The Buccaneers [poem by Grant Hervey]

[Editor: This poem by Grant Hervey was published in Australians Yet and Other Verses, 1913.]

The Buccaneers

The hansoms slur through the London mud, and the Bank of England leers
Like a fat old thief where their hoof-beats thud — all hail to the Buccaneers !
A thunder of waves goes swirling aft, and the punkah swings at noon ;
For a man shall live by his fighting-craft not feed from a nurse’s spoon !
And the world cries out for the fighting-men, for the pirates stout and lean ;
Lo, the weaklings toil with a clerkly pen, dumb cogs in the great machine !
But the pirates sail for the distant lands, and the liner swings and veers ;
Yea, a man shall win with his brains and hands — all hail to the Buccaneers !

I heard the chime of the temple-bells, and a cable came at noon,
And I heard the distant broker’s yells in London from old Rangoon.
The “wireless” splutters from ship to ship, with a message of stocks and shares,
And the pirate fights with a tightened lip in the battle of bulls and bears !
His orders flash for a thousand miles, and a war-shout fierce and strange
Goes forth o’ nights through the star-filled aisles to the lords of the Stock Exchange !
For woman may call but men must dare, so the forthright viking steers ;
And the cable croons in its ocean-lair, “All hail to the Buccaneers !”

There are code-books thumbed in old Bombay, and the price of copper and tin
Is conned with care where the punkahs sway and the grey shark shows his fin.
Slim cables slipping from sea to sea, long ships with their lights aglow ;
And the Morse must chatter with rattling key when the pirates whisper low !
For wealth means women — and woman and wine are part of a man’s desire;
So the pirate stands to the firing-line with the earth in his fighting-hire !
The patient drones in the London hive loaf through the dull brown years,
But they loudly sing who plot and strive — All hail to the Buccaneers !

The bells may summon to evening prayer, but there’s death in the priest’s refrain ;
And we bow in desert and city square to the ancient Gods of Gain !
The clamouring wheels that claw the track breathe an anthem fierce and new ;
And the pirate’s bags are swift to pack when the call conies whistling through !
Yea, Solomon’s ships from olden Tyre bore spoils for the kingly feast ;
And a man still thrills with the same desire, and he ravages West and East !
’Tis a thieving world, where a Man must live no matter who doubts or fears ;
And this is the song that the ages give — All hail to the Buccaneers !

Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 131-133

Editor’s notes:
hansoms = hansom cabs; a hansom cab was a low-hung two-wheeled covered carriage for two passengers, drawn by one horse, with the driver’s seat mounted high to the rear outside of the cab, with the reins running over the roof; often used as the taxi of its day

punkah = a large swinging screen-like fan suspended from the ceiling which was moved by a servant or by machinery

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