David Lewis Paget

(22.11.1944 / Nottingham, England/live in Australia)

The Cove

I sailed the yacht right into the cove
And away from the breaking storm,
I hadn’t intended staying there,
It was dark before the dawn,
The rain came down in a blinding sheet
And obscured the further shore,
I’d have turned around and sailed away
If I’d known what it held in store.

The sun came up on a greying sky
Though the rain had passed ahead,
Around the cove there were mountains,
I reefed in, and sounded the lead,
We sat in a bare three fathoms so
I gave the anchor the slip,
Then saw that over the further shore
Was an ancient sailing ship.

Its sails were hanging, tattered and torn
And the yards, they hung in shreds,
There wasn’t a movement there aboard
For the crew must all be dead,
It looked so desolate, by the shore
Like a ship that had died in pain,
But still afloat, as it must have once
Sailed proud on the Spanish Main.

Then further over beyond the ship
And spreading along the shore,
A line of dwellings in weathered oak
Like nothing I’d seen before,
And in the midst was a tavern with
A sign that swung in the breeze,
I thought I could see a painted skull
Half-hidden between the trees.

I dropped the dinghy and rowed to shore
And dragged it up on the beach,
Tied it up to an ancient log
Not even the tide could reach,
Then walked around to the settlement,
So still, with no-one about,
And hoped the Tavern was burning wood
For my clothes, to dry them out.

A girl appeared at the Tavern door
In a sort of fancy dress,
She wore a bonnet and apron too
But her face looked quite distressed,
‘Good sire, ’ she muttered, ‘Please turn about
Go back the way that you came,
You don’t belong in a land of wrong
In a time of eternal shame.’

‘I’m wet, ’ I said, ‘and I need to dry
So I beg an hour of your time,
A plate of vittals, a jug of beer
Some warmth, that isn’t a crime! ’
‘You know not what you encounter here
If you’re wise, you’d better not know,
Three hundred years is a terrible time
To be fettered in chains, please go! ’

I pushed right past and I walked right in
To the dingy, dim-lit bar,
Some sailors sat at the tables there
And stared, as if from afar,
Their clothes were tattered, their beards were grey
And their eyes were glassy and white,
While cobwebs covered their pewter mugs
That their hands had gripped so tight.

Their mouths, though moving, the only sound
Was the rasping croak of despair,
I couldn’t fathom a single word
That fell on that tainted air,
They came toward me as in a dream
And one fell down on his knees,
The maid said, ‘See what you’ve done to them,
I’ll ask you again, please leave! ’

A chill ran suddenly down my back
And I turned and made for the door,
Ran right out to the narrow beach
I shouldn’t have left before,
I heard the sound of a cannon shot
The whiff of smoke from the ship,
And watched my yacht as it reared and sank
To its grave, three fathoms deep.

I turned in horror and saw the maid
As she shrivelled and aged in time,
‘I warned you sire, now you’ll never leave,
You’re caught in an ancient rime,
The crew took over our tiny town
In seventeen sixty three,
But you’d be free of the spell that bound
If you’d only listened to me.’

I sit depressed at a writing desk
And sign my name with a quill,
Ten years have passed since that fateful day
An eternity left to fill.
The Captain thinks he can sail away
To roam on the Spanish Main,
But the ship, it rots more, day by day
And I’ll never get home again!

3 May 2013

Submitted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Edited: Thursday, September 12, 2013

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