H.M.S. by Grant Hervey

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Three thousand tons o' metal,
   Two hundred hearts a-score,
Ten thousand winds a-beatin',
   Ten billion seas a-roar!
Ten furnace-doors a-bangin',
   Ten sweaty chests a-steam,
Ten souls a-cursin', cursin',
   With pain and heat o' steam!

She ships it down her funnel --
   Splash on her boiler steel!
We get it on our bodies,
   In livid scar and weal!
We get it when she wallows
   Down under water-spire --
We "get it" when the ocean
   Pours down and drowns her fires!

"Why ain't she steamin' faster?"
   King Gold-lace thunders down;
With scorched and parboiled bodies,
   His Maj.'s stokers frown.
Why ain't she steamin' faster! --
   Because we get no coal
To drive this cursed hell-box
   To aught but Davy's goal!

Because our fuel's measured --
   So many tons per diem;
Because our fires are out, an'
   Our souls are scorched with steam!
Because she's took to drinkin'
   The salt stuff thro' her stack;
Because her engines funk it;
   Because her heart's a-rack!

"It's bully in the navy,"
   Chips Johnny Mercantile;
"It's bully in the King's ships,
   With lazin' shafts to ile!"
It's bully down in hell, then,
   If it is bully here!
A man can leave a liner --
   A King's man cannot clear.

You've got to stop and stand it --
   The torture of the steam;
You've got to clean her boilers,
   With heart and soul a-scream.
"It's bully in the navy!"
   Yah! bully when she ships
The seats to boil and scald you,
   Down thro' her funnel lips!

It's bully when your flesh is
   Boiled soft as tender lamb;
It's joyous when the stokehold
   Is used for picklin' ham!
It's better in the Navy?
   Gimme the Mercantile!
A King's man's got to stop, an'
   Graft under Sheol's smile!

Gimme the liners' stokeholds,
   A man can clear from them! --
You cannot when you're stokin'
   For Crown an' diadem!
It's Hell to be a King's Man,
   With lazin' shafts to ile;
You're parboiled in the Navee! ---

First published in The Bulletin, 7 March 1903

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 7, 2012 6:37 AM.

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