A SEAMAN’S TALE OF THE SEA
We men hat go down for a livin’
in ships to the sea,—
We love it a different way from you poets that ’bide on the land.
We are fond of it, sure! But, you take it as comin’ from me,
There’s a fear and a hate in our love that a landsman can’t understand.
Oh, who could help likin’ the salty smell, and the blue
Of the waves that are lazily breathin’ as if they dreamed in the sun?
She’s a Sleepin’ Beauty, the sea,—but you can’t tell what she’ll do;
And the seamen never trust her,—they know too well what she’s done!
She’s a wench like one that I saw in a singin’-play,—
Carmen they called her,—Lord, what a life her lovers did lead!
She’d cuddle and kiss you, and sing you and dance you away;
And then,—she’d curse you, and break you, and throw you down like a
You may chance it awhile with the girls like that, if you please;
But you want a woman to trust when you settle down with a wife;
And a seaman’s thought of growin’ old at his ease
Is a snug little house on the land to shelter the rest of his life.
So that was old Poisson’s dream,—did you know the Cap’?
A brown little Frenchman, clever, and brave, and quick as a fish,—
Had a wife and kids on the other side of the map,—
And a rose-covered cottage for them and him was his darlin’ wish.
“I ’ave sail,” says
he, in his broken-up Frenchy talk,
“Mos’ forty-two year; I ‘ave go on all part of de worl’ dat ees wet.
I’m seeck of de boat and de water. I rader walk
Wid ma Josephine in one garden; an’ eef we get tire’, we set!
“You see dat bateau, Sainte
Brigitte? I bring ’er dh’are
From de Breton coas’, by gar, jus’ feefteen year bifore.
She ole w’en she come on Kebec, but Holloway Freres
Dey buy ‘er, an’ hire me run ‘er along dat dam’ Nort’ Shore.
“Dose engine one leetl’ bit
cranky,—too ole, you see,—
She roll and peetch in de wave’. But I lak’ ’er pretty well;
An’ dat sheep she lak’ ’er captaine, sure, dat’s me!
Wit’ forty ton coal in de bunker, I tek’ dat sheep t’rou’ hell.
“But I don’ wan’ risk
it no more; I had bonne chance:
I save already ten t’ousan’ dollar’, dat’s plenty I s’pose!
Nex’ winter I buy dat house wid de garden on France
An’ I tell adieu to de sea, and I leev’ on de lan’ in ripose.”
All summer he talked of his house,—you
could see the flowers
Abloom, and the pear-trees trained on the garden-wall so trim,
And the Captain awalkin’ and smokin’ away the hours,—
He thought he had done with the sea, but the sea hadn’t done with him!