Some time ago, in simple verse
I sang the story true
Of Captain Reece, the Mantelpiece,
And all her happy crew.
I showed how any captain may
Attach his men to him,
If he but heeds their smallest needs,
And studies every whim.
Now mark how, by Draconic rule
And hauteur ill-advised,
The noblest crew upon the Blue
May be demoralized.
When his ungrateful country placed
Kind Reece upon half-pay,
Without much claim Sir Berkely came,
And took command one day.
Sir Berkely was a martinet -
A stern unyielding soul -
Who ruled his ship by dint of whip
And horrible black-hole.
A sailor who was overcome
From having freely dined,
And chanced to reel when at the wheel,
He instantly confined!
And tars who, when an action raged,
Appeared alarmed or scared,
And those below who wished to go,
He very seldom spared.
E'en he who smote his officer
For punishment was booked,
And mutinies upon the seas
He rarely overlooked.
In short, the happy Mantelpiece,
Where all had gone so well,
Beneath that fool Sir Berkely's rule
Became a floating hell.
When first Sir Berkely came aboard
He read a speech to all,
And told them how he'd made a vow
To act on duty's call.
Then William Lee, he up and said
(The Captain's coxswain he),
"We've heard the speech your honour's made,
And werry pleased we be.
"We won't pretend, my lad, as how
We're glad to lose our Reece;
Urbane, polite, he suited quite
The saucy Mantelpiece.
"But if your honour gives your mind
To study all our ways,
With dance and song we'll jog along
As in those happy days.
"I like your honour's looks, and feel
You're worthy of your sword.
Your hand, my lad I'm doosid glad
To welcome you aboard!"
Sir Berkely looked amazed, as though
He didn't understand.
"Don't shake your head," good William said,
"It is an honest hand.
"It's grasped a better hand than yourn -
Come, gov'nor, I insist!"
The Captain stared the coxswain glared -
The hand became a fist!
"Down, upstart!" said the hardy salt;
But Berkely dodged his aim,
And made him go in chains below:
The seamen murmured "Shame!"
He stopped all songs at 12 p.m.,
Stopped hornpipes when at sea,
And swore his cot (or bunk) should not
Be used by aught than he.
He never joined their daily mess,
Nor asked them to his own,
But chaffed in gay and social way
The officers alone.
His First Lieutenant, Peter, was
As useless as could be,
A helpless stick, and always sick
When there was any sea.
This First Lieutenant proved to be
His foster-sister May,
Who went to sea for love of he
In masculine array.
And when he learnt the curious fact,
Did he emotion show,
Or dry her tears or end her fears
By marrying her? No!
Or did he even try to soothe
This maiden in her teens?
Oh, no! instead he made her wed
The Sergeant of Marines!
Of course such Spartan discipline
Would make an angel fret;
They drew a lot, and William shot
This fearful martinet.
The Admiralty saw how ill
They'd treated Captain Reece;
He was restored once more aboard
The saucy Mantelpiece.