The Whaler’s Pig [poem by E. J. Brady]

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


The Whaler’s Pig.

We shipped him at the Sandwich Isles —
’Fore God, he’s mostly nose!
We’ve fetched him full eight thousand miles
To fatten in the floes.

The Arctic wind may whistle down
The ice-strewn Okhart Sea;
Our “passenger” don’t care a darn —
A whaler’s pig is he.

The blubber which the brute devours,
Hard fruit of our harpoon,
He merely holds in trust; ’t is ours —
Fresh pork! God send it soon!

Now, when her sloppy deck’s amuck
With stale cetacean spoil,
The glutton wallows in the ruck,
An alderman a-drip with oil.

When from the crow’s-nest rings the shout
Clear-echoed. “There she blows!”
“Jeff Davis” lifts his grizzled snout
To let us know he knows.

The white ash-blades drop down and rise;
The royal chase begins;
He watches with his wicked eyes,
And multiplies his sins.

With critic squint he stands betide
The harpooner prepares;
And if the erring steel goes wide
In swinish tongue he swears!

(Great Heavens! how he swears!)
But when we strike her good and fair,
Before the line runs hot,
He’ll lift a hoarse hog-cheer out there
With all the strength he’s got;

And when he sees the steerer take
The bold boat-header’s place,
A gourmand smile will slowly break
Like sunrise round his face.

Around the loggerhead the line
Grows taut as taut may be —
Three turns to hang your life and mine
High o’er Eternity!

Who thinks of that? Not I, not you,
Not he who most complains,
When leaping fire the blood swirls through
Our thumping hearts and veins.

’T is “Fast she is!” . . . “Now! . . Let her go!”
Our college stroke-oar yells;
This hour is worth a life to know;
’T is now the savage tells.

They maybe shared (ere progress rose)
Who sired first earls and dukes,
A kindred ecstacy with those
Who dodge a fighter’s flukes.

So felt our simian sires who tied
Their sheet-o’-bark canoes
To some grim mosasaur’s tough hide,
With only life to lose.

But this Kanaka hog will see
The whetted lance succeed;
Glad epicure, he grunts in glee,
Foreknowledged of his feed.

Thus will his belly teach his tongue
What eloquence it may
(Some noble songs by poets sung
Have been inspired that way).

So will he squeal approval when
Our six-hour fight is done.
And lord it bravely in his pen
O’er quarry chased and won.

So will he join the chanty free
That echoes as she tows
To bring his porcine jubilee
And glad his adipose.

It is not clean nor nice of taste,
This episode of trade,
That lurches with indecent haste
Towards the blubber spade.

Yet still we know that man made sail,
Invented rig on rig,
And God Almighty made the whale
That feeds the whaler’s pig.

This sorry beast which might have drowned,
As hogs and humans can,
He also made, so runs the round,
To feed the whaler-man.

The whaler-man will get his “lay,”
The whaler’s pig his share —
First whale, then pig, then man. Some day
The worm will make it square!

E. J. Brady, The Ways of Many Waters, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1909 [first published 1899], pages 45-48

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