The Passing of Parker [poem by E. J. Brady]

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

XX.

The Passing of Parker.

No, you “’ave n’t ’eard of Parker,” as was with us in The Bay,
Ah’ you “’ave n’t dropped acrost ’im in yer cruises,” as you say;
An’ you ain’t a-go’n to meet ’im, for ’e ’s safe an’ snug is Joe —
If the fishes ’as n’t eat ’im — fifty fathom down below;
Gawd rest ’is bleedin’ bones!
’E ’as gone to Davy Jones,
An’ I ’opes, as passun told us, that ’is soul is with the Lord,
For ’e slid down like a plummet,
’E went quick an’ lively summat;
Two shots about ’is feet, mate, an’ two above ’is ’ead
When ’e dived astarn one mornin’ like a bloomin’ chunk o’ lead.

Now, we’ll ’ave a pipe o’ baccy, an’ another sip o’ rum,
An’ we’ll drink to ole Joe Parker, an’ I’ll tell you ’ow it come . . .
We was on the China station, in the ’arbor of Shanghai
(An’ the cuss o’ Gawd upon it for a dirty ’ole, sez I),
In the port o’ Nagasaki
(Ta, that’s decent baccy),
Up to bloomin’ Daddy Stock-Pot where the cold ’d freeze a man,
Back again to Yokohama an’ the south’ard o’ Japan.
Then a-cruisin’, cruisin’, cruisin’,
For some gory fool’s amusin’,
With Sir Stinker Jones an’ Toecaps on a nasty, choppy sea,
An’ a extra dose o’ drillin’ — Gawd above! it sickened me.

Waal, we’re back at Shanghai, messmate, an’ that bloomin’ place o’ sin
We are makin’ pretty lively when a Rooshun ship comes in,
An’, of course, that starts the rowin’ in the drums an’ pubs ashore,
For a Rooshun is a Rooshun, an’ ’e can’t be any more;
An’ as Britons we despise ’em,
An’ in fightin’ times chastise ’em,
For our vittles an’ our medals an’ our kiddies an’ our wives —
’Sides, I ’ates them bleedin’ Rooshuns, ’cause they always carries knives.
So, from arguin’ an’ skitin’,
One fine night it comes to fightin’,
An’ they stiffens out a jolly — though for that I wouldn’t grieve,
But Ole Toecaps ’ears about it an’ ’e stops a week o’ leave.

Waal, we goes ashore again, mate, when our punishment is done,
An’ our fellers starts a-boozin’ in a pub they calls “The Sun,”
An’ a Rooshun chivvies Parker, in is lingo, so ’e said,
An’ Joe ’auls off an’ ’its ’im — such a wonner on the ’ead!
Gawd! there wa’nt a blessed windy
But we busted in that shindy;
There was broken glass an’ bottles, beer an’ blood along the floor;
Oh, we played the very devil with the woman’s furnitoor!
There was picters torn an’ labels,
An’ we broke the chairs an’ tables,
Smashed the mugs an’ things to blazes, turned ’er over ’old an’ deck;
Till you never see, so ’elp me, such a gawd-abandoned wreck!

Aye! we gev ’em “Rule Britannia,” but a Rooshun’s ’ard to beat,
An’ we ’eard that more was comin’, so we slips along the street,
Through the foreign quarter runnin’ through them narrer, dirty lanes,
For we didn’t want no trouble with Old Toecaps for our pains.
It was dark as ’ell an’ darker,
So we never knew that Parker
’Ad been stiffened in the scrimmage by a flyin’ whisky-jar
An’ was layin’ on ’is stummick in a ’eap behind the bar.
Fust we thought ’e ’d gone to glory —
Which ’ad ended up me story;
But ’e comes aboard next mornin’ with ’is top-piece in a sling,
An’ Ole Toecaps ’ears about it, an’ performs like anything.

But it wa’ n’t no use to Parker, so our ole ship’s doctor said,
For ’e ’d got a brain con-cushion on the inside of ’is ’ead,
An’ ’e could n’t do ’is duty for ’is case was “criti-cal,”
So they ’ad to give ’im treatment in the blessed ’ospital.
’E was gettin’ wuss an’ ravin’
Till they gev ’is ’ead a shavin’,
For to do a operation that they reckoned very fine;
But I want no sawbones foolin’ round a broken ’ead o’ mine —
’Cause they cut that ’ere con-cushion
That was gev him by the Rooshun
From the inside of his top-piece, an’ — the solemn truth I tell —
They took out a bit o’ skull-bone ’bout as big as that! as well.

Waal, Ole Toecaps gets ’is orders, an’ we says “Good-bye” ashore,
An’ the engineers is ready an’ we ’eads for Singapore.
Joe ’e feels a trifle better on the fust day out at sea,
But the next day out ’e ’s goin’ an’ ’e asks ’em send for me.
Gawd! I ain’t a cove for cryin’,
But I ’ates to see ’im dyin’,
So I sits beside ’is ’ammock an’ I tries to cheer ’is ’eart,
Though ’e ’s groanin’ somethin’ ’orrid, an’ ’is lips is wide apart.
There ’s a lump inside my throat, mate,
An’ my eyes is all afloat, mate,
But I sings out, “Cheer up, messmate! cheer up, Parker! cheer up, Joe!
Pull yer bleedin’ self together, give ole’ Davy Jones the go!”

Lawd! ’e stares me white an’ orful with ’is ’ead all bandaged up,
An’ ’e couldn’t make no answer till I let ’im ’ave a sup;
Then sez ’e, “I’ve got my papers, ’t ain’t no tearin’ use,” sez ’e,
“That ’ere Rooshun’s put my lights out,” an’ ’e glares like ’ell at me.
“Cuss the crimson gory Rooshun
As ’as give you that con-cushion!
But it were n’t MY fault, Joe Parker,” in a bloomin’ funk, sez I.
No, old man, I know it were n’t!” . . . An’ I thought I’d ’ave to cry;
But I ’ate them women’s squealin’s,
So I cussed to ease me feelin’s —
All the dirty furrin’ varmints up an’ down an’ all I could,
An’ ’e brightened as ’e ’eard me an’ I see it did ’im good!

“Ned,” sez ’e, “you’ll go to Chatham, see the missus an’ the kid?”
“Joe,” sez I, “I won’t forget it nor neglect it, Gawd forbid;
But you ain’t a-dyin’, messmate; you ain’t turning turtle yet?”
But ’e shook ’is ’ead and muttered orful feeble, “Don’t forget!”
Fust ’e lay awhile a-dreamin’,
Then ’e started up a-screamin’:
“Blarst all Rooshun dogs to blazes!” — ripped the bandage from ’is ’ead,
Clawed the bloomin’ air a minute, dropped ’is ’ands and flopped back — dead.
Then that bloomin’ Doctor Carker
Comes along to look at Parker.
An’ I ’ears the sinner mutter ’fore they orders me away,
Too much cuttin’ to recover!” What a bloomin’ shame, I say!

So they sewed ’im in ’is ’ammock, as accordin’ to the rule,
’Fore ’e ’d stiffened out, I reckon, or ’ad time enough to cool;
An’ we ’ears the bo’s’n pipin’ in the mornin’-watch all-right,
’S if they’d got to feelin’ sorry ’cause they kept ’im over-night —
For it’s run ’em out, an’ shove ’em!
Get the water quick above ’em!
When a Jack is dead ’e ’s done for, an’ ’is body ain’t no use;
’E ’as skipped ’is earthly dooty an’ ’is troubles an abuse.
Sew ’is ’ammock up around ’im!
Chuck ’im overboard an’ drownd ’im!
For there’s no one wants to worry an’ there’s no one got to weep
When the chaplain starts “committin’ this ’ere body to the deep!”

“Fall in aft, there, fun’ral party!” — an’ they tells ’em wot to wear.
“Mess one to ten, two men from each!” an’ don’t them two men swear.
“Chaplain’s ready! Rig yer gratin’! Fire three volleys!” — rattle! bang!
Someone shoves the bloomin’ body — gone! and no one cares a ’ang.
P’r’aps in fallin’ that poor feller
Struck ’is bloomin’ ship’s propeller —
If they ’ave n’t stopped the vessel through the weather or the whim
Of the admiral or skipper — an’ it plays the deuce with him.
What’s the odds? He can’t come back. It only means a dead bluejacket —
Which for that same matter, messmate, might be either you or me —
Gets a double kind o’ doin’ as they puts ’im down at sea.

* * * * * *

When I leaves the China station with me “compo” in me ’and,
Goes I down ’er side at Portsmouth for a good spell-ho on land;
Then I thinks o’ poor ole Parker, an’ I starts to feelin’ blue,
For I said I’d see the missus, an’ I’ve got to get it through.
“Wot a pretty pickle this is:
’Ere I’m bound for Parker’s missus,
An’ the news I’ve got to fetch her won’t be welcome, ’less I lie;
An’ she’ll want the truth or nuthink,” to me bloomin’ self sez I.
Now, I ’ate to start a-lyin’
’Bout a decent messmate dyin’;
But ’is dyin’ came so ugly, ’cause it started in a row —
“Damn,” sez I, “I’ll say it did n’t, and I’ll chance it, anyhow!”

No, she didn’t start to faintin’, and she didn’t weep nor wail,
For they’d told her all about it, an’ ’er grief was tired and stale;
But I see ole Parker’s kiddie, an’ I chucked it ’arf-a-crown,
An’ I sez, “You’ll soon be married,” ’fore I took the ’bus to town;
But she sez, before I’m leavin’ —
“Ned,” says she, “I ain’t a-grievin’;
’E was always kind an’ gentle to the young-’un an’ to me,
But I feel it orful sometimes that ’e’s layin’ out at sea,
An’ it do seem hard an’ funny
That they asked me for the money
For the ’ammock that they sewed my poor dead ’usband’s body in!”
“’Ard?” sez I, “Gawd strike me silly, it was nuthink but a SIN!”

Now, them there newspaper jokers they would hardly credit that;
But for every such the Navy charges seving-an’-a-sprat;
So I tells ’er “Never mind, mum,” an’ I gives another quid
In a bit o’ Parker’s tunic (an’ me blessin’!) to the kid,
An’ I left ’em as I found ’em,
With their bits o’ sticks around ’em,
With the flower-pot in the windy and ’is chest agen the wall,
An’ that gallant little woman bearin’ bravely through it all.
Gawd rest ’is bleedin’ bones!
’E ’as gone to Davy Jones;
But I’m goin’ back to Chatham when I gets relieved from ’ere,
An’ I’ll ask her — No, she would n’t ’ave me.
. . . Take another beer!



Source:
E. J. Brady, The Ways of Many Waters, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1909 [first published 1899], pages 93-102

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