Cicely Fox Smith

(1 February 1882 – 8 April 1954 / Lymm, Cheshire)

Bill Brewster - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

In Burke's Saloon, among the crowd,
I heard Bill Brewster boasting loud,
Boasting loud and boasting long
A lot of longshore stiffs among.
And oh! The tales Bill Brewster told
About his deeds both brave and bold,
And how he tamed on his last trip
A tough-nut, hard-case, blue-nose ship,
Damned the skipper, licked the mate,
And downed a bosun twice his weight,
And had 'em eating from his hand,
Within a week from losing land . . .
And how he'd fought a whole saloon
Of jealous Dagoes, to some tune,
Armed to the teeth with guns and knives,
And sent 'em howling for their lives,
And all because the girls, you know,
They just love Bill Brewster so!
And somewhere else, off his bat
He'd laid out six policemen flat, -
For 'Boys,' said he, 'no fetal error,
But when I'm roused I'm sure a terror!'

So off he swaggered with his din
To find more greenhorns to take in,
And all his bunch of stiffs did follow
With all their mouths stretched wide to swallow
The guff Bill handed 'em, like beer . . .
And sure enough Bill's yarns to hear
You'd think no skipper'd stand his ground
For half-an-hour when Bill was round,
Nor any mate that sails the sea
Would dare lay hands on such as he,
Nor port from Bombay to Brazil
But trembles just to hear of Bill.

And yet when Bill's out at sea,
Why, quite a different chap is he, -
For he's the sort that likes to shirk
Such nasty things as jobs of work,
The sort that never tries to earn
The pay he well knows how to burn,
Or stand his trick, or pull his weight,
Fair and fair like a good shipmate.
The kind of thing that suits Bill more
Is hanging round the galley door,
And licking pots, and peeling spuds,
And dobying other people's duds,
And eating up the cabin scraps,
And sneaking things off other chaps.
And yet you'd never think how quick
He'll stir himself to dodge a kick,
Nor yet how smart aloft he'll shin
At the sight of a belaying-pin.
For Bill afloat's like plenty more
That talk so big when they're ashore,
And once at sea, you'll quickly find
His valour's mostly . . . in his mind!

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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010

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