by John Masefield (1878 - 1967)

Cape Horn Gospel
Language: English 
"I was in a hooker once," said Karlssen,
"And Bill, as was a seaman, died,
So we lashed him in an old tarpaulin
And tumbled him across the side;
And the fun of it was that all his gear was
Divided up among the crew
Before that blushing human error
Our crawling little captain, knew.

"On the passage home one morning
(As certain as I prays for grace)
There was old Bill's shadder a-hauling
At the [mizzen weather]1 topsail brace.
He was all grown green with seaweed
He was all lashed up and shored;
So I says to him, I says, 'Why, Billy!
What's a-bringin' of you back aboard?'

"'I'm a-weary of them there mermaids,'
Says old Bill's ghost to me;
'It ain't no place for a Christian
Below there -- under sea.
For it's all blown sand and shipwrecks
And old bones eaten bare,
And them cold fishy females
With long green weeds for hair.

"'And there ain't no dances shuffled,
And no old yarns is spun,
And there ain't no stars but starfish,
And never any moon or sun.
I heard your keel a-passing
And the running rattle of the brace,
And I says, "Stand by,"' says William,
'"For a shift towards a better place."'

"Well, he sogered about decks till sunrise,
When a rooster in the hen-coop crowed,
And as so much smoke he faded,
And as so much smoke he goed;
And I've often wondered since, Jan,
How his old ghost stands to fare
Long o' them cold fishy females
With long green weeds for hair."

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Keel: "weather mizzen"


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Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Mike Pearson

This text was added to the website: 2008-10-23
Line count: 40
Word count: 259