Homeward Bound [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in The Ways of Many Waters (1899).]


Homeward Bound.

With tallow casks all dunnaged tight, with tiers on tiers of bales,
With cargo crammed from hatch to hatch, she’s racing for the sales;
A clipper barque, a model ship, a “flyer” through and through,
O skipper bluff! O skipper brave! I would I went with you!

’T is turn of tide, ’t is time to sail, the flood is outward flowing;
Another glass, another shake, and then, my lads, for going!
Black eyes ’long shore beam bright farewell, blue eyes with tears grow bonny —
Around the capstan head we go — “Yo-ho!” and “Whisky Johnny!”

He swings her round — The Ocean Belle — in slow and stately way;
Her house-flag flutters main-truck high; she’s heading down the bay.
Then as his hawser slacks and strains, whilst wharf-men cheer and shout,
’Midst bo’s’n’s pipe and captain’s curse, the tugboat hauls her out.

’T is “Good-bye, Sis!” and “Good-bye, Sal!” and “Good-bye, Liz and Polly!”
Good-bye to all the girls ashore, and all a sailor’s folly!
Blue Peter flies; the hatches down; our boys have spent their money;
“Stand by, my lads, to ease her lines! Stand by!” — and “Whisky Johnny!”

Her sails were bent ten days ago; her decks are scrubbed and clean,
Her spars are white as seagull’s breast, her hull is painted green,
Her blocks are greased to run with ease, her yards swing easy too —
The time is short, the way is long — she has her work to do!

The tide has turned, the wind is fair, the joys of land are over —
Whilst ships are made to roll the seas, poor Jack shall be a rover.
So sweethearts dark and sweethearts fair, look blithely sad and bonny,
And wave your handkerchiefs once more — Heigh, ho! and “Whisky Johnny!”

He’s cast his lines; the tug’s about — her master shouts “Good-bye!”
Now some will sulk and some will laugh, but one mayhap will sigh,
As from the ratlines glancing round, a second as she swings,
He sees the land to starboard lie and thinks — of foolish things!

’T is homeward bound! ’t is homeward bound! We’ve done by now with grieving,
For underneath our feet we feel the Old Eternal heaving;
So lend a hand to loosen sail, and dry your eye there, sonny!
The girls ahead are just as fair — “We y, ho!” and “Whisky Johnny!”

Oh, when he crams the canvas on, and shapes his course away,
She dips and dives and shakes herself, like sea-bird at her play;
She riots like a wilful child from punishment set free,
To feel beneath her buoyant keel the open, joyous sea.

For “Homeward Bound!” for “Homeward Bound!” the breeze itself is singing,
And fore-and-aft, through shrouds and lines, the melody goes ringing:
She gathers speed — “More sail!” he cries; and as he claps it on he
Sings softly to the ship he loves, the strain of “Whisky Johnny!”

Hull down, at dusk — The Ocean Belle — and ere the dark afar,
A line of foam upon her wake, she hails the Evening Star;
A watchful shark on guard astern, a porpoise at her bow,
An albatross to lead the way — she’s cutting through it now!

The waves may roll, the winds may rant, the hungry sharks may follow —
On hills of water she may pitch, in holes of water wallow;
But on her course she yet will keep, that gallant barque and bonny,
Until the dockers hear the ring of “Wey-hey! Whisky Johnny!”

The last to leave of eight or ten, the first to sight the Nore,
She beats the record homeward bound, she leads the fleet once more;
And won’t the skipper greet his friends, and won’t the agents cheer!
And when her lines are fast again, oh, won’t it flow — the beer!

To Cousin Sis and Cousin Sal, and pretty Kate and Polly,
To all the Jews and “seamen’s friends,” and all the messmates jolly,
To foaming pints and cosy fires and waiting blue eyes bonny,
She “paddles in” with joyous lilt of “Wey-ho! Whisky Johnny!”

E. J. Brady, The Ways of Many Waters, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1909 [first published 1899], pages 148-152

Editor’s notes:
barque = (also spelt “bark”) a small sailing ship in general, or specifically a sailing ship with three (or more) masts, in which the aftmost mast is fore-and-aft rigged, whilst the other masts are square-rigged

dunnage = padding and packaging material used to protect cargo during shipping

the Nore = the Nore is a sandbank located at the mouth of the River Thames; it is marked by the Nore Light-ship (a light-ship acts as a water-borne lighthouse, giving a warning to vessels and acting as a navigational point of reference)
See: 1) The Nore Light ship, by WL Wyllie, PortCities UK (accessed 4 March 2015)
2) Charles Dickens (editor), Dickens’s Dictionary of the Thames, from its Source to the Nore: An Unconventional Handbook, London: Macmillan and Co., 1885, pp. 151-152

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