Maurice Thompson

(1844-1901 / the United States)

Old Rochon - Poem by Maurice Thompson


It was off the coast of the Terre aux Boeufs
(And the breeze was brisk and the sea was rough)
That Gaspard Rochon, the buccaneer,
Sailed his schooner, and right good cheer
Had he on his table, with pipes and wine,
As he feasted the mate of the Caroline.


The Caroline was a cruiser craft;
Rochon had raked her fore and aft,
With cannon and with carronade,
And had boarded her with pike and blade,
Had pillaged and sunk her; only the mate
Was left to tell of his vessel's fate.


'You fought like a tiger,' said old Rochon,
'And I'll bet my schooner, the Gonfalon,
That you have heard the broadsides roar
And the cutlasses clang ofttimes before.'
'Yes,' growled the mate, 'for many a year
I 've battled with pirate and buccaneer.'


'Drink and be merry,' the outlaw said;
Drink to the living and drink to the dead.
Drink pale sherry and drink old port!
Eat and be merry, for life is short!
Ay, drink like a fish and eat like a swine,
For death may follow when pirates dine!'


'By the way,' said the mate, 'did you ever hear
Of old Rochon, the buccaneer,
Who used to sail the southern seas,
With his rendezvous in the Florida keys?'
'Perchance I have,' was the curt reply,
With a savage gleam from the old man's eye.


'He was a terror,' the mate went on,
(All unaware that he faced Rochon)
'A cut-throat villain, a coward, too,
With a stolen ship and a dastard crew;-
But his race is ended, he 's feared no more
By women and children on sea or shore.'


Over the mate, from head to heel,
The pirate outflung a glance of steel.
'Gaspard Rochon was a buccaneer
Who never felt a touch of fear,'
He said, 'and I 'd like to drink a cup
With the tar who broke his cruising up!'


'Well,' said the mate, 'I ran him down,
Burnt his vessels and razed his town;
Women and men, every devil's one,
I killed of the gang, save old Rochon,
Who made escape with loss of an ear.'
'And who cut that?' roared the buccaneer.


'Who but I?' sang out the mate.
'My cutlass glanced from his flinty pate
And shaved his ear off, close and clean,
Which I have in my pouch as dry as a bean.'
'Show me,' the old man stormed, 'that ear
Of old Rochon the buccaneer!'


'Here it is,' said the mate with pride,
As out of the pouch that hung by his side
He drew the relic and held it high,
Like a bit of parchment brown and dry.
'Ha! ha! ha!' laughed the buccaneer,
'Eat and drink and have good cheer!


'Drink pale sherry and drink red port!
Eat and be merry, for life is short!'
And then he hurried the mate on deck
And tied a halliard around his neck,
While the crew stood by to haul away,
And a hunchback fifer began to play.


For years the schooner Gonfalon
Was sailed by the savage old Rochon,
And wherever she went, at her topmast high
Dangled a corpse against the sky-
A corpse that like a mummy grew
And lightly about in the breezes blew!


Oh, red were the deeds of old Rochon
And wild were the crew of the Gonfalon!
In every nook of the Spanish main
The cruisers cruised for them in vain,
While they robbed and feasted and drank good wine
To the health of the mate of the Caroline!

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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 17, 2010

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