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A Sailor’s Yarn

By J. J Roche, Circa 1890
From A Nonsense Anthology
Adapted by Charlie Ipcar, 1993
Tune: adapted from Whup Jamboree

As narrated by the second mate to one of the marines

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Now this is the tale 'twas told to me,
By a battered and shattered son of the sea:
To me and my messmate, Silas Green,
When I was a guileless young marine.

'Twas on the good ship Flying Fish
All in the China Seas;
With the wind alee, and the capstan free,
We set sail for Cadiz,
Yes, we set sail for Cadiz.

Said Captain Oakum on the deck
To the Mate on the mizzen hatch,
"How heads our gallant ship tonight?
Shall we wind the larboard watch?
Shall we wind the larboard watch?"

The Mate drew forth his compass rose
And tapped it on the rail,
"Why, she heads to the E. S. W. by N.
In the teeth of a raging gale.
In the teeth of a raging gale."

"Then, fly aloft to the royal top yard
And reef that spanker boom,
Bend a studding sail to the martingale
To give her weather room.
Yes, to give her weather room."

"Pray, Bosun, down in the for'ard hold,
What water do you show?"
"Four foot and a half by the royal gaff
And rather more below.
Yes, and rather more below."

"Then, sailors, collar your marline spikes
And roll each belaying pin;
Come, stir your stumps to spike the pumps,
Or more will be coming in.
Yes, more will be coming in."

They stirred their stumps, they spiked the pumps,
They spliced the old main brace;
Aloft and alow they worked, but, oh!
The water gained apace
Yes, the water gained apace.

They bored a hole beneath her line
To let the water out,
But more and more with an awful roar,
The water in did spout
Yes, the water in did spout.

Then up spoke the Cook of our gallant ship –
And he was a lubber brave –
"I've several wives in various ports,
And me bacon I would save.
Yes, me bacon I would save."

The next to speak was our Bosun bold,
Who feared neither fish nor fog –
"'Tis dreadful to die, but 'tis worse to go dry,
And I move we pipes to grog.
Yes, I move we pipes to grog."

The last to speak was our Second Mate,
Whose courage was second to none –
"Takes more than lip to save a ship,
I'll show you how 'tis done!
Yes, I'll show you how 'tis done!"

Then hoisting the anchor upon his back,
He leapt into the main;
Through foam and spray he clove his way,
And sunk and rose again.
Yes, he sunk and rose again.

Through foam and spray, a league away,
The anchor stout he bore,
Till safe at last, he made it fast,
And warped the ship ashore!
Yes, he warped the ship ashore!

Ay, this is the tale 'twas told to me,
By that modest and truthful son of the sea;
And I envy the life of a Second Mate,
Though captains curse him and the sailors hate;
For he ain't like some of the swabs I've seen
Who'd go and lie to a poor marine.

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