I'll tell you a seafaring story,
Of a lad who won honour and fame
Wi' Nelson at Battle 'Trafalgar,
Joe Moggeridge, that were his name.
He were one of the crew of the Victory,
His job when a battle begun
Was to take cannon balls out o' basket
And shove 'em down front end o' gun.
One day him and Nelson were boxing,
The compass, like sailor lads do.
When 'Ardy comes up wi' a spyglass,
And pointing, says "'Ere, take a screw!"
They looked to were 'Ardy were pointing,
And saw lots o' ships in a row.
Joe says abrupt like but respectful,
"'Oratio lad, yon's the foe."
'What say we attack 'em?' says Nelson,
Says Joe 'Nay lad, not today.'
And 'Ardy says, 'Aye, well let's toss up.'
'Oratio answers 'Okay.'
They tossed... it were heads for attacking,
And tails for t'other way 'bout.
Joe lent them his two-headed penny,
So the answer was never in doubt.
When penny came down 'ead side uppards,
They was in for a do it were plain,
And Joe murmered 'Shiver me timbers.'
And Nelson kissed 'Ardy again.
And then, taking flags out o' locker,
'E strung out a message on high.
'T were all about England and duty,
Crew thought they was 'ung out to dry.
They got the guns ready for action,
And that gave 'em trouble enough.
They 'adn't been fired all the summer,
And touch-holes were bunged up wi' fluff.
Joe's cannon, it weren't 'alf a corker,
The cannon balls went three foot round.
They wasn't no toy balloons either,
They weighed close on sixty-five pound.
Joe, selecting two of the largest,
Was going to load double for luck.
When a hot shot came in thro' the porthole,
And a gunpowder barrel got struck.
By gum! there weren't 'alf an explosion,
The gun crew were filled with alarm.
As out of the porthole went Joseph,
Wi' a cannon ball under each arm.
At that moment up came the 'Boat-swine'
He says 'Where's Joe?' Gunner replied...
'E's taken two cannon balls with 'im,
And gone for a breather outside.'
'Do y' think he'll be long?' said the 'Boat-swine'
The gunner replied, 'If as 'ow,
'E comes back as quick as 'e left us,
'E should be 'ere any time now.
And all this time Joe, treading water,
Was trying 'is 'ardest to float.
'E shouted thro' turmoil of battle,
'Tell someone to lower a boat.'
'E'd come to the top for assistance,
Then down to the bottom he'd go;
This up and down kind of existence,
Made everyone laugh... except Joe.
At last 'e could stand it no longer,
And next time 'e came to the top.
'E said 'If you don't come and save me,
I'll let these 'ere cannon balls drop.'
'T were Nelson at finish who saved him,
And 'e said Joe deserved the V.C.
But finding 'e 'adn't one 'andy,
'E gave Joe an egg for 'is tea.
And after the battle was over,
And vessel was safely in dock.
The sailors all saved up their coupons,
And bought Joe a nice marble clock.
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Comments about this poem (Gunner Joe by Marriott Edgar )
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