Cicely Fox Smith
Bill's Christmases - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
'Christmas,' said Bill, 'on Christmas cards, it's winders all aglow,
An' lots o' stuff to eat an' drink an' a good three feet o' snow,
An' a bunch o' bouncin' girls to kiss under the mistletoe.
Holly an' robin redbreasts too, as rosy as can be,
An' waits an' chimes an' all such gear as you never get at sea,
But it's different things as Christmas means to a ramblin' bloke like me.
The first I ever 'ad at sea I was 'ardly more 'n a nipper,
An' I'd took an' signed, bein' young an' green, in a dandy Down-east clipper
With a bullnecked beast of a bucko mate an' a rare tough nut of a skipper.
An' we dined 'andsome, so we did, off biscuits an' salt 'orse,
An' finished up with scraper duff an' sand-an'-canvas sorce,
An' them as growled got seaboot soup by way of an extry course.
I've 'ad my Christmas 'ere an' there, I've 'ad it up an' down,
I've 'ad it sober on the seas an' drunk in sailor-town,
I've 'ad it where the folks are black an' where the folks are brown,
And under many a tropic sky an' many a foreign star,
In Perim, Portland, Pernambuck, Malacca, Malabar,
Where the rum bird-'eaded totem poles and the gilded Buddhas are.
I've 'ad it froze in Baltic cold an' burned in Red Sea 'eat,
I've 'ad it in a Channel fog as busy as a street,
An' once I 'ad it off the 'Orn, an' that was sure a treat.
I was in the clipper Sebright then - a big ship, 'eavy sparred,
With every sort o' flyin' kite an' a seventy foot mainyard,
An' 'andlin' 'er in a gale of wind, I tell you, it was 'ard!
We come on deck for the middle watch, an' save us, 'ow it blew!
A night like the devil's ridin'boots, that never a star shone through,
An' the seas they kep' on poopin' 'er till we 'ad to 'eave 'er to.
We snugged 'er down, we 'ove 'er to, an' there all night lay she,
With one mainyard arm pointin' to 'eaven an' one to the deeps o' the sea,
Dippin' 'er spars at every roll in the thunderin' foam alee.
Till the wind an' sea went down a bit an' the dawn come cold an' grey,
An' we laid aloft an' loosed the sails an' squared the ship away,
An' a chap beside me on the yard says, 'Bill, it's Christmas Day!''
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