Poor Jack

by CHARLES DIBDIN (1745-1814)

Go, patter to lubbers and swabs, do ye see,
‘Bout danger, and fear, and the like;
A tight-water boat and good sea-room give me,
And it an’t to a little I’ll strike.
Though the tempest top-gallant masts smack smooth should smite,
And shiver each splinter of wood,
Clear the deck, stow the yards, and house everything tight,
And under reefd foresail we’ll scud:
Avast! nor don’t think me a milksop so soft
To be taken for trifles aback;
For they say there’s a Providence sits up aloft.
To keep watch for the life of poor Jack!
I heard our good chaplain palaver one day
About souls, heaven, mercy, and such;
And, my timbers! what lingo he’d coil and belay;
Why, ’twas just all as one as High Dutch;
For he said how a sparrow can’t founder, d’ye see,
Without orders that come down below;
And a many fine things that proved clearly to me
That Providence takes us in tow:
For, says he, do you mind me, let storms e’er so oft
Take the top-sails of sailors aback,
There’s a sweet little cherub that sits up aloft,
To keep watch for the life of poor Jack!
I said to our Poll—for, d’ye see, she would cry —
When last we weigh’d anchor for sea,
What argufies sniv’ling and piping your eye?
Why, what a d—‘d fool you must be!
Can’t ye see, the world’s wide, there’s room for us all,
Both for seamen and lubbers ashore?
And if to old Davy I should go, friend Poll,
You never will hear of me more.
What then? All’s a hazard: come, don’t be so soft:
Perhaps I may laughing come back;
For, d’ye see, there’s a cherub sits smiling aloft,
To keep watch for the life of poor Jack !
D’ye mind me, a sailor should be every inch
All as one as a piece of the ship,
And with her brave the world, not offering to flinch
From the moment the anchor’s atrip.
As for me, in all weathers, all times, sides, and ends.
Nought’s a trouble from a duty that springs,
For my heart is my Poll’s, and my rhino’s my friend’s,
And as for my life ’tis the king’s.
Even when my time comes, ne’er believe me so soft
As for grief to be taken aback
For the same little cherub that sits up aloft
Will look out a good berth for poor Jack!

Charles Dibdin

Charles Dibdin was born in Southampton in the year 1745. He was intended for the Church, but his love of music caused him to relinquish all thoughts of the clerical profession. In 1762, he appeared on the boards of Richmond Theatre, but he did not excel as an actor, though his light dramatic pieces and musical compositions were eminently successful. His spirit-stirring sea-songs were very popular. For some time he enjoyed from Government a pension of 200 pounds a year, but on a change of ministry he lost it. Such were his improvident habits, that, had it not been for his friends, who purchased for him an annuity, he would have been plunged in the direst poverty. He died in the year 1814. reprinted from Favourite English Poems and Poets (1870)

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