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Sails at Brixham by Myra Morris

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I walked alone, a stranger I,
   To weald and wold and lea,
But when I saw the rust-red sails
   Beside the Brixham quay,
I felt within my veins the blood
   Rise up in ecstasy.

The sails along the Brixham sea,
   Flecked while with feathery foam,
Wore every shade of red that ran
   Through all the Devon loam--  
And Devon earth and Devon airs
   Cried me a welcome home.

The sturdy Brixham fishermen,  
   With faces weather-stung,
Talked to me where the fishing nets
   Along the harbour hung,
And oh, I listened half-entranced--
   I knew their Devon tongue.

A stranger I from far away,
   With ne'er a memory,
Yet when I saw those Brixham sails
   Take up the wind for me,  
I knew that through my blood there ran
   The salty Devon sea.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 October 1931

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Old Seamen by Myra Morris

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Along by the river and along by the quay,
Where fresh from the ocean comes a wind blowing free,
The old men, the seamen, sit huddled up and wan,
A-thinking and a-dreaming of the days long gone.

A-thinking and a-dreaming of the old black ships,
Their whiskers a-wagging and the salt on their lips,
With eyes that are rheumy and sticks going tap,
Where the tarred ropes grumble and the grey waves lap.

And ay! but they're back again as they've been before,
Their feet in the damp of a dark fo'c's'le floor,
Tacking up to nor'ard in the fury of a gale,
With a wrenched hull leaking and a snugged down sail.

Only the quay is there, the wide river mouth.
But, ho! they are beating up again from the south,
The wind in the shrouds and the foam at the keel,
Soaring up aloft or straining at the wheel.

Now they're round the Horn with white sails spread,
Tracking up to China or glimpsing Java Head.
They're fast at their moorings by the wee, white towns;
They're lying off the Lizard or anchored in the Downs.

Drifting on the Dogger Bank great sails in the moon,
The wind and the wash and the rigging all a-tune;
Rolling up to Rio on the arms of the sea,
Or down from the Hoogli with a hold full of tea.

With red lights and green lights getting under way,
With sea-boots and oilers that are glistening with spray.
Sheeting home the top-sails, hauling down the jibs,
They're swaying to the tremble of the taut, live ribs.

Rosy in the morning they swing with the tide,
Over from Belfast to the mast-thronged Clyde;
Blaring through the fog with the wind abaft the beam,
Where the white gulls are wheeling in a world of dream.

Whaling-ships front Hudson's Bay and windjammers full,
Coal-hulks and steamers and clippers stowed with wool,
Slim fore-and-afters, barquentines and brigs
And creeping tub, from Persia with brown date, and figs.

But now all the old men are sitting side by side,
Hearing vanished voices in the surge of the tide.
God! There's little left of hearty life to be,
For their lives are behind them in the long, lone sea!

Away past the bar steal the great grey ships;
They are watching them sail with their hearts on their lips.
Oh, they can never go till the full tides are run,
Till the eight bells ring for their long watch done!

First published in The Bulletin, 12 June 1924

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

In Port by Myra Morris

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Lie still, lie still, O brother ships,
   Along the murky bay;
For you have known the wide, white tracks
   And touched the far-away
The muted songs of lonely lands,
The stirrings of barbaric sands
   Still whisper where you sway!

How have you swept with snowy sail
   Up summer-dreaming seas,
Where once the Roman galleys flew
   Like birds before the breeze,
And glimpsed along the Golden Horn
Your startled shadows in the morn,
   Or touched the Hebrides!

Or northwards, in the Scottish nights,
   Beyond the purple mulls.
How have you cut the curtained mists,
   A-creep, with shrouded hulls,
And past the Orkneys gaunt and stark
Heard on the headlands hazy dark
   The melancholy gulls!

O brother ships at anchor there,
   What wealth is in the hold?
Prints from the looms of Lancashire,
   And rugs the Tartars sold:
Pale, pearly rice and tawny wine
And fruits from arid Palestine,
   And hammered brass and gold?

For me beside the weedy walls,
   For me what do you bring?
A coral chain or ivory,
   From Amsterdam a ring?
Fine lace that dusky hands have spun,
Old cups of grace that hold the sun,
   Or carpets for a king?

O brother ships, my brother ships,
   The breeze from off the blue
Will call and call you out again
   And sweep your decks anew!
But I -- but I may never go,
Although the winds that round you blow
   Stir all heart-strings, too!

First published in The Bulletin, 3 January 1924

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Sailing Orders by C.J. Dennis

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Through the usual coincidence many ships, including the Australian Naval Squadron, have reached Melbourne just prior to Cup Week.

Up the hook, the bosun said;
   (Ho, me hearties, ho!)
There's heavy weather on ahead
   (Tumble up, below!)
There's dirty weather coming down,
Our course is set for Melbourne town
   And a queer thing that should be!
So show a leg and tumble up, and pick your fancy for the Cup
   With the good ship running free.

Funny thing, the boatman said,
   (Ho, me hearties, ho!)
But when November looms ahead
   (Tumble up, below!)
To Melbourne Port the orders say,
And nothing's left but to obey,
   For the likes of you and me.
And what's a sailor to do, when duty calls, but see it through,
   With the good ship running free?

If I should win, the boatman said;
   (Ho, me hearties, ho!)
I'll buy myself a feather bed
   (Tumble up, below!)
And never put to sea again.
Yet luck ain't kind to sailor men,
   But I'll get my fun, said he.
But every man shall have his lass, and make his bet and drink a glass,
   To a good horse running free, said he,
   And that's the life for me!

First published in The Herald, 3 November 1931

The Last by Henry Parkes

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A beautiful ship o'er the waters career'd
(For a part in the East the bold mariners steer'd),
And queen-like she stood in the sun's dying light;
But she struck on a reef, and went down in the night!   

A storm gathered fast as the darkness set in,
And the ocean grew wroth, as a thing that felt sin;
Not a star its mild light through the stormy night shed,
And the waves and the winds seemed to mingle o'er head.

Majestic the beautiful ship met the storm,
But her fate on that reef was prepared by the worm!   
In the dead of the night she was riven asunder,
With a shock more terrific and wild than the thunder.

There were friends in the hulk as her timbers were starting,
But they felt not a pang of affection in parting;
For the grasp of the tempest o'erpower'd them instead,
Like the pressing of death to the infidel's bed!

And those suppliant eyes, when they thought to meet Heaven,
In the gulf of the sea by a demon were driven;
And the horrible shriek which went up in despair,
With the howl of the wind, died away in the air!

There are hearts far away that shall sorrow in vain,
Long hoping, but, ah they will come not again;
Nor a rover of all who return shall unfold
The tale which those fond hearts so throb to hear told!  

First published
in The Australasian Chronicle, 7 August 1841;
and later in
Stolen Moments: A Short Series of Poems by Henry Parkes, 1842.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

The Star: A Deep Sea Toast by Will Lawson

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In the dark of the dawn we heard her blow
   As you swung her and steamed away,
And we sleepily rose to watch her go --
   A ghost in the morning grey.
And it came to me there in the light so dim
   That, of all the toasts we drank,
Last night when we talked of the ships that swim
   And the tired old boats that sank --
Of all the toasts -- they were none too few! --
   The best of the lot, by far,
Would have been "The ship that carried us through!"
   And we never once toasted the "Star."

So, fill up your glasses, you sailormen,
   And we'll drink this brave toast now,
When the old ship's out on the seas again
   With the foam all white at her prow.
While her stout hull sways to the lullabies
   Of the winds that are wanderers --
Oh! never a brave hull rode the seas
   So sturdy and staunch as hers!
You'll have dropped the loom of Australia's coast,
   But you, wherever you are,
Must charge your glasses and drink this toast,
   "The ship that we love, the Star!"

She has lifted the lights of every land
   That is washed by the seven seas.
By the langorous airs of the tropics fanned --
   Or the keen, clean Arctic breeze.
She has slogged with her bluff bows head to sea
   To battle her way off shore:
When we thought we were logging our "two" or "three,"
   She added a good deal more.
And this is the toast that we all forgot
  In the glare of the lighted bar --
The worthiest toast of a worthy lot --
   "Gentlemen, drink to the Star!"

You will raise the lights on many a coasts,
   And the George-street lights will seem
A memory warm and bright at most,
   And the harbor lights a dream.
But the Coogee lamps half-mooned, that burn,
   And the Bondi lights, will be
As beacons fair when her old bows turn
   To the tides of the Tasman Sea.
We have charged our glasses to drink to her
   And to you, wherever you are --
("Eight bells and the lights burn brightly, sir!")
   Gentlemen, hush! -- "The Star!"

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 16 April 1913

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Steamer Voices by Boyce Bowden

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Calling through the failing twilight, riding on the striding gale,
How the voices of the steamers lift and answer hail for hail;
Sea-words on the swift nor'-easter shrilling over grey and damp,
"Hi there!" from the dipping tugboat. "Ho there!" from the lurching tramp.

I am weary-souled and hungry for the world that's green and salt;
Lost amid the city's mazes, mine the bondage, not the fault;
Cautious Reason soothes the senses, and the narrowed life is right
Till I hear the steamer-voices calling on a windy night.

How the strong air bears their voices; yet between the fitful lulls
All my fancy hears the tide-way wrenching at their weedy hulls;
And I hear a fading music like a shower of silver rain,
As the wild gusts whip the white spray from each tautened anchor-chain.

I can hear them, I can hear them; all the bare and beaten street
May not hear the deep-sea phrases that to me are passing sweet --
Wistful tones of silver music echoed from the shining ways
When the noisy bows were questing downward through the tropic days.

Almost I can feel a warm wind blowing softly on my face,
See again the golden gulf-weed drifting by like scarves of lace;
And I feel my pulses beating for the joys that once were mine,
Dropping slowly through the seasons to the southward from the line.

Ocean-stranger, are there schooners fluttering yet off the Azores?
Are there Carib girls at Colon dancing still on marble floors?
Are the palm-trees at Jamaica soft against the afterglow?
All my heart can hear the answer, and I know that it is so.

Steamer whistles! Steamer whistles! Steamer bells that toll and toll,
Rolling like the tide of memory on the dim beach of the soul!
Steamer voices strongly speaking wonder-words from overseas,
Like a group of yarning sailors with the children round their knees!

First published in The Bulletin, 8 April 1920

Author: Boyce Bowden (1885-??) was born in Sydney.  Beyond this little is known about this author.

Author reference site:

The Sea-Boy by Henry Parkes

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Poor little orphan! thou dost go,
   Seeming with heart at ease --
Rejoicing even, because 'tis so --
   To trust the treacherous seas.
And then hast paced that high ship's deck,
   In foreign climes, ere now;
And forth thou goest again, to seek
   Lands 'neath th' Equator's glow.

Thou'st seen that good ship's prow divide
   Old Ganges' sacred stream;   
By island shores hast watched her glide,
   Where conch and coral gleam:
Calcutta's streets of palaces
   Thou'st wandered through, alone;
And 'neath Sumatra's spice-fraught trees
   Dreamt of the dear hearts gone.

From summer isles afar thou'st brought
   Bright shells and fine wrought toys;
Not deeming then such things were nought,
   With none to share thy joys.
And oft with happy thoughts of home
   Thy little heart would burn --
Thou hadst forgot no friend would come
   To welcome thy return.

Alas, poor boy! a bitter fate,
   In childlhood's bloom, is thine:
Though wealth and honour elevate
   Thy fortunes, thou'lt repine.
For culture ne'er illumed thy mind,
   Life's sweets with thee were brief:
Thou ow'st to stranger's even each kind
   Word whispered 'mid thy grief.  

First published in The Australasian Chronicle, 20 March 1841;
and later in
Stolen Moments: A Short Series of Poems by Henry Parkes, 1842.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

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

See also.

Lost and Given Over by E. J. Brady

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A mermaid's not a human thing,    
   An' courtin' sich is folly;    
Of flesh an' blood I'd rather sing,    
   What ain't so mel-an-choly.
'Ere's, Berta, Loo, Jaunita, Sue,
A long good-luck to me an' you ---   
   Sing rally, ri-a-rally!   
The seas is deep; the seas is wide,   
But this I'll prove, what else beside,   
   I'm bully in-the-alley,
   I'm bull-ee in our al-lee.
The Hooghli gal 'er face is brown,
   The Heelo gal is lazy;   
The gal that lives by 'Obart Town   
   'U'd drive a dead man crazy.

Come, wet your lip, and let it slip,
The Gretna Green's a tidy ship,   
      Sing rally!   
The seas is deep, the seas is blue,
But 'ere's good 'ealth to me an' you,
      Ho, rally!   
The Lord may drop us off our pins   
   To feed 'is bloomin' fishes;   
But, Lord, forgive us all our sins!
   Our sins is most delicious.

Come drink it up, an' fill yer cup,   
The World it owes us bite an' sup --   
   'Ere's Mimi, Ju-Ju, Sally --   
The seas is long, the winds is strong,   
The best of men they will go wrong,
    Hi, rally, ri-a-rally!   
The Bowery gal she knows 'er know,   
   The Sydney gal is silly,   
The Hayti gal ain't white as snow,   
   They're whiter down in Chili.

Now, what's the use to shun the booze,   
They'll flop your bones among the ooze   
   Sou'-west by south-the-galley.   
The seas is green, the seas is cold,
The best of men they must grow old,
   Sing rally, re-a-rally!   
All round the world "where'er I roam"   
   This lesson I am learnin' --   
If you've got sense you'll stop at 'ome   
   An' save the bit yer earnin'.

But damn the odds! it's little odds,   
When every 'eathen 'as 'is gods   
   An' neither two will tally.
When Black and White drink, woman, fight,
In them three things they're all all-right,
   Sing rally, re-a-rally!   
When double bunks, fo'castle end,   
   Is all the kind that's carried,   
Our manners they will likely mend ---   
   Most likely we'll get married.

But till sich time as that is done   
We'll take our fun where we've begun ---   
   Sing rally!   
The flesh is weak, the world is wide,   
The Dead Man 'ee goes over-side ---
   Sing rally, rally!   

It's Tokio town when the sun goes down,
It's 'arf-a-pint an' it's 'arf-a-crown --
   Sing rally!
'Er spars may lift an' 'er keel may shift,
When a man is done 'e's got to drift --
   Ho, rally!
We're given an' lost to the girls that wait   
   From Trinity to Whitsunday --   
From Sunda Strait to the Golden Gate   
   An' back to the Bay o' Fundy.

Oh, it's Mabel Loo, an' it's Nancy-poo!
So 'ere's good luck, an' I love you ---   
   Sing rally!   
It's cents an' dollars, an' somebody hollers,
The sun comes up an' the mornin' follers ---
   Ho, rally, rally!   
The Hoogli gal 'er face is brown,   
   The Heelo gal's a daisy;   
The gal that lives by 'Obart Town   
   She'd drive a dead man crazy.

So pretty an' plain, it's Sarah Jane   
'Uggin' an' kissin' an' come again --   
   Sing rally, ri-a-rally!   
The seas is deep, the seas is wide,
But this I'll prove, what else beside --
I'm bully in the alley,   
Ho! Bul-lee in the alley!

First published in The Bulletin, 22 January 1898;
and later in
The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1918;
An Australasian Anthology: Australian and New Zealand Poems edited by Percival Serle, R. H. Croll and Frank Wilmot, 1927;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964; and
The Penguin Book of Australian Ballads edited by Russel Ward, 1964.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

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