The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

British Merchant Service

Oh, down by Millwall Basin as I went the other day,

I met a skipper that I knew, and to him I did say:

"Now what's the cargo, Captain, that brings you up this way?"

"Oh, I've been up and down (said he) and round about also...

From Sydney to the Skagerack, and Kiel to Callao...

With a leaking steam-pipe all the way to Californ-i-o...

"With pots and pans and ivory fans and every kind of thing,

Rails and nails and cotton bales, and sewer pipes and string...

But now I'm through with cargoes, and I'm here to serve the King!

"And if it's sweeping mines (to which my fancy somewhat leans)

Or hanging out with booby-traps for the skulking submarines,

I'm here to do my blooming best and give the beggars beans!

"A rough job and a tough job is the best job for me,

And what or where I don't much care, I'll take what it may be,

For a tight place is the right place when it's foul weather at sea!"

There's not a port he does n't know from Melbourne to New York;

He's as hard as a lump of harness beef, and as salt as pickled pork...

And he'll stand by a wreck in a murdering gale and count it part of his work!

He's the terror of the fo'c's'le when he heals its various ills

With turpentine and mustard leaves, and poultices and pills...

But he knows the sea like the palm of his hand, as a shepherd knows the hills.

He'll spin you yarns from dawn to dark -- and half of 'em are true!

He swears in a score of languages, and maybe talks in two!

And... he'll lower a boat in a hurricane to save a drowning crew.

A rough job or a tough job -- he's handled two or three --

And what or where he won't much care, nor ask what the risk may be ...

For a tight place is the right place when it's wild weather at sea!