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Harry Kemp

(15 December 1883 – 8 August 1960 / Youngstown, Ohio)

A Whaler's Confession


Three long years a-sailing, three long years a-whaling,
Kicking through the ice floes, caught in calm or gale,
Lost in flat Sargasso seas, cursing at the prickly heat,
Going months without a sight of another sail.

I've learned to hate the Mate, and I've always cursed the Captain.
I hate the bally Bo'sun, and all the bally crew, -
And, sometimes, in the night-watch, the long and starry night-watch,
Queer thoughts have run wild in my head - I've even hated you!

You, that have been my shipmate for fifteen years of sailing,
From Peru to Vladivostock, from England to Japan . . .
Which shows how months of sailing, when even pals go whaling,
Can get upon the bally nerves of any bally man.

I'm glad our nose points homeward, points home again to Bristol, -
I'm glad for Kate who's waiting, far down a little lane:
I'll sign her for a long cruise, a longer cruise than this one,
And seal the bargain like a man, before I sail again.

Yes, I will still go sailing; yes, I will still go whaling:
I've done a lot of thinking along of love and hate . . .
For signing on a woman's a cruise that lasts a lifetime -
And I'd rather hate a hundred crews than take on hating Kate!

Three long years of whaling . . . yes, a lifetime sailing,
Kicking through the ice floes, caught in calm or gale,
Lost in flat Sargasso seas, cursing at the prickly heat,
Going months without a sight of another sail!

Submitted: Thursday, April 15, 2010

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