The Ballad Of Fisher's Boarding-House


That night, when through the mooring-chains
The wide-eyed corpse rolled free,
To blunder down by Garden Reach
And rot at Kedgeree,
The tale the Hughli told the shoal
The lean shoal told to me.

'T was Fultah Fisher's boarding-house,
 Where sailor-men reside,
And there were men of all the ports
 From Mississip to Clyde,
And regally they spat and smoked,
 And fearsomely they lied.

They lied about the purple Sea
 That gave them scanty bread,
They lied about the Earth beneath,
 The Heavens overhead,
For they had looked too often on
 Black rum when that was red.

They told their tales of wreck and wrong,
 Of shame and lust and fraud,
They backed their toughest statements with
 The Brimstone of the Lord,
And crackling oaths went to and fro
 Across the fist-banged board.

And there was Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
 Bull-throated, bare of arm,
Who carried on his hairy chest
 The maid Ultruda's charm 
The little silver crucifix
 That keeps a man from harm.

And there was Jake Without-the-Ears,
 And Pamba the Malay,
And Carboy Gin the Guinea cook,
 And Luz from Vigo Bay,
And Honest Jack who sold them slops
 And harvested their pay.

And there was Salem Hardieker,
 A lean Bostonian he 
Russ, German, English, Halfbreed, Finn,
 Yank, Dane, and Portugee,
At Fultah Fisher's boarding-house
 They rested from the sea.

Now Anne of Austria shared their drinks,
 Collinga knew her fame,
From Tarnau in Galicia
 To Juan Bazaar she came,
To eat the bread of infamy
 And take the wage of shame.

She held a dozen men to heel 
 Rich spoil of war was hers,
In hose and gown and ring and chain,
 From twenty mariners,
And, by Port Law, that week, men called
 Her Salem Hardieker's.

But seamen learnt what landsmen know 
 That neither gifts nor gain
Can hold a winking Light o' Love
 Or Fancy's flight restrain,
When Anne of Austria rolled her eyes
 On Hans the blue-eyed Dane.

Since Life is strife, and strife means knife,
 From Howrah to the Bay,
And he may die before the dawn
 Who liquored out the day,
In Fultah Fisher's boarding-house
 We woo while yet we may.

But cold was Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
 Bull-throated, bare of arm,
And laughter shook the chest beneath
 The maid Ultruda's charm 
The little silver crucifix
 That keeps a man from harm.

"You speak to Salem Hardieker;
 "You was his girl, I know.
"I ship mineselfs to-morrow, see,
 "Und round the Skaw we go,
"South, down the Cattegat, by Hjelm,
 "To Besser in Saro."

When love rejected turns to hate,
 All ill betide the man.
"You speak to Salem Hardieker" 
 She spoke as woman can.
A scream a sob "He called me names!"
 And then the fray began.

An oath from Salem Hardieker,
 A shriek upon the stairs,
A dance of shadows on the wall,
 A knife-thrust unawares 
And Hans came down, as cattle drop,
 Across the broken chairs.

.	.	.	.	.	.

In Anne of Austria's trembling hands
 The weary head fell low: 
"I ship mineselfs to-morrow, straight
 "For Besser in Saro;
"Und there Ultruda comes to me
 "At Easter, und I go

"South, down the Cattegat What's here?
 "There are no lights to guide!"
The mutter ceased, the spirit passed,
 And Anne of Austria cried
In Fultah Fisher's boarding-house
 When Hans the mighty died.

Thus slew they Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
 Bull-throated, bare of arm,
But Anne of Austria looted first
 The maid Ultruda's charm 
The little silver crucifix
 That keeps a man from harm.


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