Roll the Cotton Down [poem by E. J. Brady]

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

XXVIII.

Roll the Cotton Down.

We sing no song of Right or Wrong,
Or War, or Fame, or Duty;
Our chanty free it still shall be
Of ships, and beer, and beauty;
So roll the cotton down!
The Ocean Pride swings with the tide —
Oh, roll the cotton down!

Aye, messmates true! Kit’s eyes are blue,
And Bet’s a dainty clipper —
Black brow, red lip, one day we’ll ship
With Cupid for our skipper.
Ho, roll the cotton down!
With bridal veils to be our sails.
Yah, roll the cotton down!

Long nights, long days, calm, clear and haze,
She’s kicked and guttered through it;
A racing run, storm, wind and sun,
And men to drive her to it.
Now roll the cotton down!
Now roll the cotton down!
Our fight is fought, her wharf-line’s taut,
We’ll roll the cotton down!

Now we shall eat good, fat, fresh meat,
And take our hard-won pleasure;
Now we shall laugh, jest, love, and quaff,
And sing our drunken measure
Of “Roll the cotton down!
Our mint of joy may prove — alloy,
But roll the cotton down!

True sailors we, let loose from sea,
And tavern-turned and townward:
Blear aftermath of barren path
That grades life’s journey downward.
Bah, roll the cotton down!
Let care go sink — drink, comrades, drink!
And roll the cotton down!

Before our days they walked our ways
And held our hot emotions,
Who at world’s gates dared Death and Fates
And opened up five oceans.
So roll the cotton down!
All damned are they (as we some day),
But roll the cotton down!

Black Bet’s a queen, Kit’s eyes a-sheen
Are deeper than blue waters.
Red tides of Hell! Our souls we’d sell
For these white devil’s-daughters.
Hey, roll the cotton down!
“You love me true?” Then I love you.
Oh, roll the cotton down!

Let preachers fault: all blood is salt,
All flesh both red and human.
We’ve songs to sing, we’ve hearts to fling
Before the feet of woman.
So roll the cotton down!
Life’s pleasures pass, fill up your glass,
We’ll roll the cotton down,
Cotton down!
Roll, roll the cotton down!




Source:
E. J. Brady, The Ways of Many Waters, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1909 [first published 1899], pages 130-132

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