Christmas at Sea (on a Lee-Shore)Poem by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
Adapted by Charlie Ipcar with original tune © 2004
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The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, me boys, where a sailor scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor'-wester, blowing squally from the sea,
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.
Now we heard the surf a-roaring, 'fore the breaking of the day;
But only in the morning light did we see how ill she lay;
We tumbled from our hammocks, briskly with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops'l, stood by to come about.
All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
Now we gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
On shore we saw the lighthouse blaze, as dark began to fall.
"All hands to loose to'ga'n's'ls," we heard the Captain call;
"By the Lord she'll never stand it," our first mate, Jackson cried;
"It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson," he replied.
She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship nosed up to windward just as though she understood;
As the winter's day was ending, in the coming of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.
The crew all heaved a mighty breath, every soul aboard but me,
As the helmsman swung her bow around, pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home, and my folks were growing old.