Nets Below the Gangway [poem by E. J. Brady]

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


Nets Below the Gangway.

For the grey-nurse knows the barb-hook
As the codfish kens the line,
And the bull-whale’s blood is fountained
Where the dripping lances shine,
And the clumsy turbot wriggles,
And the fatted herrings leap
When the heavy nets come sweeping
From the harvest of the deep.

There are trawls for deep-sea dredging
Where the Grimsby smacksman goes;
There are Lim’rick hooks fine-pointed
That the great red schnapper knows;
There are nets for shallow waters,
Where the brown sand-mullet be;
But the net below the gangway
Is the net for you and me.

So they “shoot” them in the Hudson,
In the Thames and at the Tay;
So they’re “cast” in Sydney Harbour
And in San Francisco Bay.
Oh, the net below the gangway,
It is sweeter for our togs
Than the slush about the Bridges
Or around the Isle of Dogs.

So they cast ’em down at Plymouth,
Where the water’s deep and cool;
So they drop ’em round from Melbourne
To the wharves of Liverpool;
And ’t is pleasant to remember,
When we’re blind and cannot see,
That the net below the gangway
Is awaiting you and me.

Oh, ’t is better that we gather
In the meshes of the “trawls”
Where a drunken shellback flounders,
Where a swearing man-crab sprawls —
Than the bubbles at the surface,
Than a splashing in the dark,
Than a drag-hooked boozer bloated,
Or a picnic for John Shark.

So ye rowdy, roaring devils,
With your roaring, rowdy song,
Hitch your trousers to your jumpers,
Say “Good-night” and come along;
With your vulgar quids a-turning,
With your cutties to the lip,
And a net below the gangway
For to catch ye if ye slip!

Little lambs! the old man loves us,
And he’s loath to see us drown
When we’ve rolled for recreation
With our sweethearts round the town;
For she’s grinding on her fenders,
And your head’s a rotten spud
That she’d use to paint the wharf-piles
With a streak of brains and blood.

Oh, the owner loves the master,
And the master loves the men,
And we’ll take it as we find it
Till we fill ’em up again.
So “Old Ranzo was a tailor,”
And he ran away to sea,
And the net below the gangway
Will be kind to you and me.

E. J. Brady, The Ways of Many Waters, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1909 [first published 1899], pages 133-135

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