A Sailor's Apology For Bow-Legs.

A poem by Thomas Hood

There's some is born with their straight legs by natur -
And some is born with bow-legs from the first -
And some that should have grow'd a good deal straighter,
But they were badly nurs'd,
And set, you see, like Bacchus, with their pegs
Astride of casks and kegs:
I've got myself a sort of bow to larboard,
And starboard,
And this is what it was that warp'd my legs. -

'Twas all along of Poll, as I may say,
That foul'd my cable when I ought to slip;
But on the tenth of May,
When I gets under weigh,
Down there in Hertfordshire, to join my ship,
I sees the mail
Get under sail,
The only one there was to make the trip.
Well - I gives chase,
But as she run
Two knots, to one,
There warn't no use in keeping on the race!

Well - casting round about, what next to try on,
And how to spin,
I spies an ensign with a Bloody Lion,
And bears away to leeward for the inn,
Beats round the gable,
And fetches up before the coach-horse stable:
Well - there they stand, four kickers in a row.
And so
I just makes free to cut a brown 'un's cable.
But riding isn't in a seaman's natur -
So I whips out a toughish end of yarn,
And gets a kind of sort of a land-waiter
To splice me, heel to heel,
Under the she-mare's keel,
And off I goes, and leaves the inn a-starn!

My eyes! how she did pitch!
And wouldn't keep her own to go in no line,
Tho' I kept bowsing, bowsing at her bow-line,
But always making lee-way to the ditch,
And yaw'd her head about all sorts of ways.
The devil sink the craft!
And wasn't she trimendus slack in stays!
We couldn't, no how, keep the inn abaft!
Well - I suppose
We hadn't run a knot - or much beyond -
(What will you have on it?) - but off she goes,
Up to her bends in a fresh-water pond!
There I am! - all a-back!
So I looks forward for her bridle-gears,
To heave her head round on the t'other tack;
But when I starts,
The leather parts,
And goes away right over by the ears!

What could a fellow do,
Whose legs, like mine, you know, we're in the bilboes,
But trim myself upright for bringing-to,
And square his yard-arms, and brace up his elbows,
In rig all snug and clever,
Just while his craft was taking in her water?
I didn't like my berth tho', howsomdever,
Because the yarn, you see, kept getting tauter, -
Says I - I wish this job was rayther shorter!

The chase had gain'd a mile
A-head, and still the she-mare stood a-drinking;
Now, all the while
Her body didn't take of course to shrinking.
Says I, she's letting out her reefs, I'm thinking -
And so she swell'd, and swell'd,
And yet the tackle held,
'Till both my legs began to bend like winkin.
My eyes! but she took in enough to founder!
And there's my timbers straining every bit,
Ready to split,
And her tarnation hull a-growing rounder!

Well, there - off Hertford Ness,
We lay both lash'd and water-logg'd together,
And can't contrive a signal of distress;
Thinks I, we must ride out this here foul weather,
Tho' sick of riding out - and nothing less;
When, looking round, I sees a man a-starn: -
Hollo! says I, come underneath her quarter! -
And hands him out my knife to cut the yarn.
So I gets off, and lands upon the road,
And leaves the she-mare to her own consarn,
A-standing by the water.
If I get on another, I'll be blow'd! -
And that's the way, you see, my legs got bow'd!

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