Cicely Fox Smith Poems >>

Last night in the Baltic Tavern tap
I met, Mike said, "a longshore chap
And said, 'Don't sailorin' look queer
With all them mines an' suchlike gear?'
'If I was you,' 'e says, says 'e,
'I'd take a shore job same as me,
An' leave this trouble that's around
For them that's fond o' getting' drowned.'"

"'No, no,' I says, 'I ain't a-givin'
It up for any square'ead livin'.
The way I puts it in my 'ead
Is — no man's done until 'e's dead,
An' if it comes to dyin', sure,
A man dies once, an' then no more.'"

"I says, 'When ships 'as left off goin',
An' grass on London docks is growin',
(The same's it is, so I've 'eard say,
On all them 'Amburg wharves this day),
When Lloyd's is broke an' on their uppers,
An' all the owners in the scuppers,
Why, then,' I says, 'I might be lookin'
For a job o' cartin' coals, or cookin',
Or washin' pots, or sellin' tapes,
Or leadin' bears, or learnin' apes,
But since, as I 'ear tell, so far
There's still ships passin' Mersey Bar,
An' one or two comes in each day
To London Docks, so I've 'eard say,
An' ships can't sail without no crew, —
So long as they sail, I sail too.'"

"'If you, young man, 'ad followed the sea
Your 'ole life long, the same as me,
'Ad known it wakin' an' asleep,
An' seen God's wonders in the deep,
I guess you'd not be rattled much
By mines or submarines or such,
Or care a bloomin' finger snap
For no fool Kaiser or such chap .'"

"'Besides,' I says, 'when all is said,
Just think o' them poor chaps that's dead —
Poor pals o' mine as 'ad to die —
They took their chances . . . so do I!'"

Cicely Fox Smith