Sailor-Man [poem by E. J. Brady]

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



’Arf a pint for me, old party — thank’ee, mister — ’ere’s yer ’ealth —
’Opes y’ll live to be a nundred; ’opes yer luck’ll bring y’u wealth;
Mine ain’t bin as good as might be — never knowed a syler yet,
When ’is days o’ leave was over, as could even go a wet.
Ship’s yer ’ouse and ’ome an’ country; ’tween ’er ports ’t is graft and go;
Ain’t no chanst o’ findin’ nuggets, ain’t no chanst to save, ye know;
Come ashore red ’ot an’ thusty,
Sick o’ sea, an salt, an’ rusty,
Cheque is bust on beer an’ wimmen — ship again, an’ cuss an’ go —
Junk an’ biskit,
’Loft an’ risk it —
Oh, it’s grand to sail the “hoshun” — “Yah, merrily me lads, yo ho!”

’Oly Smoke! They gives a concert in the Seamen’s ’All, one night,
An’ I goes an’ takes a lydy — real lydy — square an’ strite!
’Ears a joker rise a chanty ’bout the bloomin’ “Hoshun Wyve,”
’Ears a gal a-singin’ mournful of the “Lonely Syler’s Gryve;”
Then a bloke comes up an’ tells ’em of a “Little Midshipmite,”
Which for Queen and Hingland’s ’oner shed ’is gore an’ won the fight.
Looks at Poll, an’ finds ’er cryin’,
When that bloomin’ kid is dyin’,
In a sad an’ tragic manner, in “the middle watch at night” —
Drivel, drivel,
Sobs an’ snivel,
Gals with pocket-wipes a-weepin,’ woman faintin’ on the right.

“Cheese it, mate!” I sez, “it’s orful,” reachin’ for me bloomin’ ’at;
“Life upon the bloomin’ hoshun ain’t a blessed bit like that!
“’Ush!” sez Poll, “the folks’ll ’ear yer,” an’ she snivels an’ she jaws
’Coz I wouldn’t clap for “Anchor” or weigh in with the’r applause.
W’en I ups an’ tells that joker as ’ad come aloft to sing
That he didn’t know ’is business — w’y, they ’owled like anything!
An’ me bloomin’ ’at got busted,
An’ I left the ’all disgusted;
Poll, she swore she would n’t ’ave me, an’ she gev me back me ring —
Gin an’ sorrer —
Ships to-morrer,
Leaves the blarsted port a-cussin’ like “a sea-burd on the wing.”

An’ they tells me that them jokers gets as much as twenty quid
For a song like that ere ditty of the dyin’ sailor kid!
Now, I never knowed a ’prentice as was given to expire
Like a sang-win-airy ’ero w’en ’is bloomin’ ship took fire;
But I’ve known ’em play the devil with the morals of a crew;
I could also tell a story of the sinful things they do —
’Ow they chaws an’ spits terbakker,
’Ow they does the dirty yakker;
’Ow they washes decks o’ mornin’s on the “boosom o’ the blue;”
’Ow they damns ’er and they blarsts ’er,
An’ ’er owner an’ ’er master,
With the wind a-makin’ music an’ the bo’s’n pipin’ through.

No, ’e’d never been a ’prentice, ’ad the cove who did the song,
Or ’e would n’t try to come it quite so (sang-win-airy) strong;
’E ’ad never ’ad the pleasure of a trip from Puget Sound
With a gory lumber cargo, an’ a chanst o’ gettin’ drowned,
’E ’ad never sailed, I’m thinkin’ — or ’e’d cuss that ’e was born —
With a (sang-win-airy) Scotchman round the (sang-win-airy) Horn,
With a slop-made suit o’ close on
An’ ’is fingers stiff and frozen,
With the ice upon the gaskets an’ her canvas ripped and torn.
If ’e ’d ’ad to shorten sail
In a good Antarctic gale,
’E’d a-sung another ditty of “A Syler’s Life Forlorn.”

’E’d a-sung a diff’rent ditty if ’e’d ’ad to tackle junk
In the harness-tub a-churnin’ in the tropics till she stunk;
If ’e’d ’ad to pick the weevils from the biskit an’ be glad
That it wa’ n’t to pick the biskit from the weevils that ’e ’ad;
’E’d a-told a touchin’ story of a cove as died on land
With a fig o’ black terbaccer or a whisky in ’is ’and.
For, concernin’ graft an’ vittles,
’T ain’t exsactly beer and skittles
With the able-bodied joker on the “mighty hoshun grand” —
On the “deep an’ vasty hoshun,”
With its cargo of emoshun,
An’ its “martyrs” servin’ for’ard an’ its “’eroes” in command.

’Oly Smoke! I meets the skipper of a bloomin’ church one day,
An’ sez he, “My syler-brother, do y’ ever kneel an’ pray?
W’en the tempest’s ragin’ round y’” — ’ere ’e drops ’is bloomin’ breath,
An’ ’is voice gets deep an’ sollum — “do y’ ever think o’ death?”
“Garn!” sez I, “you ain’t bin sailin’ in a gory gale,” sez I,
“Or,” sez I, “you would n’t ast me such a foolish question: w’y,
It’s pipe ’em up like monkeys,
If the Old Man is n’t drunk, ’e ’s
On the poop a-cussin’ dreadful and a-damnin’ low an’ ’igh;”
“Pull away, ye sons o’ thunder!” —
Divin’ in and decks ’alf under —
“Send all ’ands aloft an’ ease ’er” — “Pass the order on!” . . . “Aye, aye.”

Then that parson-cove’e tells me ’ow a cove as fell from grace
Would ’ave lots o’ ’eat an’ torment in the other (crimson) place;
’Ow the Christyun bloke was sailin’ on the stormy sea o’ life,
An’ ’e ought to feel right thankful for ’is sorrers an’ ’is strife;
’Ow the likker was Ole Satan, an’ the t’other kinds o’ sin
Kept a feller out of ’Eving w’en ’e wanted to get in.
So I see ’is good intention,
An I did n’t want to mention
That I’d like to back “Temptation” an’ the “vile a-cussed gin,”
An’ be certain sure to win it,
For a “Christyun soul” ain’t in it
With one night ashore in fifty an’ a little bit o’ tin.

’Arf-a-pint again, an’ thankee! . . . ’Ere’s good luck to you an’ me!
May y’u never ’ave to yakker as a qualified A.B.
May y’u never be a syler of the mercantile marine,
Or y’u’ll always be a syler, an’ y’u’ll never ’ave a bean.
Oh, yer Jack the king of all, sir, ’fore yer bloomin’ stuff is spent;
Yer a drunken syler feller w’en ’er sails is bein’ bent;
But it’s round the world a-goin,
With the ebbin’ an’ the flowin’,
An’ y’u need n’t fear the bailiff, an’ y’u need n’t pay no rent;
There’s a month or two at sea,
Then a rattlin’, roarin’ spree . . .
An’ I dunno if I left it that I’d ever be content!

E. J. Brady, The Ways of Many Waters, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1909 [first published 1899], pages 28-34

Editor’s notes:
A.B. = able seaman

yakker = (also spelt “yakka”) work

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