The Hiram Brown [poem by E. J. Brady]

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


The Hiram Brown.

Power o’ ploughs and clothes-pegs in her, pork and beans for ev’ry sinner,
Pork and beans for captain’s dinner —
Pass her lines and pull away!
Hiram Brown, of New Orleans, men; lots of graft ye know it means, men,
Lifting out those big machines, men —
Swing her in there! Hip hooray!

Trim old tub, the Hiram Brown, some dark night she’ll dive right down,
Every mother’s son will drown;
She’s insured right up, you bet.
Built in ’50, so they say; guess she’s almost had her day —
Pass that shore-line on this way —
But she wobbles round it yet!

Hand the boss them bills o’ lading — once she did a bit o’ trading
When the Yanks were South — blockading,
In the days of Stars and Bars.
Time they built the Alabama, Union steamer tried to ram her,
Sent him down head-first, goddammer!
Shook her engines, saved her spars.

Cotton cargo crammed to hatches, out she runs with reb. Dispatches —
See them two big painted patches?
That’s the mark o’ Yankee shot.
Out she runs beneath their noses — bangs away — oh, Holy Moses,
Ship’s afire! Hey, man the hoses!
Go she must, or smash the lot.

Left and right the guns went banging, whistles tooting, bells-a-clanging;
Lots o’ gilt to that trip hanging,
Worth the risk and worth the fight.
Timbers ripped and sails all tattered; wheel-house smashed and starn-post shattered,
This same planking blood-bespattered,
Hiram Brown got through all right.

When the Yanks had finished shooting, Hiram Brown she went recruiting —
That dark trade her skipper suiting
In the year of sixty-eight.
Changed her flag and got new papers; altered down to funnel scrapers;
But she starts her same old capers —
Seemed they couldn’t run her straight!

Blackbird cargo soon she’d gathered — black-bird cargo, tied and tethered —
Rain and storm and wind safe weathered,
Sou’ by East away she slips;
Maybe cargo was n’t willing, when with snowy sails outfilling,
And the bo’s’n’s whistle trilling,
Squared away that pride of ships.

On and off the coast o’ Chili, Hiram Brown was kept until he
Made us think he’d gone quite silly,
But one night a schooner come
Right ’longside, and making fast, sir, o’er our side in haste we passed, sir
(With a look out on the mast, sir)
Six-and-eighty casks of rum!

Schooner on her way is going, when our skipper, cute and knowing,
Sets that rare old stingo flowing —
Taps a cask and treats his men.
Steam’s got up; she makes right down there to a small plantation town where
Niggers black and niggers brown there,
Served their Dons (for nothing) then.

Got our casks ashore at first, boys; guess that job would raise your thirst, boys;
Maybe one or two was burst, boys,
Though for that he did n’t stop;
Landed niggers next right slickly; ranged those casks on wharf — corrictly;
Next (obeying orders) quickly,
Perched a nigger each on top.

Then our skipper, sleek and smiling, in a manner most beguiling,
Law and commerce reconciling,
Mounts upon a cotton-bale,
Joking with the senors lightly, speaking Spanish there politely,
Calm and cool, collected, sprightly,
Starts a lively auction sale.

Each rich Don who wanted labour understood his planter neighbour,
So their troops, with gun and sabre,
To arrest us did not come;
Whilst our captain grew elated as the bids were elevated,
And the same, you’ll guess, related
More to nigger than to rum.

So each buyer quick would figger out the value of the nigger,
And the auctioneer would snigger
When he threw the barrel in!
Guess that cargo paid her owners: likely they were psalm-song groaners,
Scripture-text and proverb moaners,
But they winked at tricks of sin.

Hiram Brown’s been o’er and under, ’cross the seas in storm and thunder;
Some rough night she’ll go asunder,
And Old Nick will have a lark,
Jack’s poor lass will be a griever — haul her in and hitch and heave her;
Guess next trip the rats will leave her —
She’s as old as Noah’s ark.

There’s the guy-rope rigged and ready! Got your hatches broke already?
Let her zip! Hey, winchman, steady,
Case o’ hard ware marked “B.A.”;
Longshore loafers down below there: you’re too derned infernal slow there!
Hook away, and up ye go there!
Yankee Packet’s in, hooray!

E. J. Brady, The Ways of Many Waters, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1909 [first published 1899], pages 35-39

Editor’s notes:
gilt = (slang) money; gilt also refers to gold or something that has a thin layer or covering of gold, or of something that looks like gold, or has the colour of gold

reb. = rebel; in the context of the American Civil War, this refers to someone who was part of the Confederate States of America (particularly those in the military), who were commonly regarded in the United States of America as “rebels” (a “reb” or “rebel” was also referred to as a “Johnny Reb” or “Johnny Rebel”)

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