea-mist drove with her. The Baltic called her men and weighed — she could not choose but run — For a stovepipe seen through the closing mist, it shows like a four-inch gun. (And loss it is that is sad as death to lose both trip and ship And lie for a rotting contraband on Vladivostock slip.) She turned and dived in the sea-smother as a rabbit dives in the whins, And the Northern Light sent up her boats to steal the stolen skins. They had not brought a load to side or slid their hatches clear, When they were aware of a sloop-of-war, ghost-white and very near. Her flag she showed, and her guns she showed — three of them, black, abeam, And a funnel white with the crusted salt, but never a show of steam.
There was no time to man the brakes, they knocked the shackle free, And the Northern Light stood out again, goose-winged to open sea. (For life it is that is worse than death, by force of Russian law To work in the mines of mercury that loose the teeth in your jaw.) They had not run a mile from shore — they heard no shots behind — When the skipper smote his hand on his thigh and threw her up in the wind: "Bluffed — raised out on a bluff," said he, "for if my name's Tom Hall, You must set a thief to catch a thief — and a thief has caught us all! By every butt in Oregon and every spar in Maine, The hand that spilled the wind from her sail was the hand of Reuben Paine! He has rigged and trigged her with paint and spar, and, faith, he has faked her well — But I'd know the Stralsund's deckhouse yet from here to the booms o' Hell. Oh, once we ha' met at Baltimore, and twice on Boston pier, But the sickest day for you, Reuben Paine, was the day that you came here — The day that you came here, my lad, to scare us from our seal With your funnel made o' your painted cloth, and your guns o' rotten deal! Ring and blow for the Baltic now, and head her back to the bay, And we'll come into the game again — with a double deck to play!"
They rang and blew the sealers' call — the poaching cry of the sea — And they raised the Baltic out of the mist, and an angry ship was she: And blind they groped through the whirling white and blind to the bay again, Till they heard the creak of the Stralsund's boom and the clank of her mooring chain. They laid them down by bitt and boat, their pistols in their belts, And: "Will you fight for it, Reuben Paine, or will you share the pelts?"
A dog-toothed laugh laughed Reuben Paine, and bared his flenching-knife. "Yea, skin for skin, and all that he hath a man will give for his life; But I've six thousand skins below, and Yeddo Port to see, And there's never a law of God or man runs north of Fifty-Three: So go in peace to the naked seas with empty holds to fill, And I'll be good to your seal this catch, as many as I shall kill!"
Answered the snap of a closing lock and the jar of a gun-butt slid, But the tender fog shut fold on fold to hide the wrong they did. The weeping fog rolled fold on fold the wrath of man to cloak, And the flame-spurts pale ran down the rail as the sealing-rifles spoke. The bullets bit on bend and butt, the splinter slivered free (Little they trust to sparrow-dust that stop the seal in his sea!), The thick smoke hung and would not shift, leaden it lay and blue, But three were down on the Baltic's deck and two of the Stralsund's crew. An arm's-length out and overside the banked fog held them bound, But, as they heard or groan or word, they fired at the sound. For one cried out on the Name of God, and one to have him cease, And the questing volley found them both and bade them hold their peace; And one called out on a heathen joss and one on the Virgin's Name, And the schooling bullet leaped across and showed them whence they came. And in the waiting silences the rudder whined beneath, And each man drew his watchful breath slow taken 'tween the teeth — Trigger and ear and eye acock, knit brow and hard-drawn lips — Bracing his feet by chock and cleat for the rolling of the ships. Till they heard the cough of a wounded man that fought in the fog for breath, Till they heard the torment of Reuben Paine that wailed upon his death:
"The tides they'll go through Fundy Race but I'll go nevermore And see the hogs from ebb-tide mark turn scampering back to shore. No more I'll see the trawlers drift below the Bass Rock ground, Or watch the tall Fall steamer lights tear blazing up the Sound. Sorrow is me, in a lonely sea and a sinful fight I fall, But if there's law o' God or man you'll swing for it yet, Tom Hall!" Tom Hall stood up by the quarter-rail. "Your words in your teeth," said he. "There's never a law of God or man runs north of Fifty-Three. So go in grace with Him to face, and an ill-spent life behind, And I'll be good to your widows, Rube, as many as I shall find."
A Stralsund man shot blind and large, and a war-lock Finn was he, And he hit Tom Hall with a bursting ball a hand's-breadth over the knee. Tom Hall caught hold by the topping-lift, and sat him down with an oath, "You'll wait a little, Rube," he said, "the Devil has called for both. The Devil is driving both this tide, and the killing-grounds are close, And we'll go up to the Wrath of God as the holluschickie goes. O men, put back your guns again and lay your rifles by, We've fought our fight, and the best are down. Let up and let us die! Quit firing, by the bow there — quit! Call off the Baltic's crew! You're sure of Hell as me or Rube — but wait till we get through." There went no word between the ships, but thick and quick and loud The life-blood drummed on the dripping decks, with the fog-dew from the shroud, The sea-pull drew them side by side, gunnel to gunnel laid, And they felt the sheerstrakes pound and clear, but never a word was said.
Then Reuben Paine cried out again before his spirit passed: "Have I followed the sea for thirty years to die in the dark at last? Curse on her work that has nipped me here with a shifty trick unkind — I have gotten my death where I got my bread, but I dare not face it blind. Curse on the fog! Is there never a wind of all the winds I knew To clear the smother from off my chest, and let me look at the blue?" The good fog heard — like a splitten sail, to left and right she tore, And they saw the sun-dogs in the haze and the seal upon the shore. Silver and gray ran spit and bay to meet the steel-backed tide, And pinched and white in the clearing light the crews stared overside. O rainbow-gay the red pools lay that swilled and spilled and spread, And gold, raw gold, the spent shell rolled between the careless dead — The dead that rocked so drunkenwise to weather and to lee, And they saw the work their hands had done as God had bade them see.
And a little breeze blew over the rail that made the headsails lift, But no man stood by wheel or sheet, and they let the schooners drift. And the rattle rose in Reuben's throat and he cast his soul with a cry, And "Gone already?" Tom Hall he said. "Then it's time for me to die." His eyes were heavy with great sleep and yearning for the land, And he spoke as a man that talks in dreams, his wound beneath his hand. "Oh, there comes no good o' the westering wind that backs against the sun; Wash down the decks — they're all too red — and share the skins and run, Baltic, Stralsund, and Northern Light — clean share and share for all, You'll find the fleets off Tolstoi Mees, but you will not find Tom Hall. Evil he did in shoal-water and blacker sin on the deep, But now he's sick of watch and trick and now he'll turn and sleep. He'll have no more of the crawling sea that made him suffer so, But he'll lie down on the killing-grounds where the holluschickie go. And west you'll sail and south again, beyond the sea-fog's rim, And tell the Yoshiwara girls to burn a stick for him. And you'll not weight him by the heels and dump him overside, But carry him up to the sand-hollows to die as Bering died, And make a place for Reuben Paine that knows the fight was fair, And leave the two that did the wrong to talk it over there!"
Half-steam ahead by guess and lead, for the sun is mostly veiled — Through fog to fog, by luck and log, sail ye as Bering sailed; And if the light shall lift aright to give your landfall plain, North and by west, from Zapne Crest, ye raise the Crosses Twain. Fair marks are they to the inner bay, the reckless poacher knows What time the scarred see-catchie lead their sleek seraglios. Ever they hear the floe-pack clear, and the blast of the old bull-whale, And the deep seal-roar that beats off-shore above the loudest gale. Ever they wait the winter's hate as the thundering boorga calls, Where northward look they to St. George, and westward to St. Paul's. Ever they greet the hunted fleet — lone keels off headlands drear — When the sealing-schooners flit that way at hazard year by year. Ever in Yokohama port men tell the tale anew Of a hidden sea and a hidden fight, When the Baltic ran from the Northern Light And the Stralsund fought the two.
And reports the derelict Mary Pollock still at sea. SHIPPING NEWS.
I was the staunchest of our fleet Till the sea rose beneath our feet Unheralded, in hatred past all measure. Into his pits he stamped my crew, Buffeted, blinded, bound and threw, Bidding me eyeless wait upon his pleasure.
Man made me, and my will Is to my maker still, Whom now the currents con, the rollers steer — Lifting forlorn to spy Trailed smoke along the sky, Falling afraid lest any keel come near!
Wrenched as the lips of thirst, Wried, dried, and split and burst, Bone-bleached my decks, wind-scoured to the graining; And jarred at every roll The gear that was my soul Answers the anguish of my beams' complaining.
For life that crammed me full, Gangs of the prying gull That shriek and scrabble on the riven hatches! For roar that dumbed the gale, My hawse-pipes guttering wail, Sobbing my heart out through the uncounted watches!
Blind in the hot blue ring Through all my points I swing — Swing and return to shift the sun anew. Blind in my well-known sky I hear the stars go by, Mocking the prow that cannot hold one true!
White on my wasted path Wave after wave in wrath Frets 'gainst his fellow, warring where to send me. Flung forward, heaved aside, Witless and dazed I bide The mercy of the comber that shall end me.
North where the bergs careen, The spray of seas unseen Smokes round my head and freezes in the falling; South where the corals breed, The footless, floating weed Folds me and fouls me, strake on strake upcrawling.
I that was clean to run My race against the sun — Strength on the deep, am bawd to all disaster — Whipped forth by night to meet My sister's careless feet, And with a kiss betray her to my master!
Man made me, and my will Is to my maker still — To him and his, our peoples at their pier: Lifting in hope to spy Trailed smoke along the sky, Falling afraid lest any keel come near!
A Rose, in tatters on the garden path, Cried out to God and murmured 'gainst His Wrath, Because a sudden wind at twilight's hush Had snapped her stem alone of all the bush. And God, Who hears both sun-dried dust and sun, Had pity, whispering to that luckless one, "Sister, in that thou sayest We did not well — What voices heardst thou when thy petals fell?" And the Rose answered, "In that evil hour A voice said, 'Father, wherefore falls the flower? For lo, the very gossamers are still.' And a voice answered, 'Son, by Allah's will!'"
Then softly as a rain-mist on the sward, Came to the Rose the Answer of the Lord: "Sister, before We smote the dark in twain, Ere yet the stars saw one another plain, Time, Tide, and Space, We bound unto the task That thou shouldst fall, and such an one should ask." Whereat the withered flower, all content, Died as they die whose days are innocent; While he who questioned why the flower fell Caught hold of God and saved his soul from Hell.
THE SONG OF THE BANJO
You couldn't pack a Broadwood half a mile — You mustn't leave a fiddle in the damp — You couldn't raft an organ up the Nile, And play it in an Equatorial swamp. I travel with the cooking-pots and pails — I'm sandwiched 'tween the coffee and the pork — And when the dusty column checks and tails, You should hear me spur the rear-guard to a walk! With my "Pilly-willy-winky-winky popp!" [Oh, it's any tune that comes into my head!] So I keep 'em moving forward till they drop; So I play 'em up to water and to bed.
In the silence of the camp before the fight, When it's good to make your will and say your prayer, You can hear my strumpty-tumpty overnight Explaining ten to one was always fair. I'm the Prophet of the Utterly Absurd, Of the Patently Impossible and Vain — And when the Thing that Couldn't has occurred, Give me time to change my leg and go again. With my "Tumpa-tumpa-tumpa-tum-pa tump!" In the desert where the dung-fed camp-smoke curled There was never voice before us till I led our lonely chorus, I — the war-drum of the White Man round the world!
By the bitter road the Younger Son must tread, Ere he win to hearth and saddle of his own, — 'Mid the riot of the shearers at the shed, In the silence of the herder's hut alone — In the twilight, on a bucket upside down, Hear me babble what the weakest won't confess — I am Memory and Torment — I am Town! I am all that ever went with evening dress! With my "Tunk-a tunka-tunka-tunka-tunk!" [So the lights — the London Lights — grow near and plain!] So I rowel 'em afresh towards the Devil and the Flesh, Till I bring my broken rankers home again.
In desire of many marvels over sea, Where the new-raised tropic city sweats and roars, I have sailed with Young Ulysses from the quay Till the anchor rumbled down on stranger shores. He is blooded to the open and the sky, He is taken in a snare that shall not fail, He shall hear me singing strongly, till he die, Like the shouting of a backstay in a gale. With my "Hya! Heeya! Heeya! Hullah! Haul!" [O the green that thunders aft along the deck!] Are you sick o' towns and men? You must sign and sail again, For it's "Johnny Bowlegs, pack your kit and trek!"
Through the gorge that gives the stars at noon-day clear — Up the pass that packs the scud beneath our wheel — Round the bluff that sinks her thousand fathom sheer — Down the valley with our guttering brakes asqueal: Where the trestle groans and quivers in the snow, Where the many-shedded levels loop and twine, So I lead my reckless children from below Till we sing the Song of Roland to the pine. With my "Tinka-tinka-tinka-tinka-tink!" [And the axe has cleared the mountain, croup and crest!] So we ride the iron stallions down to drink, Through the canyons to the waters of the West!
And the tunes that mean so much to you alone — Common tunes that make you choke and blow your nose, Vulgar tunes that bring the laugh that brings the groan — I can rip your very heartstrings out with those; With the feasting, and the folly, and the fun — And the lying, and the lusting, and the drink, And the merry play that drops you, when you're done, To the thoughts that burn like irons if you think. With my "Plunka-lunka-lunka-lunka-lunk!" Here's a trifle on account of pleasure past, Ere the wit that made you win gives you eyes to see your sin And the heavier repentance at the last!
Let the organ moan her sorrow to the roof — I have told the naked stars the Grief of Man! Let the trumpets snare the foeman to the proof — I have known Defeat, and mocked it as we ran! My bray ye may not alter nor mistake When I stand to jeer the fatted Soul of Things, But the Song of Lost Endeavour that I make, Is it hidden in the twanging of the strings? With my "Ta-ra-rara-rara-ra-ra-rrrp!" [Is it naught to you that hear and pass me by?] But the word — the word is mine, when the order moves the line And the lean, locked ranks go roaring down to die.
Of the driven dust of speech I make a flame And a scourge of broken withes that men let fall: For the words that had no honour till I came — Lo! I raise them into honour over all! By the wisdom of the centuries I speak — To the tune of yestermorn I set the truth — I, the joy of life unquestioned — I, the Greek — I, the everlasting Wonder Song of Youth! With my "Tinka-tinka-tinka-tinka-tink!" [What d'ye lack, my noble masters? What d'ye lack?] So I draw the world together link by link: Yea, from Delos up to Limerick and back!
THE LINER SHE'S A LADY
The Liner she's a lady, an' she never looks nor 'eeds — The Man-o'-War's 'er 'usband, an' 'e gives 'er all she needs; But, oh, the little cargo-boats, that sail the wet seas roun', They're just the same as you an' me a-plyin' up an' down!
Plyin' up an' down, Jenny, 'angin' round the Yard, All the way by Fratton tram down to Portsmouth 'Ard; Anythin' for business, an' we're growin' old — Plyin' up an' down, Jenny, waitin' in the cold!
The Liner she's a lady by the paint upon 'er face, An' if she meets an accident they count it sore disgrace: The Man-o'-War's 'er 'usband, and 'e's always 'andy by, But, oh, the little cargo-boats! they've got to load or die.
The Liner she's a lady, and 'er route is cut an' dried; The Man-o'-War's 'er 'usband, an' 'e always keeps beside; But, oh, the little cargo-boats that 'aven't any man, They've got to do their business first, and make the most they can!
The Liner she's a lady, and if a war should come, The Man-o'-War's 'er 'usband, and 'e'd bid 'er stay at home; But, oh, the little cargo-boats that fill with every tide! 'E'd 'ave to up an' fight for them, for they are England's pride.
The Liner she's a lady, but if she wasn't made, There still would be the cargo-boats for 'ome an' foreign trade. The Man-o'-War's 'er 'usband, but if we wasn't 'ere, 'E wouldn't have to fight at all for 'ome an' friends so dear.
'Ome an' friends so dear, Jenny, 'angin' round the Yard, All the way by Fratton tram down to Portsmouth 'Ard; Anythin' for business, an' we're growin' old — 'Ome an' friends so dear, Jenny, waitin' in the cold!
The fear was on the cattle, for the gale was on the sea, An' the pens broke up on the lower deck an' let the creatures free — An' the lights went out on the lower deck, an' no one near but me.
I had been singin' to them to keep 'em quiet there, For the lower deck is the dangerousest, requirin' constant care, An' give to me as the strongest man, though used to drink and swear.
I see my chance was certain of bein' horned or trod, For the lower deck was packed with steers thicker'n peas in a pod, An' more pens broke at every roll — so I made a Contract with God.
An' by the terms of the Contract, as I have read the same, If He got me to port alive I would exalt His Name, An' praise His Holy Majesty till further orders came.
He saved me from the cattle an' He saved me from the sea, For they found me 'tween two drownded ones where the roll had landed me — An' a four-inch crack on top of my head, as crazy as could be.
But that were done by a stanchion, an' not by a bullock at all, An' I lay still for seven weeks convalessing of the fall, An' readin' the shiny Scripture texts in the Seaman's Hospital.
An' I spoke to God of our Contract, an' He says to my prayer: "I never puts on My ministers no more than they can bear. So back you go to the cattle-boats an' preach My Gospel there.
"For human life is chancy at any kind of trade, But most of all, as well you know, when the steers are mad-afraid; So you go back to the cattle-boats an' preach 'em as I've said.
"They must quit drinkin' an' swearin', they mustn't knife on a blow, They must quit gamblin' their wages, and you must preach it so; For now those boats are more like Hell than anything else I know."
I didn't want to do it, for I knew what I should get, An' I wanted to preach Religion, handsome an' out of the wet, But the Word of the Lord were lain on me, an' I done what I was set.
I have been smit an' bruis]ed, as warned would be the case, An' turned my cheek to the smiter exactly as Scripture says; But following that, I knocked him down an' led him up to Grace.
An' we have preaching on Sundays whenever the sea is calm, An' I use no knife or pistol an' I never take no harm, For the Lord abideth back of me to guide my fighting arm.
An' I sign for four-pound-ten a month and save the money clear, An' I am in charge of the lower deck, an' I never lose a steer; An' I believe in Almighty God an' preach His Gospel here.
The skippers say I'm crazy, but I can prove 'em wrong, For I am in charge of the lower deck with all that doth belong — Which they would not give to a lunatic, and the competition so strong!
Heh! Walk her round. Heave, ah heave her short again! Over, snatch her over, there, and hold her on the pawl. Loose all sail, and brace your yards back and full — Ready jib to pay her off and heave short all! Well, ah fare you well; we can stay no more with you, my love — Down, set down your liquor and your girl from off your knee; For the wind has come to say: "You must take me while you may, If you'd go to Mother Carey (Walk her down to Mother Carey!), Oh, we're bound to Mother Carey where she feeds her chicks at sea!"
Heh! Walk her round. Break, ah break it out o' that! Break our starboard-bower out, apeak, awash, and clear. Port — port she casts, with the harbour-mud beneath her foot, And that's the last o' bottom we shall see this year! Well, ah fare you well, for we've got to take her out again — Take her out in ballast, riding light and cargo-free. And it's time to clear and quit When the hawser grips the bitt, So we'll pay you with the foresheet and a promise from the sea!
Heh! Tally on. Aft and walk away with her! Handsome to the cathead, now; O tally on the fall! Stop, seize and fish, and easy on the davit-guy. Up, well up the fluke of her, and inboard haul! Well, ah fare you well, for the Channel wind's took hold of us, Choking down our voices as we snatch the gaskets free. And it's blowing up for night, And she's dropping Light on Light, And she's snorting under bonnets for a breath of open sea,
Wheel, full and by; but she'll smell her road alone to-night. Sick she is and harbour-sick — O sick to clear the land! Roll down to Brest with the old Red Ensign over us — Carry on and thrash her out with all she'll stand! Well, ah fare you well, and it's Ushant slams the door on us, Whirling like a windmill through the dirty scud to lee: Till the last, last flicker goes From the tumbling water-rows, And we're off to Mother Carey (Walk her down to Mother Carey!), Oh, we're bound for Mother Carey where she feeds her chicks at sea!
THE LOST LEGION
There's a Legion that never was 'listed, That carries no colours or crest, But, split in a thousand detachments, Is breaking the road for the rest. Our fathers they left us their blessing — They taught us, and groomed us, and crammed; But we've shaken the Clubs and the Messes To go and find out and be damned (Dear boys!), To go and get shot and be damned.
So some of us chivy the slaver, And some of us cherish the black, And some of us hunt on the Oil Coast, And some on — the Wallaby track: And some of us drift to Sarawak, And some of us drift up The Fly, And some share our tucker with tigers, And some with the gentle Masai (Dear boys!), Take tea with the giddy Masai.
We've painted The Islands vermilion, We've pearled on half-shares in the Bay, We've shouted on seven-ounce nuggets, We've starved on a Seedeeboy's pay; We've laughed at the world as we found it — Its women and cities and men — From Sayyid Burgash in a tantrum To the smoke-reddened eyes of Loben (Dear boys!), We've a little account with Loben.
The ends o' the Earth were our portion, The ocean at large was our share. There was never a skirmish to windward But the Leaderless Legion was there: Yes, somehow and somewhere and always We were first when the trouble began, From a lottery-row in Manila, To an I.D.B. race on the Pan (Dear boys!), With the Mounted Police on the Pan.
We preach in advance of the Army, We skirmish ahead of the Church, With never a gunboat to help us When we're scuppered and left in the lurch. But we know as the cartridges finish, And we're filed on our last little shelves, That the Legion that never was 'listed Will send us as good as ourselves (Good men!), Five hundred as good as ourselves.
Then a health (we must drink it in whispers) To our wholly unauthorised horde — To the line of our dusty foreloopers, The Gentlemen Rovers abroad — Yes, a health to ourselves ere we scatter, For the steamer won't wait for the train, And the Legion that never was 'listed Goes back into quarters again! 'Regards! Goes back under canvas again. Hurrah! The swag and the billy again. Here's how! The trail and the packhorse again. Salue! The trek and the laager again.
There dwells a wife by the Northern Gate, And a wealthy wife is she; She breeds a breed o' rovin' men And casts them over sea.
And some are drowned in deep water, And some in sight o' shore, And word goes back to the weary wife And ever she sends more.
For since that wife had gate or gear, Or hearth or garth or bield, She willed her sons to the white harvest, And that is a bitter yield.
She wills her sons to the wet ploughing, To ride the horse of tree, And syne her sons come back again Far-spent from out the sea.
The good wife's sons come home again With little into their hands, But the lore of men that ha' dealt with men In the new and naked lands;
But the faith of men that ha' brothered men By more than easy breath, And the eyes o' men that ha' read wi' men In the open books of death.
Rich are they, rich in wonders seen, But poor in the goods o' men; So what they ha' got by the skin o' their teeth They sell for their teeth again.
For whether they lose to the naked life Or win to their hearts' desire, They tell it all to the weary wife That nods beside the fire.
Her hearth is wide to every wind That makes the white ash spin; And tide and tide and 'tween the tides Her sons go out and in;
(Out with great mirth that do desire Hazard of trackless ways, In with content to wait their watch And warm before the blaze);
And some return by failing light, And some in waking dream, For she hears the heels of the dripping ghosts That ride the rough roof-beam.
Home, they come home from all the ports, The living and the dead; The good wife's sons come home again For her blessing on their head!
HYMN BEFORE ACTION
The earth is full of anger, The seas are dark with wrath, The Nations in their harness Go up against our path: Ere yet we loose the legions — Ere yet we draw the blade, Jehovah of the Thunders, Lord God of Battles, aid!
High lust and froward bearing, Proud heart, rebellious brow — Deaf ear and soul uncaring, We seek Thy mercy now! The sinner that forswore Thee, The fool that passed Thee by, Our times are known before Thee — Lord, grant us strength to die!
For those who kneel beside us At altars not Thine own, Who lack the lights that guide us, Lord, let their faith atone. If wrong we did to call them, By honour bound they came; Let not Thy Wrath befall them, But deal to us the blame.
From panic, pride, and terror, Revenge that knows no rein, Light haste and lawless error, Protect us yet again. Cloak Thou our undeserving, Make firm the shuddering breath, In silence and unswerving To taste Thy lesser death!
Ah, Mary pierced with sorrow, Remember, reach and save The soul that comes to-morrow Before the God that gave! Since each was born of woman, For each at utter need — True comrade and true foeman — Madonna, intercede!
E'en now their vanguard gathers, E'en now we face the fray — As Thou didst help our fathers, Help Thou our host to-day! Fulfilled of signs and wonders, In life, in death made clear — Jehovah of the Thunders, Lord God of Battles, hear!
TO THE TRUE ROMANCE
Thy face is far from this our war, Our call and counter-cry, I shall not find Thee quick and kind, Nor know Thee till I die, Enough for me in dreams to see And touch Thy garments' hem: Thy feet have trod so near to God I may not follow them.
Through wantonness if men profess They weary of Thy parts, E'en let them die at blasphemy And perish with their arts; But we that love, but we that prove Thine excellence august, While we adore discover more Thee perfect, wise, and just.
Since spoken word Man's Spirit stirred Beyond his belly-need, What is is Thine of fair design In thought and craft and deed; Each stroke aright of toil and fight, That was and that shall be, And hope too high, wherefore we die, Has birth and worth in Thee.
Who holds by Thee hath Heaven in fee To gild his dross thereby, And knowledge sure that he endure A child until he die — For to make plain that man's disdain Is but new Beauty's birth — For to possess in loneliness The joy of all the earth.
As Thou didst teach all lovers speech And Life all mystery, So shalt Thou rule by every school Till love and longing die, Who wast or yet the Lights were set, A whisper in the Void, Who shalt be sung through planets young When this is clean destroyed.
Beyond the bounds our staring rounds, Across the pressing dark, The children wise of outer skies Look hitherward and mark A light that shifts, a glare that drifts, Rekindling thus and thus, Not all forlorn, for Thou hast borne Strange tales to them of us.
Time hath no tide but must abide The servant of Thy will; Tide hath no time, for to Thy rhyme The ranging stars stand still — Regent of spheres that lock our fears, Our hopes invisible, Oh 'twas certes at Thy decrees We fashioned Heaven and Hell!
Pure Wisdom hath no certain path That lacks thy morning-eyne, And captains bold by Thee controlled Most like to Gods design; Thou art the Voice to kingly boys To lift them through the fight, And Comfortress of Unsuccess, To give the dead good-night —
A veil to draw 'twixt God His Law And Man's infirmity, A shadow kind to dumb and blind The shambles where we die; A rule to trick th' arithmetic Too base of leaguing odds — The spur of trust, the curb of lust, Thou handmaid of the Gods!
O Charity, all patiently Abiding wrack and scaith! O Faith, that meets ten thousand cheats Yet drops no jot of faith! Devil and brute Thou dost transmute To higher, lordlier show, Who art in sooth that lovely Truth The careless angels know!
Thy face is far from this our war, Our call and counter-cry, I may not find Thee quick and kind, Nor know Thee till I die.
Yet may I look with heart unshook On blow brought home or missed — Yet may I hear with equal ear The clarions down the List; Yet set my lance above mischance And ride the barriere — Oh, hit or miss, how little 'tis, My Lady is not there!
To our private taste, there is always something a little exotic, almost artificial, in songs which, under an English aspect and dress, are yet so manifestly the product of other skies. They affect us like translations; the very fauna and flora are alien, remote; the dog's-tooth violet is but an ill substitute for the rathe primrose, nor can we ever believe that the wood-robin sings as sweetly in April as the English thrush. — THE ATHENAEUM.
Buy my English posies! Kent and Surrey may — Violets of the Undercliff Wet with Channel spray; Cowslips from a Devon combe — Midland furze afire — Buy my English posies And I'll sell your heart's desire!
Buy my English posies! You that scorn the May, Won't you greet a friend from home Half the world away? Green against the draggled drift, Faint and frail and first — Buy my Northern blood-root And I'll know where you were nursed: Robin down the logging-road whistles, "Come to me!" Spring has found the maple-grove, the sap is running free; All the winds of Canada call the ploughing-rain. Take the flower and turn the hour, and kiss your love again!
Buy my English posies! Here's to match your need — Buy a tuft of royal heath, Buy a bunch of weed White as sand of Muysenberg Spun before the gale — Buy my heath and lilies And I'll tell you whence you hail! Under hot Constantia broad the vineyards lie — Throned and thorned the aching berg props the speckless sky — Slow below the Wynberg firs trails the tilted wain — Take the flower and turn the hour, and kiss your love again!
Buy my English posies! You that will not turn — Buy my hot-wood clematis, Buy a frond o' fern Gathered where the Erskine leaps Down the road to Lorne — Buy my Christmas creeper And I'll say where you were born! West away from Melbourne dust holidays begin — They that mock at Paradise woo at Cora Lynn — Through the great South Otway gums sings the great South Main — Take the flower and turn the hour, and kiss your love again!
Buy my English posies! Here's your choice unsold! Buy a blood-red myrtle-bloom, Buy the kowhai's gold Flung for gift on Taupo's face, Sign that spring is come — Buy my clinging myrtle And I'll give you back your home! Broom behind the windy town; pollen o' the pine — Bell-bird in the leafy deep where the ratas twine — Fern above the saddle-bow, flax upon the plain — Take the flower and turn the hour, and kiss your love again!
Buy my English posies! Ye that have your own Buy them for a brother's sake Overseas, alone. Weed ye trample underfoot Floods his heart abrim — Bird ye never heeded, Oh, she calls his dead to him! Far and far our homes are set round the Seven Seas; Woe for us if we forget, we that hold by these! Unto each his mother-beach, bloom and bird and land — Masters of the Seven Seas, oh, love and understand.
THE LAST RHYME OF TRUE THOMAS
The King has called for priest and cup, The King has taken spur and blade To dub True Thomas a belted knight, And all for the sake o' the songs he made.
They have sought him high, they have sought him low, They have sought him over down and lea; They have found him by the milk-white thorn That guards the gates o' Faerie.
'Twas bent beneath and blue above, Their eyes were held that they might not see The kine that grazed beneath the knowes, Oh, they were the Queens o' Faerie!
"Now cease your song," the King he said, "Oh, cease your song and get you dight To vow your vow and watch your arms, For I will dub you a belted knight.
"For I will give you a horse o' pride, Wi' blazon and spur and page and squire; Wi' keep and tail and seizin and law, And land to hold at your desire."
True Thomas smiled above his harp, And turned his face to the naked sky, Where, blown before the wastrel wind, The thistle-down she floated by.
"I ha' vowed my vow in another place, And bitter oath it was on me, I ha' watched my arms the lee-long night, Where five-score fighting men would flee.
"My lance is tipped o' the hammered flame, My shield is beat o' the moonlight cold; And I won my spurs in the Middle World, A thousand fathom beneath the mould.
"And what should I make wi' a horse o' pride, And what should I make wi' a sword so brown, But spill the rings o' the Gentle Folk And flyte my kin in the Fairy Town?
"And what should I make wi' blazon and belt, Wi' keep and tail and seizin and fee, And what should I do wi' page and squire That am a king in my own countrie?
"For I send east and I send west, And I send far as my will may flee, By dawn and dusk and the drinking rain, And syne my Sendings return to me.
"They come wi' news of the groanin' earth, They come wi' news o' the roarin' sea, Wi' word of Spirit and Ghost and Flesh, And man, that's mazed among the three."
The King he bit his nether lip, And smote his hand upon his knee: "By the faith o' my soul, True Thomas," he said, "Ye waste no wit in courtesie!
"As I desire, unto my pride, Can I make Earls by three and three, To run before and ride behind And serve the sons o' my body."
"And what care I for your row-foot earls, Or all the sons o' your body? Before they win to the Pride o' Name, I trow they all ask leave o' me.
"For I make Honour wi' muckle mouth, As I make Shame wi' mincin' feet, To sing wi' the priests at the market-cross, Or run wi' the dogs in the naked street.
"And some they give me the good red gold, And some they give me the white money, And some they give me a clout o' meal, For they be people o' low degree.
"And the song I sing for the counted gold The same I sing for the white money, But best I sing for the clout o' meal That simple people given me."
The King cast down a silver groat, A silver groat o' Scots money, "If I come wi' a poor man's dole," he said, "True Thomas, will ye harp to me?"
"Whenas I harp to the children small, They press me close on either hand. And who are you," True Thomas said, "That you should ride while they must stand?
"Light down, light down from your horse o' pride, I trow ye talk too loud and hie, And I will make you a triple word, And syne, if ye dare, ye shall 'noble me."
He has lighted down from his horse o' pride, And set his back against the stone. "Now guard you well," True Thomas said, "Ere I rax your heart from your breast-bone!"
True Thomas played upon his harp, The fairy harp that couldna lee, And the first least word the proud King heard, It harpit the salt tear out o' his ee.
"Oh, I see the love that I lost long syne, I touch the hope that I may not see, And all that I did o' hidden shame, Like little snakes they hiss at me.
"The sun is lost at noon — at noon! The dread o' doom has grippit me. True Thomas, hide me under your cloak, God wot, I'm little fit to dee!"
'Twas bent beneath and blue above — 'Twas open field and running flood — Where, hot on heath and dike and wall, The high sun warmed the adder's brood.
"Lie down, lie down," True Thomas said. "The God shall judge when all is done. But I will bring you a better word And lift the cloud that I laid on."
True Thomas played upon his harp, That birled and brattled to his hand, And the next least word True Thomas made, It garred the King take horse and brand.
"Oh, I hear the tread o' the fighting men, I see the sun on splent and spear. I mark the arrow outen the fern That flies so low and sings so clear!
"Advance my standards to that war, And bid my good knights prick and ride; The gled shall watch as fierce a fight As e'er was fought on the Border side!"
'Twas bent beneath and blue above, 'Twas nodding grass and naked sky, Where, ringing up the wastrel wind, The eyas stooped upon the pie.
True Thomas sighed above his harp, And turned the song on the midmost string; And the last least word True Thomas made, He harpit his dead youth back to the King.
"Now I am prince, and I do well To love my love withouten fear; To walk wi' man in fellowship, And breathe my horse behind the deer.
"My hounds they bay unto the death, The buck has couched beyond the burn, My love she waits at her window To wash my hands when I return.
"For that I live am I content (Oh! I have seen my true love's eyes) To stand wi' Adam in Eden-glade, And run in the woods o' Paradise!"
'Twas naked sky and nodding grass, 'Twas running flood and wastrel wind, Where, checked against the open pass, The red deer belled to call the hind.
True Thomas laid his harp away, And louted low at the saddle-side; He has taken stirrup and hauden rein, And set the King on his horse o' pride.
"Sleep ye or wake," True Thomas said, "That sit so still, that muse so long; Sleep ye or wake? — till the latter sleep I trow ye'll not forget my song.
"I ha' harpit a shadow out o' the sun To stand before your face and cry; I ha' armed the earth beneath your heel, And over your head I ha' dusked the sky.
"I ha' harpit ye up to the throne o' God, I ha' harpit your midmost soul in three; I ha' harpit ye down to the Hinges o' Hell, And — ye — would — make — a Knight o' me!"
IN THE NEOLITHIC AGE
In the Neolithic Age savage warfare did I wage For food and fame and woolly horses' pelt; I was singer to my clan in that dim, red Dawn of Man, And I sang of all we fought and feared and felt.
Yea, I sang as now I sing, when the Prehistoric spring Made the piled Biscayan ice-pack split and shove; And the troll and gnome and dwerg, and the Gods of Cliff and Berg Were about me and beneath me and above.
But a rival, of Solutr]/e, told the tribe my style was outr]/e — 'Neath a tomahawk of diorite he fell. And I left my views on Art, barbed and tanged, below the heart Of a mammothistic etcher at Grenelle.
Then I stripped them, scalp from skull, and my hunting dogs fed full, And their teeth I threaded neatly on a thong; And I wiped my mouth and said, "It is well that they are dead, For I know my work is right and theirs was wrong."
But my Totem saw the shame; from his ridgepole shrine he came, And he told me in a vision of the night: — "There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, And every single one of them is right!"
. . . . .
Then the silence closed upon me till They put new clothing on me Of whiter, weaker flesh and bone more frail; And I stepped beneath Time's finger, once again a tribal singer [And a minor poet certified by Tr—ll].
Still they skirmish to and fro, men my messmates on the snow, When we headed off the aurochs turn for turn; When the rich Allobrogenses never kept amanuenses, And our only plots were piled in lakes at Berne.
Still a cultured Christian age sees us scuffle, squeak, and rage, Still we pinch and slap and jabber, scratch and dirk; Still we let our business slide — as we dropped the half-dressed hide — To show a fellow-savage how to work.
Still the world is wondrous large, — seven seas from marge to marge, — And it holds a vast of various kinds of man; And the wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Khatmandhu, And the crimes of Clapham chaste in Martaban.
Here's my wisdom for your use, as I learned it when the moose And the reindeer roared where Paris roars to-night: — There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, And — every — single — one — of — them — is — right!
THE STORY OF UNG
Once, on a glittering ice-field, ages and ages ago, Ung, a maker of pictures, fashioned an image of snow. Fashioned the form of a tribesman — gaily he whistled and sung, Working the snow with his fingers. Read ye the Story of Ung!
Pleased was his tribe with that image — came in their hundreds to scan — Handled it, smelt it, and grunted: "Verily, this is a man! Thus do we carry our lances — thus is a war-belt slung. Lo! it is even as we are. Glory and honour to Ung!"
Later he pictured an aurochs — later he pictured a bear — Pictured the sabre-tooth tiger dragging a man to his lair — Pictured the mountainous mammoth, hairy, abhorrent, alone — Out of the love that he bore them, scribing them clearly on bone.
Swift came the tribe to behold them, peering and pushing and still — Men of the berg-battered beaches, men of the boulder-hatched hill — Hunters and fishers and trappers, presently whispering low: "Yea, they are like — and it may be — But how does the Picture-man know?"
"Ung — hath he slept with the Aurochs — watched where the Mastodon roam? Spoke on the ice with the Bow-head — followed the Sabre-tooth home? Nay! These are toys of his fancy! If he have cheated us so, How is there truth in his image — the man that he fashioned of snow?"
Wroth was that maker of pictures — hotly he answered the call: "Hunters and fishers and trappers, children and fools are ye all! Look at the beasts when ye hunt them!" Swift from the tumult he broke, Ran to the cave of his father and told him the shame that they spoke.
And the father of Ung gave answer, that was old and wise in the craft, Maker of pictures aforetime, he leaned on his lance and laughed: "If they could see as thou seest they would do what thou hast done, And each man would make him a picture, and — what would become of my son?
"There would be no pelts of the reindeer, flung down at thy cave for a gift, Nor dole of the oily timber that comes on the Baltic drift; No store of well-drilled needles, nor ouches of amber pale; No new-cut tongues of the bison, nor meat of the stranded whale.
"Thou hast not toiled at the fishing when the sodden trammels freeze, Nor worked the war-boats outward through the rush of the rock-staked seas, Yet they bring thee fish and plunder — full meal and an easy bed — And all for the sake of thy pictures." And Ung held down his head.
"Thou hast not stood to the Aurochs when the red snow reeks of the fight; Men have no time at the houghing to count his curls aright. And the heart of the hairy Mammoth, thou sayest, they do not see, Yet they save it whole from the beaches and broil the best for thee.
"And now do they press to thy pictures, with opened mouth and eye, And a little gift in the doorway, and the praise no gift can buy: But — sure they have doubted thy pictures, and that is a grievous stain — Son that can see so clearly, return them their gifts again!"
And Ung looked down at his deerskins — their broad shell-tasselled bands — And Ung drew downward his mitten and looked at his naked hands; And he gloved himself and departed, and he heard his father, behind: "Son that can see so clearly, rejoice that thy tribe is blind!"
Straight on the glittering ice-field, by the caves of the lost Dordogne, Ung, a maker of pictures, fell to his scribing on bone Even to mammoth editions. Gaily he whistled and sung, Blessing his tribe for their blindness. Heed ye the Story of Ung!
"The three-volume novel is extinct."
Full thirty foot she towered from waterline to rail. It cost a watch to steer her, and a week to shorten sail; But, spite all modern notions, I found her first and best — The only certain packet for the Islands of the Blest.
Fair held the breeze behind us — 'twas warm with lovers' prayers. We'd stolen wills for ballast and a crew of missing heirs. They shipped as Able Bastards till the Wicked Nurse confessed, And they worked the old three-decker to the Islands of the Blest.
By ways no gaze could follow, a course unspoiled of Cook, Per Fancy, fleetest in man, our titled berths we took With maids of matchless beauty and parentage unguessed, And a Church of England parson for the Islands of the Blest.
We asked no social questions — we pumped no hidden shame — We never talked obstetrics when the Little Stranger came: We left the Lord in Heaven, we left the fiends in Hell. We weren't exactly Yussufs, but — Zuleika didn't tell.
No moral doubt assailed us, so when the port we neared, The villain had his flogging at the gangway, and we cheered. 'Twas fiddle in the forc's'le — 'twas garlands on the mast, For every one got married, and I went ashore at last.
I left 'em all in couples a-kissing on the decks. I left the lovers loving and the parents signing cheques. In endless English comfort by county-folk caressed, I left the old three-decker at the Islands of the Blest!
That route is barred to steamers: you'll never lift again Our purple-painted headlands or the lordly keeps of Spain. They're just beyond your skyline, howe'er so far you cruise In a ram-you-damn-you liner with a brace of bucking screws.
Swing round your aching search-light — 'twill show no haven's peace. Ay, blow your shrieking sirens to the deaf, gray-bearded seas! Boom out the dripping oil-bags to skin the deep's unrest — And you aren't one knot the nearer to the Islands of the Blest!
But when you're threshing, crippled, with broken bridge and rail, At a drogue of dead convictions to hold you head to gale, Calm as the Flying Dutchman, from truck to taffrail dressed, You'll see the old three-decker for the Islands of the Blest.
You'll see her tiering canvas in sheeted silver spread; You'll hear the long-drawn thunder 'neath her leaping figure-head; While far, so far above you, her tall poop-lanterns shine Unvexed by wind or weather like the candles round a shrine!
Hull down — hull down and under — she dwindles to a speck, With noise of pleasant music and dancing on her deck. All's well — all's well aboard her — she's left you far behind, With a scent of old-world roses through the fog that ties you blind.
Her crew are babes or madmen? Her port is all to make? You're manned by Truth and Science, and you steam for steaming's sake? Well, tinker up your engines — you know your business best — She's taking tired people to the Islands of the Blest!
The American Spirit speaks:
"If the Led Striker call it a strike, Or the papers call it a war, They know not much what I am like, Nor what he is, my Avatar."
Through many roads, by me possessed, He shambles forth in cosmic guise; He is the Jester and the Jest, And he the Text himself applies.
The Celt is in his heart and hand, The Gaul is in his brain and nerve; Where, cosmopolitanly planned, He guards the Redskin's dry reserve.
His easy unswept hearth he lends From Labrador to Guadeloupe; Till, elbowed out by sloven friends, He camps, at sufferance, on the stoop.
Calm-eyed he scoffs at sword and crown, Or panic-blinded stabs and slays: Blatant he bids the world bow down, Or cringing begs a crust of praise;
Or, sombre-drunk, at mine and mart, He dubs his dreary brethren Kings. His hands are black with blood — his heart Leaps, as a babe's, at little things.
But, through the shift of mood and mood, Mine ancient humour saves him whole — The cynic devil in his blood That bids him mock his hurrying soul;
That bids him flout the Law he makes, That bids him make the Law he flouts, Till, dazed by many doubts, he wakes The drumming guns that — have no doubts;
That checks him foolish — hot and fond, That chuckles through his deepest ire, That gilds the slough of his despond But dims the goal of his desire;
Inopportune, shrill-accented, The acrid Asiatic mirth That leaves him, careless 'mid his dead, The scandal of the elder earth.
How shall he clear himself, how reach Your bar or weighed defence prefer? A brother hedged with alien speech And lacking all interpreter.
Which knowledge vexes him a space; But while Reproof around him rings, He turns a keen untroubled face Home, to the instant need of things.
Enslaved, illogical, elate, He greets th' embarrassed Gods, nor fears To shake the iron hand of Fate Or match with Destiny for beers.
Lo, imperturbable he rules, Unkempt, disreputable, vast — And, in the teeth of all the schools, I — I shall save him at the last!
THE "MARY GLOSTER"
I've paid for your sickest fancies; I've humoured your crackedest whim — Dick, it's your daddy, dying; you've got to listen to him! Good for a fortnight, am I? The doctor told you? He lied. I shall go under by morning, and — Put that nurse outside. 'Never seen death yet, Dickie? Well, now is your time to learn, And you'll wish you held my record before it comes to your turn. Not counting the Line and the Foundry, the yards and the village, too, I've made myself and a million; but I'm damned if I made you. Master at two-and-twenty, and married at twenty-three — Ten thousand men on the pay-roll, and forty freighters at sea! Fifty years between 'em, and every year of it fight, And now I'm Sir Anthony Gloster, dying, a baronite: For I lunched with his Royal 'Ighness — what was it the papers a-had? "Not least of our merchant-princes." Dickie, that's me, your dad! I didn't begin with askings. I took my job and I stuck; And I took the chances they wouldn't, an' now they're calling it luck. Lord, what boats I've handled — rotten and leaky and old! Ran 'em, or — opened the bilge-cock, precisely as I was told. Grub that 'ud bind you crazy, and crews that 'ud turn you grey, And a big fat lump of insurance to cover the risk on the way. The others they dursn't do it; they said they valued their life (They've served me since as skippers). I went, and I took my wife. Over the world I drove 'em, married at twenty-three, And your mother saving the money and making a man of me. I was content to be master, but she said there was better behind; She took the chances I wouldn't, and I followed your mother blind. She egged me to borrow the money, an' she helped me to clear the loan, When we bought half shares in a cheap 'un and hoisted a flag of our own. Patching and coaling on credit, and living the Lord knew how, We started the Red Ox freighters — we've eight-and-thirty now. And those were the days of clippers, and the freights were clipper-freights, And we knew we were making our fortune, but she died in Macassar Straits — By the Little Paternosters, as you come to the Union Bank — And we dropped her in fourteen fathom; I pricked it off where she sank. Owners we were, full owners, and the boat was christened for her, And she died in the Mary Gloster. My heart, how young we were! So I went on a spree round Java and well-nigh ran her ashore, But your mother came and warned me and I wouldn't liquor no more: Strict I stuck to my business, afraid to stop or I'd think, Saving the money (she warned me), and letting the other men drink. And I met M'Cullough in London (I'd turned five 'undred then), And 'tween us we started the Foundry — three forges and twenty men: Cheap repairs for the cheap 'uns. It paid, and the business grew, For I bought me a steam-lathe patent, and that was a gold mine too. "Cheaper to build 'em than buy 'em," I said, but M'Cullough he shied, And we wasted a year in talking before we moved to the Clyde. And the Lines were all beginning, and we all of us started fair, Building our engines like houses and staying the boilers square. But M'Cullough 'e wanted cabins with marble and maple and all, And Brussels an' Utrecht velvet, and baths and a Social Hall, And pipes for closets all over, and cutting the frames too light, But M'Cullough he died in the Sixties, and — Well, I'm dying to-night. . . . I knew — I knew what was coming, when we bid on the Byfleet's keel — They piddled and piffled with iron: I'd given my orders for steel! Steel and the first expansions. It paid, I tell you, it paid, When we came with our nine-knot freighters and collared the long-run trade! And they asked me how I did it, and I gave 'em the Scripture text, "You keep your light so shining a little in front o' the next!" They copied all they could follow, but they couldn't copy my mind, And I left 'em sweating and stealing a year and a half behind. Then came the armour-contracts, but that was M'Cullough's side; He was always best in the Foundry, but better, perhaps, he died. I went through his private papers; the notes was plainer than print; And I'm no fool to finish if a man'll give me a hint. (I remember his widow was angry.) So I saw what the drawings meant, And I started the six-inch rollers, and it paid me sixty per cent — Sixty per cent with failures, and more than twice we could do, And a quarter-million to credit, and I saved it all for you! I thought — it doesn't matter — you seemed to favour your ma, But you're nearer forty than thirty, and I know the kind you are. Harrer an' Trinity College! I ought to ha' sent you to sea — But I stood you an education, an' what have you done for me? The things I knew was proper you wouldn't thank me to give, And the things I knew was rotten you said was the way to live. For you muddled with books and pictures, an' china an' etchin's an' fans, And your rooms at college was beastly — more like a whore's than a man's — Till you married that thin-flanked woman, as white and as stale as a bone, An' she gave you your social nonsense; but where's that kid o' your own? I've seen your carriages blocking the half o' the Cromwell Road, But never the doctor's brougham to help the missus unload. (So there isn't even a grandchild, an' the Gloster family's done.) Not like your mother, she isn't. She carried her freight each run. But they died, the pore little beggars! At sea she had 'em — they died. Only you, an' you stood it; you haven't stood much beside. Weak, a liar, and idle, and mean as a collier's whelp Nosing for scraps in the galley. No help — my son was no help! So he gets three 'undred thousand, in trust and the interest paid. I wouldn't give it you, Dickie — you see, I made it in trade. You're saved from soiling your fingers, and if you have no child, It all comes back to the business. Gad, won't your wife be wild! 'Calls and calls in her carriage, her 'andkerchief up to 'er eye: "Daddy! dear daddy's dyin'!" and doing her best to cry. Grateful? Oh, yes, I'm grateful, but keep her away from here. Your mother 'ud never ha' stood 'er, and, anyhow, women are queer. . . . There's women will say I've married a second time. Not quite! But give pore Aggie a hundred, and tell her your lawyers'll fight. She was the best o' the boiling — you'll meet her before it ends; I'm in for a row with the mother — I'll leave you settle my friends: For a man he must go with a woman, which women don't understand — Or the sort that say they can see it they aren't the marrying brand. But I wanted to speak o' your mother that's Lady Gloster still — I'm going to up and see her, without it's hurting the will. Here! Take your hand off the bell-pull. Five thousand's waiting for you, If you'll only listen a minute, and do as I bid you do. They'll try to prove me crazy, and, if you bungle, they can; And I've only you to trust to! (O God, why ain't he a man?) There's some waste money on marbles, the same as M'Cullough tried — Marbles and mausoleums — but I call that sinful pride. There's some ship bodies for burial — we've carried 'em, soldered and packed; Down in their wills they wrote it, and nobody called them cracked. But me — I've too much money, and people might. . . . All my fault: It come o' hoping for grandsons and buying that Wokin' vault. I'm sick o' the 'ole dam' business; I'm going back where I came. Dick, you're the son o' my body, and you'll take charge o' the same! I want to lie by your mother, ten thousand mile away, And they'll want to send me to Woking; and that's where you'll earn your pay. I've thought it out on the quiet, the same as it ought to be done — Quiet, and decent, and proper — an' here's your orders, my son. You know the Line? You don't, though. You write to the Board, and tell Your father's death has upset you an' you're goin' to cruise for a spell, An' you'd like the Mary Gloster — I've held her ready for this — They'll put her in working order and you'll take her out as she is. Yes, it was money idle when I patched her and put her aside (Thank God, I can pay for my fancies!) — the boat where your mother died, By the Little Paternosters, as you come to the Union Bank, We dropped her — I think I told you — and I pricked it off where she sank — ['Tiny she looked on the grating — that oily, treacly sea —] 'Hundred and eighteen East, remember, and South just three. Easy bearings to carry — three South — three to the dot; But I gave M'Andrew a copy in case of dying — or not. And so you'll write to M'Andrew, he's Chief of the Maori Line; They'll give him leave, if you ask 'em and say it's business o' mine. I built three boats for the Maoris, an' very well pleased they were, An' I've known Mac since the Fifties, and Mac knew me — and her. After the first stroke warned me I sent him the money to keep Against the time you'd claim it, committin' your dad to the deep; For you are the son o' my body, and Mac was my oldest friend, I've never asked 'im to dinner, but he'll see it out to the end. Stiff-necked Glasgow beggar, I've heard he's prayed for my soul, But he couldn't lie if you paid him, and he'd starve before he stole! He'll take the Mary in ballast — you'll find her a lively ship; And you'll take Sir Anthony Gloster, that goes on 'is wedding-trip, Lashed in our old deck-cabin with all three port-holes wide, The kick o' the screw beneath him and the round blue seas outside! Sir Anthony Gloster's carriage — our 'ouse-flag flyin' free — Ten thousand men on the pay-roll and forty freighters at sea! He made himself and a million, but this world is a fleetin' show, And he'll go to the wife of 'is bosom the same as he ought to go — By the heel of the Paternosters — there isn't a chance to mistake — And Mac'll pay you the money as soon as the bubbles break! Five thousand for six weeks' cruising, the staunchest freighter afloat, And Mac he'll give you your bonus the minute I'm out o' the boat! He'll take you round to Macassar, and you'll come back alone; He knows what I want o' the Mary. . . . I'll do what I please with my own. Your mother 'ud call it wasteful, but I've seven-and-thirty more; I'll come in my private carriage and bid it wait at the door. . . . For my son 'e was never a credit: 'e muddled with books and art, And 'e lived on Sir Anthony's money and 'e broke Sir Anthony's heart. There isn't even a grandchild, and the Gloster family's done — The only one you left me, O mother, the only one! Harrer and Trinity College — me slavin' early an' late — An' he thinks I'm dying crazy, and you're in Macassar Strait! Flesh o' my flesh, my dearie, for ever an' ever amen, That first stroke come for a warning; I ought to ha' gone to you then, But — cheap repairs for a cheap 'un — the doctors said I'd do: Mary, why didn't you warn me? I've allus heeded to you, Excep' — I know — about women; but you are a spirit now; An', wife, they was only women, and I was a man. That's how. An' a man 'e must go with a woman, as you could not understand; But I never talked 'em secrets. I paid 'em out o' hand. Thank Gawd, I can pay for my fancies! Now what's five thousand to me, For a berth off the Paternosters in the haven where I would be? I believe in the Resurrection, if I read my Bible plain, But I wouldn't trust 'em at Wokin'; we're safer at sea again. For the heart it shall go with the treasure — go down to the sea in ships. I'm sick of the hired women — I'll kiss my girl on her lips! I'll be content with my fountain, I'll drink from my own well, And the wife of my youth shall charm me — an' the rest can go to Hell! (Dickie, he will, that's certain.) I'll lie in our standin'-bed, An' Mac'll take her in ballast — an' she trims best by the head. . . . Down by the head an' sinkin', her fires are drawn and cold, And the water's splashin' hollow on the skin of the empty hold — Churning an' choking and chuckling, quiet and scummy and dark — Full to her lower hatches and risin' steady. Hark! That was the after-bulkhead. . . . She's flooded from stem to stern. . . . Never seen death yet, Dickie? . . . Well, now is your time to learn!
SESTINA OF THE TRAMP-ROYAL
Speakin' in general, I 'ave tried 'em all, The 'appy roads that take you o'er the world. Speakin' in general, I 'ave found them good For such as cannot use one bed too long, But must get 'ence, the same as I 'ave done, An' go observin' matters till they die.
What do it matter where or 'ow we die, So long as we've our 'ealth to watch it all — The different ways that different things are done, An' men an' women lovin' in this world — Takin' our chances as they come along, An' when they ain't, pretendin' they are good?
In cash or credit — no, it aren't no good; You 'ave to 'ave the 'abit or you'd die, Unless you lived your life but one day long, Nor didn't prophesy nor fret at all, But drew your tucker some'ow from the world, An' never bothered what you might ha' done.
But, Gawd, what things are they I 'aven't done? I've turned my 'and to most, an' turned it good, In various situations round the world — For 'im that doth not work must surely die; But that's no reason man should labour all 'Is life on one same shift; life's none so long.
Therefore, from job to job I've moved along. Pay couldn't 'old me when my time was done, For something in my 'ead upset me all, Till I 'ad dropped whatever 'twas for good, An', out at sea, be'eld the dock-lights die, An' met my mate — the wind that tramps the world!
It's like a book, I think, this bloomin' world, Which you can read and care for just so long, But presently you feel that you will die Unless you get the page you're readin' done, An' turn another — likely not so good; But what you're after is to turn 'em all.
Gawd bless this world! Whatever she 'ath done — Excep' when awful long — I've found it good. So write, before I die, "'E liked it all!"
When 'Omer smote 'is bloomin' lyre, He'd 'eard men sing by land an' sea; An' what he thought 'e might require, 'E went an' took — the same as me!
The market-girls an' fishermen, The shepherds an' the sailors, too, They 'eard old songs turn up again, But kep' it quiet — same as you!
They knew 'e stole; 'e knew they knowed. They didn't tell, nor make a fuss, But winked at 'Omer down the road, An' 'e winked back — the same as us!
"BACK TO THE ARMY AGAIN"
I'm 'ere in a ticky ulster an' a broken billycock 'at, A-layin' on to the sergeant I don't know a gun from a bat; My shirt's doin' duty for jacket, my sock's stickin' out o' my boots, An' I'm learnin' the damned old goose-step along o' the new recruits!
Back to the Army again, sergeant, Back to the Army again. Don't look so 'ard, for I 'aven't no card, I'm back to the Army again!
I done my six years' service. 'Er Majesty sez: "Good-day — You'll please to come when you're rung for, an' 'ere's your 'ole back-pay; An' fourpence a day for baccy — an' bloomin' gen'rous, too; An' now you can make your fortune — the same as your orf'cers do."
Back to the Army again, sergeant, Back to the Army again; 'Ow did I learn to do right-about turn? I'm back to the Army again!
A man o' four-an'-twenty that 'asn't learned of a trade — Beside "Reserve" agin' him — 'e'd better be never made. I tried my luck for a quarter, an' that was enough for me, An' I thought of 'Er Majesty's barricks, an' I thought I'd go an' see.
Back to the Army again, sergeant, Back to the Army again; 'Tisn't my fault if I dress when I 'alt — I'm back to the Army again!
The sergeant arst no questions, but 'e winked the other eye, 'E sez to me, "'Shun!" an' I shunted, the same as in days gone by; For 'e saw the set o' my shoulders, an' I couldn't 'elp 'oldin' straight When me an' the other rookies come under the barrick-gate.
Back to the Army again, sergeant, Back to the Army again; 'Oo would ha' thought I could carry an' port? I'm back to the Army again!
I took my bath, an' I wallered — for, Gawd, I needed it so! I smelt the smell o' the barricks, I 'eard the bugles go. I 'eard the feet on the gravel — the feet o' the men what drill — An' I sez to my flutterin' 'eart-strings, I sez to 'em, "Peace, be still!"
Back to the Army again, sergeant, Back to the Army again; 'Oo said I knew when the Jumner was due? I'm back to the Army again!
I carried my slops to the tailor; I sez to 'im, "None o' your lip! You tight 'em over the shoulders, an' loose 'em over the 'ip, For the set o' the tunic's 'orrid." An' 'e sez to me, "Strike me dead, But I thought you was used to the business!" an' so 'e done what I said.
Back to the Army again, sergeant, Back to the Army again. Rather too free with my fancies? Wot — me? I'm back to the Army again!
Next week I'll 'ave 'em fitted; I'll buy me a swagger-cane; They'll let me free o' the barricks to walk on the Hoe again In the name o' William Parsons, that used to be Edward Clay, An' — any pore beggar that wants it can draw my fourpence a day!
Back to the Army again, sergeant, Back to the Army again: Out o' the cold an' the rain, sergeant, Out o' the cold an' the rain.
'Oo's there? A man that's too good to be lost you, A man that is 'andled an' made — A man that will pay what 'e cost you In learnin' the others their trade — parade! You're droppin' the pick o' the Army Because you don't 'elp 'em remain, But drives 'em to cheat to get out o' the street An' back to the Army again!
"BIRDS OF PREY" MARCH
March! The mud is cakin' good about our trousies. Front! — eyes front, an' watch the Colour-casin's drip. Front! The faces of the women in the 'ouses Ain't the kind o' things to take aboard the ship.
Cheer! An' we'll never march to victory. Cheer! An' we'll never live to 'ear the cannon roar! The Large Birds o' Prey They will carry us away, An' you'll never see your soldiers any more!
Wheel! Oh, keep your touch; we're goin' round a corner. Time! — mark time, an' let the men be'ind us close. Lord! the transport's full, an' 'alf our lot not on 'er — Cheer, O cheer! We're going off where no one knows.
March! The Devil's none so black as 'e is painted! Cheer! We'll 'ave some fun before we're put away. 'Alt, an' 'and 'er out — a woman's gone and fainted! Cheer! Get on — Gawd 'elp the married men to-day!
Hoi! Come up, you 'ungry beggars, to yer sorrow. ('Ear them say they want their tea, an' want it quick!) You won't have no mind for slingers, not to-morrow — No; you'll put the 'tween-decks stove out, bein' sick!
'Alt! The married kit 'as all to go before us! 'Course it's blocked the bloomin' gangway up again! Cheer, O cheer the 'Orse Guards watchin' tender o'er us, Keepin' us since eight this mornin' in the rain!
Stuck in 'eavy marchin'-order, sopped and wringin' — Sick, before our time to watch 'er 'eave an' fall, 'Ere's your 'appy 'ome at last, an' stop your singin'. 'Alt! Fall in along the troop-deck! Silence all!
Cheer! For we'll never live to see no bloomin' victory! Cheer! An' we'll never live to 'ear the cannon roar! (One cheer more!) The jackal an' the kite 'Ave an 'ealthy appetite, An' you'll never see your soldiers any more! ('Ip! Urroar!) The eagle an' the crow They are waitin' ever so, An' you'll never see your soldiers any more! ('Ip! Urroar!) Yes, the Large Birds o' Prey They will carry us away, An' you'll never see your soldiers any more!
"SOLDIER AN' SAILOR TOO"
As I was spittin' into the Ditch aboard o' the Crocodile, I seed a man on a man-o'-war got up in the Reg'lars' style. 'E was scrapin' the paint from off of 'er plates, an' I sez to 'im, "'Oo are you?" Sez 'e, "I'm a Jolly — 'Er Majesty's Jolly — soldier an' sailor too!" Now 'is work begins by Gawd knows when, and 'is work is never through; 'E isn't one o' the reg'lar Line, nor 'e isn't one of the crew. 'E's a kind of a giddy harumfrodite — soldier an' sailor too!
An' after I met 'im all over the world, a-doin' all kinds of things, Like landin' 'isself with a Gatlin' gun to talk to them 'eathen kings; 'E sleeps in an 'ammick instead of a cot, an' 'e drills with the deck on a slew, An' 'e sweats like a Jolly — 'Er Majesty's Jolly — soldier an' sailor too! For there isn't a job on the top o' the earth the beggar don't know, nor do — You can leave 'im at night on a bald man's 'ead, to paddle 'is own canoe — 'E's a sort of a bloomin' cosmopolouse — soldier an' sailor too.
We've fought 'em in trooper, we've fought 'em in dock, and drunk with 'em in betweens, When they called us the seasick scull'ry-maids, an' we called 'em the Ass Marines; But, when we was down for a double fatigue, from Woolwich to Bernardmyo, We sent for the Jollies — 'Er Majesty's Jollies — soldier an' sailor too! They think for 'emselves, an' they steal for 'emselves, and they never ask what's to do, But they're camped an' fed an' they're up an' fed before our bugle's blew. Ho! they ain't no limpin' procrastitutes — soldier an' sailor too.
You may say we are fond of an 'arness-cut, or 'ootin' in barrick-yards, Or startin' a Board School mutiny along o' the Onion Guards; But once in a while we can finish in style for the ends of the earth to view, The same as the Jollies — 'Er Majesty's Jollies — soldier an' sailor too! They come of our lot, they was brothers to us; they was beggars we'd met an' knew; Yes, barrin' an inch in the chest an' the arm, they was doubles o' me an' you; For they weren't no special chrysanthemums — soldier an' sailor too!
To take your chance in the thick of a rush, with firing all about, Is nothing so bad when you've cover to 'and, an' leave an' likin' to shout; But to stand an' be still to the Birken'ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew, An' they done it, the Jollies — 'Er Majesty's Jollies — soldier an' sailor too! Their work was done when it 'adn't begun; they was younger nor me an' you; Their choice it was plain between drownin' in 'eaps an' bein' mopped by the screw, So they stood an' was still to the Birken'ead drill, soldier an' sailor too!
We're most of us liars, we're 'arf of us thieves, an' the rest are as rank as can be, But once in a while we can finish in style (which I 'ope it won't 'appen to me). But it makes you think better o' you an' your friends, an' the work you may 'ave to do, When you think o' the sinkin' Victorier's Jollies — soldier an' sailor too! Now there isn't no room for to say ye don't know — they 'ave proved it plain and true — That whether it's Widow, or whether it's ship, Victorier's work is to do, An' they done it, the Jollies — 'Er Majesty's Jollies — soldier an' sailor too!
When the Waters were dried an' the Earth did appear, ("It's all one," says the Sapper), The Lord He created the Engineer, Her Majesty's Royal Engineer, With the rank and pay of a Sapper!
When the Flood come along for an extra monsoon, 'Twas Noah constructed the first pontoon To the plans of Her Majesty's, etc.
But after fatigue in the wet an' the sun, Old Noah got drunk, which he wouldn't ha' done If he'd trained with, etc.
When the Tower o' Babel had mixed up men's bat, Some clever civilian was managing that, An' none of, etc.
When the Jews had a fight at the foot of a hill, Young Joshua ordered the sun to stand still, For he was a Captain of Engineers, etc.
When the Children of Israel made bricks without straw, They were learnin' the regular work of our Corps, The work of, etc.
For ever since then, if a war they would wage, Behold us a-shinin' on history's page — First page for, etc.
We lay down their sidings an' help 'em entrain, An' we sweep up their mess through the bloomin' campaign, In the style of, etc.
They send us in front with a fuse an' a mine To blow up the gates that are rushed by the Line, But bent by, etc.
They send us behind with a pick an' a spade, To dig for the guns of a bullock-brigade Which has asked for, etc.
We work under escort in trousers and shirt, An' the heathen they plug us tail-up in the dirt, Annoying, etc.
We blast out the rock an' we shovel the mud, We make 'em good roads an' — they roll down the khud, Reporting, etc.
We make 'em their bridges, their wells, an' their huts, An' the telegraph-wire the enemy cuts, An' it's blamed on, etc.
An' when we return, an' from war we would cease, They grudge us adornin' the billets of peace, Which are kept for, etc.
We build 'em nice barracks — they swear they are bad, That our Colonels are Methodist, married or mad, Insultin', etc.
They haven't no manners nor gratitude too, For the more that we help 'em, the less will they do, But mock at, etc.
Now the Line's but a man with a gun in his hand, An' Cavalry's only what horses can stand, When helped by, etc.
Artillery moves by the leave o' the ground, But we are the men that do something all round, For we are, etc.
I have stated it plain, an' my argument's thus ("It's all one," says the Sapper), There's only one Corps which is perfect — that's us; An' they call us Her Majesty's Engineers, Her Majesty's Royal Engineers, With the rank and pay of a Sapper!
It got beyond all orders an' it got beyond all 'ope; It got to shammin' wounded an' retirin' from the 'alt. 'Ole companies was lookin' for the nearest road to slope; It were just a bloomin' knock-out — an' our fault!
Now there ain't no chorus 'ere to give, Nor there ain't no band to play; An' I wish I was dead 'fore I done what I did, Or seen what I seed that day!
We was sick o' bein' punished, an' we let 'em know it, too; An' a company-commander up an' 'it us with a sword, An' some one shouted "'Ook it!" an' it come to sove-ki-poo, An' we chucked our rifles from us — O my Gawd!
There was thirty dead an' wounded on the ground we wouldn't keep — No, there wasn't more than twenty when the front begun to go; But, Christ! along the line o' flight they cut us up like sheep, An' that was all we gained by doin' so.
I 'eard the knives be'ind me, but I dursn't face my man, Nor I don't know where I went to, 'cause I didn't 'alt to see, Till I 'eard a beggar squealin' out for quarter as 'e ran, An' I thought I knew the voice an' — it was me!
We was 'idin' under bedsteads more than 'arf a march away; We was lyin' up like rabbits all about the countryside; An' the major cursed 'is Maker 'cause 'e lived to see that day, An' the colonel broke 'is sword acrost, an' cried.
We was rotten 'fore we started — we was never disciplined; We made it out a favour if an order was obeyed; Yes, every little drummer 'ad 'is rights an' wrongs to mind, So we had to pay for teachin' — an' we paid!
The papers 'id it 'andsome, but you know the Army knows; We was put to groomin' camels till the regiments withdrew, An' they gave us each a medal for subduin' England's foes, An' I 'ope you like my song — because it's true!
An' there ain't no chorus 'ere to give, Nor there ain't no band to play; But I wish I was dead 'fore I done what I did, Or seen what I seed that day!
"THE MEN THAT FOUGHT AT MINDEN"
A Song of Instruction
The men that fought at Minden, they was rookies in their time — So was them that fought at Waterloo! All the 'ole command, yuss, from Minden to Maiwand, They was once dam' sweeps like you!
Then do not be discouraged, 'Eaven is your 'elper, We'll learn you not to forget; An' you mustn't swear an' curse, or you'll only catch it worse, For we'll make you soldiers yet!
The men that fought at Minden, they 'ad stocks beneath their chins, Six inch 'igh an' more; But fatigue it was their pride, and they would not be denied To clean the cook-'ouse floor.
The men that fought at Minden, they had anarchistic bombs Served to 'em by name of 'and-grenades; But they got it in the eye (same as you will by-an'-by) When they clubbed their field-parades.
The men that fought at Minden, they 'ad buttons up an' down, Two-an'-twenty dozen of 'em told; But they didn't grouse an' shirk at an hour's extry work, They kept 'em bright as gold.
The men that fought at Minden, they was armed with musketoons, Also, they was drilled by 'alberdiers; I don't know what they were, but the sergeants took good care They washed be'ind their ears.
The men that fought at Minden, they 'ad ever cash in 'and Which they did not bank nor save, But spent it gay an' free on their betters — such as me — For the good advice I gave.
The men that fought at Minden, they was civil — yuss, they was — Never didn't talk o' rights an' wrongs, But they got it with the toe (same as you will get it — so!) — For interrupting songs.
The men that fought at Minden, they was several other things Which I don't remember clear; But that's the reason why, now the six-year men are dry, The rooks will stand the beer!
Then do not be discouraged, 'Eaven is your 'elper, We'll learn you not to forget; An' you mustn't swear an' curse, or you'll only catch it worse, For we'll make you soldiers yet!
Soldiers yet, if you've got it in you — All for the sake of the Core; Soldiers yet, if we 'ave to skin you — Run an' get the beer, Johnny Raw — Johnny Raw! Ho! run an' get the beer, Johnny Raw!
We've got the cholerer in camp — it's worse than forty fights; We're dyin' in the wilderness the same as Isrulites; It's before us, an' be'ind us, an' we cannot get away, An' the doctor's just reported we've ten more to-day!
Oh, strike your camp an' go, the Bugle's callin', The Rains are fallin' — The dead are bushed an' stoned to keep 'em safe below; The Band's a-doin' all she knows to cheer us; The Chaplain's gone and prayed to Gawd to 'ear us — To 'ear us — O Lord, for it's a-killin' of us so!
Since August, when it started, it's been stickin' to our tail, Though they've 'ad us out by marches an' they've 'ad us back by rail; But it runs as fast as troop-trains, and we cannot get away; An' the sick-list to the Colonel makes ten more to-day.
There ain't no fun in women nor there ain't no bite to drink; It's much too wet for shootin', we can only march and think; An' at evenin', down the nullahs, we can 'ear the jackals say, "Get up, you rotten beggars, you've ten more to-day!"
'Twould make a monkey cough to see our way o' doin' things — Lieutenants takin' companies an' captains takin' wings, An' Lances actin' Sergeants — eight file to obey — For we've lots o' quick promotion on ten deaths a day!
Our Colonel's white an' twitterly — 'e gets no sleep nor food, But mucks about in 'orspital where nothing does no good. 'E sends us 'eaps o' comforts, all bought from 'is pay — But there aren't much comfort 'andy on ten deaths a day.
Our Chaplain's got a banjo, an' a skinny mule 'e rides, An' the stuff 'e says an' sings us, Lord, it makes us split our sides! With 'is black coat-tails a-bobbin' to Ta-ra-ra Boom-der-ay! 'E's the proper kind o' padre for ten deaths a day.
An' Father Victor 'elps 'im with our Roman Catholicks — He knows an 'eap of Irish songs an' rummy conjurin' tricks; An' the two they works together when it comes to play or pray; So we keep the ball a-rollin' on ten deaths a day.
We've got the cholerer in camp — we've got it 'ot an' sweet; It ain't no Christmas dinner, but it's 'elped an' we must eat. We've gone beyond the funkin', 'cause we've found it doesn't pay, An' we're rockin' round the Districk on ten deaths a day!
Then strike your camp an' go, the Rains are fallin', The Bugle's callin'! The dead are bushed an' stoned to keep 'em safe below! An' them that do not like it they can lump it, An' them that cannot stand it they can jump it; We've got to die somewhere — some way — some'ow — We might as well begin to do it now! Then, Number One, let down the tent-pole slow, Knock out the pegs an' 'old the corners — so! Fold in the flies, furl up the ropes, an' stow! Oh, strike — oh, strike your camp an' go! (Gawd 'elp us!)
I've taken my fun where I've found it; I've rogued an' I've ranged in my time; I've 'ad my pickin' o' sweet'earts, An' four o' the lot was prime. One was an 'arf-caste widow, One was a woman at Prome, One was the wife of a jemadar-sais, [Head-groom.] An' one is a girl at 'ome.
Now I aren't no 'and with the ladies, For, takin' 'em all along, You never can say till you've tried 'em, An' then you are like to be wrong. There's times when you'll think that you mightn't, There's times when you'll know that you might; But the things you will learn from the Yellow an' Brown, They'll 'elp you a lot with the White!
I was a young un at 'Oogli, Shy as a girl to begin; Aggie de Castrer she made me, An' Aggie was clever as sin; Older than me, but my first un — More like a mother she were — Showed me the way to promotion an' pay, An' I learned about women from 'er!
Then I was ordered to Burma, Actin' in charge o' Bazar, An' I got me a tiddy live 'eathen Through buyin' supplies off 'er pa. Funny an' yellow an' faithful — Doll in a teacup she were, But we lived on the square, like a true-married pair, An' I learned about women from 'er!
Then we was shifted to Neemuch (Or I might ha' been keepin' 'er now), An' I took with a shiny she-devil, The wife of a nigger at Mhow; 'Taught me the gipsy-folks' bolee; [Slang.] Kind o' volcano she were, For she knifed me one night 'cause I wished she was white, And I learned about women from 'er!
Then I come 'ome in the trooper, 'Long of a kid o' sixteen — Girl from a convent at Meerut, The straightest I ever 'ave seen. Love at first sight was 'er trouble, She didn't know what it were; An' I wouldn't do such, 'cause I liked 'er too much, But — I learned about women from 'er!
I've taken my fun where I've found it, An' now I must pay for my fun, For the more you 'ave known o' the others The less will you settle to one; An' the end of it's sittin' and thinkin', An' dreamin' Hell-fires to see; So be warned by my lot (which I know you will not), An' learn about women from me!
What did the Colonel's Lady think? Nobody never knew. Somebody asked the Sergeant's wife, An' she told 'em true! When you get to a man in the case, They're like as a row of pins — For the Colonel's Lady an' Judy O'Grady Are sisters under their skins!