The Ways Are Wide [poem by E. J. Brady]

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

XIX.

The Ways Are Wide.

Two women watched on a windy pier
(Three turns and a line to pass!)
And one was the drunken skipper’s dear,
And one was a sailor’s lass;
The full o’ flood and the fall o’ tide
There’s little to guide between,
But ways are wide where the seas divide
Wi’ places to bide between.

The sun rose red, but the night fell grey —
Cheer’ly men, her load-line’s low!
Who drinks to-morrow may thirst to-day —
Cheer’ly men, still cheerily ho!

They trailed her out from the rowdy pier;
They turned her nose to the Sea;
They lent their lungs to a burly cheer,
And speeded her merrily.
Her skipper rolled to his bunk dead-tight;
Her mate in the scuppers lay,
With a starboard red and a green port light
To gladden them on their way.

They lit their lamps on the lonely pier
As the twilight brought the rain,
And the skipper’s dear laughed long and clear,
But the other laughed in pain.
For woman is woman and man is man
And the flesh it pricketh sore —
He carries his burden as best he can,
She carries her load and more.

Two women turned from the windy pier,
One hurried her home to weep:
But the skipper’s dear she was married next year
To a bank account — and sheep.
The ship that sailed as the ship went down
(Three turns and a rope to pass!)
Is posted “Lost,” and the grass goes brown
On the grave o’ the sailor’s lass.

The dank ooze silts where the deep hulk lie —
Cheer’ly men — her load-line’s low!
For men may drown and women will die —
Cheer’ly men, still cheerily ho!




Source:
E. J. Brady, The Ways of Many Waters, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1909 [first published 1899], pages 91-92

Editor’s notes:
dead-tight = drunk, i.e. “dead drunk”

scupper = a hole or opening in the side of a ship, at deck level, which allows water to drain off from the deck

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