John, Samuel, & Richard.

A poem by Robert Southey

(Time, Evening.)


JOHN.

'Tis a calm pleasant evening, the light fades away,
And the Sun going down has done watch for the day.
To my mind we live wonderous well when transported,
It is but to work and we must be supported.
Fill the cann, Dick! success here to Botany Bay!


RICHARD.

Success if you will,--but God send me away.


JOHN.

Ah! you lubberly landsmen don't know when you're well;
Hadst thou known half the hardships of which I can tell!
The sailor has no place of safety in store--
From the tempest at sea, to the press-gang on shore!
When Roguery rules all the rest of the earth,
God be thanked in this corner I've got a good birth.
Talk of hardships! what these are the sailor don't know!
'Tis the soldier my friend that's acquainted with woe,
Long journeys, short halting, hard work and small pay,
To be popt at like pidgeons for sixpence a day!--
Thank God! I'm safe quarter'd at Botany Bay.


JOHN:

Ah! you know but little! I'll wager a pot
I have suffer'd more evils than fell to your lot.
Come we'll have it all fairly and properly tried,
Tell story for story, and Dick shall decide.


SAMUEL:

Done.


JOHN:

Done. 'Tis a wager and I shall be winner;
Thou wilt go without grog Sam to-morrow at dinner.


SAMUEL:

I was trapp'd by the Serjeant's palavering pretences,
He listed me when I was out of my senses.
So I took leave to-day of all care and all sorrow
And was drill'd to repentance and reason to-morrow.


JOHN:

I would be a sailor and plough the wide ocean,
And was soon sick and sad with the billow's commotion.
So the Captain he sent me aloft on the mast,
And curs'd me, and bid me cry there--and hold fast!


SAMUEL:

After marching all day, faint and hungry and sore,
I have lain down at night on the swamps of the moor,
Unshelter'd and forced by fatigue to remain.
All chill'd by the wind and benumb'd by the rain.


JOHN:

I have rode out the storm when the billows beat high
And the red gleaming lightnings flash'd thro' the dark sky,
When the tempest of night the black sea overcast
Wet and weary I labour'd, yet sung to the blast.


SAMUEL:

I have march'd, trumpets sounding--drums beating--flags flying,
Where the music of war drown'd the shrieks of the dying,
When the shots whizz'd around me all dangers defied,
Push'd on when my comrades fell dead at my side,
Drove the foe from the mouth of the Cannon away,
Fought, conquer'd and bled, all for sixpence a day.


JOHN:

And I too friend Samuel! have heard the shots rattle,
But we seamen rejoice in the play of the battle;
Tho' the chain and the grape-shot roll splintering around,
With the blood of our messmates tho' slippery the ground,
The fiercer the fight, still the fiercer we grow,
We heed not our loss so we conquer the foe.
And the hard battle won, so the prize be not sunk,
The Captain gets rich, and the Sailors get drunk.


SAMUEL:

God help the poor soldier when backward he goes
In disgraceful retreat thro' a country of foes!
No respite from danger by day or by night
He is still forced to fly, still o'ertaken to fight,
Every step that he takes he must battle his way,
He must force his hard meal from the peasant away;
No rest--and no hope, from all succour afar,
God forgive the poor Soldier for going to the war!


JOHN:

But what are these dangers to those I have past
When the dark billows roar'd to the roar of the blast?
When we work'd at the pumps worn with labour and weak
And with dread still beheld the increase of the leak,
Sometimes as we rose on the wave could our sight
From the rocks of the shore catch the light-houses light;
In vain to the beach to assist us they press,
We fire faster and faster our guns of distress,
Still with rage unabating the wind and waves roar--
How the giddy wreck reels--as the billows burst o'er--
Leap--leap--for she yawns--for she sinks in the wave--
Call on God to preserve--for God only can save!


SAMUEL:

There's an end of all troubles however at last!
And when I in the waggon of wounded was cast,
When my wounds with the chilly night-wind smarted sore
And I thought of the friends I should never see more,
No hand to relieve--scarce a morsel of bread--
Sick at heart I have envied the peace of the dead!
Left to rot in a jail till by treaty set free,
Old England's white cliffs with what joy did I see!
I had gain'd enough glory, some wounds, but no good,
And was turn'd on the public to shift how I could.
When I think what I've suffer'd and where I am now
I curse him who snared me away from the plough.


JOHN:

When I was discharged I went home to my wife,
There in comfort to spend all the rest of my life.
My wife was industrious, we earn'd what we spent,
And tho' little we had, were with little content;
And whenever I listen'd and heard the wind roar,
I bless'd God for my little snug cabin on shore.
At midnight they seiz'd me, they dragg'd me away,
They wounded me sore when I would not obey,
And because for my country I'd ventur'd my life,
I was dragg'd like a thief from my home and my wife.
Then the fair wind of Fortune chopp'd round in my face
And Want at length drove me to guilt and disgrace--
But all's for the best;--on the world's wide sea cast,
I am haven'd in peace in this corner at last.


SAMUEL:

Come Dick! we have done--and for judgment we call.


RICHARD:

And in faith I can give ye no judgment at all.
I've been listening to all the hard labours you've past
And think in plain troth, you're two blockheads at last.
My lads where the Deuce was the wit which God gave ye
When you sold yourselves first to the army or navy?
By land and by sea hunting dangers to roam,
When you might have been hang'd so much easier at home!
But you're now snug and settled and safe from foul weather,
So drink up your grog and be merry together.

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