Cicely Fox Smith
Mainsail Haul - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
'I don't want none of 'is stuff,' said Bill, 'nor I don't want none of 'is gear,
I don't want things as I've known 'im use nor things as I've seen 'im wear:
It ain't such things as them,' he said, 'an' that the truth, my son,
'Ull make me think o' Mike my pal, now Mike 'e's dead an' gone.'
'There's Bluenose Pete 'e wants 'is palm an' the knife 'e wouldn't sell,
An' Jake 'e wants 'is good seaboots, 'cos 'is own they leak like hell,
An' one wants this an' one wants that, the way chaps do at sea -
Well, let them take their pick, says I, they can 'ave the lot for me.'
'An' they can 'ave 'is teakwood chest wi' the paintin' as 'e did
off Sydney 'Eads, full sail, inside the lid,
An' the marlin spike 'e always used, an' the bottled ship 'e made,
Rollin' up to the Western Isles, close-hauled on the Nor' East Trade.
'For Mike an' me was pals,' said he, 'an' I couldn't bring my mind
To wrangle like a greedy gull for the gear 'e left behind:
We've sailed together rough an' smooth, we've stuck it, sink or swim,
An' it ain't Mike's bits o' things, God knows, 'ull make me think of 'im.'
'It's sun an' stars an' fog an' frost an' blue weather an' grey,
An' big seas curlin' green as glass afore they break in spray,
An' sudden dark on tropic seas dropped down like a blind that's drawn,
An' stormy sunsets off the capes an' strange landfalls at dawn.'
'It's drunkards shoutin' scraps o' songs in waterfront saloons,
An' two-stringed fiddles Chink girls play thrum-thrumin' queer old tunes,
An' the papery noise the palm-trees make when offshore winds are wakin',
An' the fellers singin' out on the brace, an' the royal clew a-shakin'.'
'It's things you eat an' things you drink in all the ports you know,
An' the raspy twang o' Spanish wine, an' mule trains tinklin' slow,
An' the steamy reek of Eastern towns an' stuffy smoky smells
In shrines where fat pot-bellied gods sit smilin' to theirsels.'
'It's things you see an' things you 'ear an' things you feel an' do,
They bring the dead alive again, they make the old years new,
An' it ain't Mike's bits o' things I'll want, an' that's God's truth, my son,
To make me think o' Mike my pal, now Mike 'e's dead an' gone.'
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