The Boatswain’s Song

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A CHEER to keep our hearts up,
A cup to drown our tears,
And we'll talk of those who perished,
Our mates in former years.
The Betsey was a vessel
As tight as ship could be--
And we cheered to keep our hearts up,
As she tossed upon the sea.

Thro' one dark day we struggled
To stem the foaming tide;
Night came--the straining vessel
All helplessly did ride.
The storm was raging loudly,
The angry heavens did frown--
A cheer to keep your hearts up--
The Betsey, she went down!

The morning broke which many
Might never see again,
And thick and blind and heavy
Came down the drenching rain
We got the smallest boat out,
Jack, Tom, and I, and gave
A cheer to keep our hearts up,
As we toiled against the wave.

Three days we struggled onward,
Without a sight of land;
And we grew so faint and failing,
We could scarcely bear a hand.
It's a bitter thing to battle
With the ocean for your foe:
We cheered to keep our hearts up,
But the cheer was hoarse and low.

Then we thought, with sinking spirits,
Of the shore we'd never see:
Tom wept, and thought of Mary--
Jack talked of home with me.
Each brawny arm grew fainter,
The boat was thinly stored:
A cheer to keep your hearts up--
Poor Jack went overboard!

At last, somehow we landed
Where the cliff was steep and high;
We told Jack's poor old mother,
(We were too much men to cry.)
They'd ha' liked to see me Boatswain,
The Betsey's gallant crew.
Come, a cheer to keep our hearts up,
We shall all of us die too.

© Caroline Norton