White! [poem by “Dryblower” Murphy, 1926]

[Editor: This poem by “Dryblower” Murphy was published in Dryblower’s Verses (1926).]

White!

With a gash in her bows and her screws a-flail
She poised for the drowning dive,
But never a sea-bronzed face turned pale
In that shuddering steel-walled hive.
Never a pistol had need to leap
Dead plumb at a coward’s brain,
Never a cutlass needs to sweep
Where white men march the main.
“Hurry up, missus! Come along, kid!
Steady!” the bosun calls,
Till the last rough pair of hands have slid
The strands of the swaying falls.

Not from corrupt Calcutta,
Nor starving Seringapatam;
Not from the Ganges’ gutter
Where leprous hordes salaam;
Men from the English seaport towns,
Found in a tap-room fight,
But men, by God! who are British at heart —
British and brave and white!

The found’ring hull sinks slowly down
Beneath the summer skies;
They watch her fo’c’sle dip and drown,
They watch her rudder rise.
The waters wash around her waist
As the lifeboats shoreward steer,
But there isn’t s quiver of craven haste
Nor a flutter of faint-heart fear.
The bowmen pilot with lifted hand,
The helmsmen steering aft,
Till a gap in the reef that fangs the sand
Accepts the crowded craft.

Eight hundred feet spring glad and light
To the sandy, shallowing beach,
While the worth of a million sovereigns bright
Slips down from human reach
But never a precious life is lost,
Never a drowning cry
To tell of another holocaust
Where hundreds choke and die.
So over the world, and round the world,
Shall cheers the silence crack
Wherever a flag in flown and furled
On ships that ban the black.

* * *

Not from corrupt Calcutta,
Nor starving Seringapatam;
Not from the Ganges’ gutter
Where leprous hordes salaam;
Men from the English seaport towns,
Found in a tap-room fight —
Men, by God! who are British at heart;
British and brave and white!




Source:
Edwin Greenslade Murphy, Dryblower’s Verses, Perth, W.A.: E. G. Murphy, 1926, pages 14-15

Previously published (with some differences) in:
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 3 April 1910, p. 6

Editor’s notes:
fang = (Old English, Old Norse) capture, grasp, grip, seize hold of (especially regarding booty or loot); also, a long tapering pointed animal tooth; a long tapering pointed item, shaped like an animal’s fang; (slang) a human tooth; (slang) to go fast, especially to drive fast (from Juan Manuel Fangio, 1911-1995, a famous Argentinian racing car driver, who was the preeminent world champion of Formula One racing)

fo’c’s’le = (a contraction of “forecastle”) the section of the upper deck of a vessel, at the bow, forward of the foremast, where the crew is quartered and stores located

Seringapatam = (also spelt Srirangapatna) a town located at the western end of Seringapatam Island in the Kaveri River (Cauvery River) in the state of Karnataka, India; from 1610 to 1799 it was the capital of the kingdom of Mysore, used as a fortress city, which was besieged by the British in the Third Anglo-Mysore War in 1792, and later besieged and captured by the British in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799 (Lachlan Macquarie, later Governor of New South Wales, was present at the 1799 siege)
See: 1) “Seringapatam”, Encyclopaedia Britannica (accessed 20 May 2014)
2) “Introduction” (Seringapatam 1799), Macquarie University (accessed 20 May 2014)
3) “Siege of Seringapatam (1792)”, Wikipedia (accessed 20 May 2014)
4) “Siege of Seringapatam (1799)”, Wikipedia (accessed 20 May 2014)

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