A Fact.

’Twas a dull November day1
Off Bayonne, where we lay,2
And the wind had died away3
About noon.4
A French barque came drifting near,5
And when the crew could hear,6
We hailed them with a cheer,7
Answered soon.8
Whilst we were still agaze,9
To our horror and amaze,10
Up burst an awful blaze11
Through her deck,12
Swift followed by a roar13
That re-echoed from the shore,14
And the ship from aft to fore15
Was a wreck !16
Through the smoke the red flame gleamed,17
And the wretched women screamed18
As the liquid fire streamed19
O’er the sea ;20
But our brave old captain spoke :21
Now, my lads and hearts of oak,22
We must go and save these folk ;23
Who’s with me ?”24
Then the sailors, at the sight25
Of that dreadful flaming light,26
Shrunk back—as well they might27
In dismay ;28
But the blood within me boiled29
To see that these recoiled,30
And our country’s honour soiled,31
On that day.32
Portrait of a man in profile with his head tilted slightly to the left. He has dark hair and a beard. 1/2 page.
I’d no call to be a sailor :33
I was carpenter and nailer,34
And they called me the ship’s tailor35
Oft in joke ;36
But I jumped into the boat37
When the captain was afloat,38
And our oars the water smote39
Stroke for stroke.40
How the fearful fire flashed41
As through it all we dashed,42
And the flame and water splashed43
From the bow ;44
But we rescued not a few45
Of that wild despairing crew,46
Although many more we knew47
Sank below.48
To our ship we back returned,49
With our hands and faces burned,50
But I felt that I had earned51
My good name ;52
And the deed was much applauded53
Far and widely ’twas recorded,54
And with medals well rewarded,55
And much fame.56
But in helping thus to save57
These poor folks from fire and wave58
’Twas my livelihood I gave59
And my pow’r,—60
For my hands were burnt too sore61
For rough labour evermore62
On ship-board or a-shore63
From that hour.64
I but ask to win my bread65
By light work of hand and head,66
To ward off disgrace and dread67
From my life ;68
And to keep a roof above69
The two dear ones that I love,70
My trembling little dove,71
And my wife.72
They can’t live on fame and praise :73
Will no man a finger raise74
To ward off the evil days,75
And to save76
These poor things from want and wail,77
From grim hunger, gaunt and pale,78
From the workhouse—or the gaol79
Or the grave ?80