Cicely Fox Smith
News In Daly's Bar - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
In Daly's Bar, when night is come, and the lighted gas-lamps glow,
All red and gold the drinks do shine, and the glittering taps a-row,
And out and in by the swinging doors the sailors come and go.
They come with word of ship and man - with news of Trade and tide,
From nitrate port and sawmill wharf and islands far and wide,
And many a foreign sailor town and roaring waterside.
And never a tale goes round the ports from Riga to Rangoon,
And never a seaman's yarn is spun in a water-front saloon,
But the sailormen to Daly's Bar they bring it late or soon.
And old or new, and false or true, they bring it near or far,
From the Golden Gate to Sunda Strait, where ships or sailors are,
Till soon or late the tale is told at last in Daly's Bar.
And never a ship is cast away, from Leeuwin unto Line,
In ice or fog, in storm or calm, in foul weather or fine,
But they tell the tale in Daly's Bar when the flaring lamps do shine.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
And there was one night, when wet and wild the puddle streets did show,
And all along the silent wharves the volleying wind did go,
I heard them speak in Daly's Bar of a man I used to know.
And 'Have you spoke Jim Driscoll, then?' I cried, 'And where is he?
Does he sail yet in windjammers, or has he left the sea?
Or has he taken berth in steam by now, the same as me?'
'Shipmates were we in the old
, and the best of pals ashore -
You mind the old
- Clay's ship she was in '94 -
They sold her to the Dagoes since - we build her like no more.'
'Shipmates and more were him and me in a time that's far away -
And for that old time's sake alone I'd give twelve month's pay
To shake Jim Driscoll by the hand and see his face today!'
Then up spoke an old shellback there that close beside did stand -
All red and blue the bright tattoo showed on each hairy hand,
And his eyes they narrowed in the glare, as he were strange to land.
And 'Go you South to Sandy Point or North to Behring Sea,
And ask you news in all the ports both East and West,' said he,
'But never a man you'll find has seen Jim Driscoll's face since me.'
'I sailed with him from Frisco Bay with a drunken deadbeat crew
In all the crowd was hardly one could steer beside us two -
An' he was a decent sailorman - as good's I ever knew.'
'There was him an' me an' Sam the Yank, there in the wild Horn weather,
That hard it blew our royals went down wind like a gull's feather -
Him an' me an' the Yank was there on the tops'l yard together.'
'We hauled the blasted tackle out an' got the earing passed,
An' fisted down the frozen sail an' made the reef-points fast -
So bad a blow I never saw, but we made all snug at last.'
'The worst damned night I ever knew - blowin', an' black as hell -
An' how he went, or where he went, there's no one lives can tell . . .
For the Yank an' me, we never heard nor saw when Driscoll fell.'
'He was somewhere out in the thunderin' dark an' roarin' foam to lee.'
'What . . . Driscoll dead?' said I . . . He laughed . . . 'Ay, dead enough,' said he.
'God knows the man was never born could live in such a sea.'
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I turned away from Daly's Bar, for I could bear no more
The spilled drink, and the reek of breath, and the foul and slimy floor,
And the fool's din of the drunken men that sang, and laughed, and swore.
I felt the cold rain lash my cheek, and chill me to the bone,
I heard along the empty streets, the wild wind make its moan,
And I thought of Driscoll dying there in the darkness all alone.
I heard the roaring of the wind and the beating of the rain,
And the full tide lap in the dock-basins and the mooring-ropes complain,
And I thought of him whom on this earth I shall not meet again.
Music and mirth in lighted rooms I heard as I went by,
The dancers' feet upon the floor, and laughter rising high,
And I thought of him who was too strong, too full of life to die.
And still, for all I heard so clear, the words so plainly said,
And well I know that none comes back by the road he had to tread,
Still many's the time I think of him, and cannot think him dead.
Ay, still - though none knows more than I how deep, how far he lies -
If I, in some strange foreign port, should one day lift my eyes,
And see him cruising down the street, I should not feel surprise -
With a whistled tune between his teeth, the way he used to do,
And his old accordion under his arm, and a crested cockatoo,
And the roving eye and merry glance, and ready laugh I knew -
And we should meet in the old fashion, and greet as shipmates may,
And a score of tales would be to tell, and a thousand things to say,
While the day it faded into dark, and the night grew into day -
And this should be a tale to tell, when all our yarns were through,
The last and best among them all, and a laugh between us two,
The news I heard in Daly's Bar, and half believed it true . . .
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