Jack and Ned
When the ship is but a speck To the landsman's feeble eye, Sailors, lying on the deck, Feel at home with sea and sky: When the land's no longer seen Light of heart the sailor is; Nothing sea and sky between But that gallant ship of his! Pretty Jack, with curly hair, Sunny eye and saucy lip, Heart to love and soul to dare, Is the darling of the ship! Mother's pet at mother's knee Only yesterday, it seems— Now a sailor-boy is he, Mother sees him but in dreams! Such a dashing little rogue! Such a loving little coax! With a tiny touch of brogue To enhance his funny jokes; With his childhood's innocence, And the colour of the skies And a charming impudence Lighting his audacious eyes! Jack is ailing—all deplore! Jack is ill—and joy has fled; Jack is dying—ah, no more! Yes, alas! for—Jack is dead! Grey old heads hang down in grief, O'er rough cheeks tears trickle fast; Strapping oaths give no relief— So they turn to prayer at last. Then an aged seaman said, “Let me die instead of him; Take a worn-out craft instead Of a wherry tight and trim: All my spars are getting loose— Ropes and rigging are not taut; Ned is useless, Jack's of use— Give the thing a moment's thought!” Is Jack only in a faint That his blue eyes open wide At this rough-and-ready saint Who, to save him, would have died? In amazement all start back; How they look and listen too— “Ned, don't die,” says little Jack; “Who'll masthead me, if you do?” So both lived to play their parts; Death retreated from them far: Sailors have such tender hearts And such simple creatures are! And I doubt, when all is said, Which shows best in white and black, An old sailor like our Ned Or a sailor-boy like Jack! In a cottage that I know Both are welcome as the sun; One, because it must be so— T'other for the sake of one: In the mother's heart and home Ned may to the best aspire— I have often seen him come To his corner by the fire. If you ask the truth of Jack— Did he faint, or was he dead? Was his little soul brought back By the earnest prayer of Ned? What can tell us?—who can say? Answer none this earth may give: We but know that Ned did pray— We but know that Jack did live!
Menella Bute Smedley’s other poems:
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