Et ergo malim audire tales fabulas
Quam experiri—Naufrag. Eras.
A ship that weathered many a gale,
With oft-fished mast and tattered sail,
And many a shot, and many a scar,
That she received in deadly war;
Afraid of ev’ry angry cloud
Of breeze that whistled thro’ a shroud;
O’erburdened, lab’ring, heaving, creaking,
In danger every wave of wrecking.
Thus to a vessel stout and tight
That constant had kept close in sight;
And ev’ry gale had lent assistance,
Or when the foe kept not his distance.
‘Your crew, good ship, you can’t deny,
Is tainted strong with mutiny;
Now mine is loyal, if you mix ‘em
We’ll make to honest crews betwixt ‘em.
And that we may keep close together,
And stoutly face all sorts of weather,
We’ll tow you by the strongest cable
That to devise my crew is able.
And if you leave it to my master,
We both shall sail more safe and faster.
As to our burden, though you’ll share it
His skill will give you strength to bear it.
My solemn faith shall plighted be,
Your share I’ll just apportioned see—
And to your strength your load I’ll square,
Nor stow a pound you cannot bear.
A common fate we then shall have,
Together mount the boisterous wave;
Or down the wat’ry vale so low
Together we shall cheerful go.
The storm, dear ship, that injures you
Shall sink thy constant comrade too.’
The trim-built vessel thus replied,
As proud she wrote upon the tide:
‘I know I have on board some men,
That seem rebellious now and then,
But what’s the cause? You know full well—
Allowance short—makes men rebel;
And you have many a hand of mine
That on my crew’s provision dine;
Each day on biscuit we must work,
Forsooth to send you beef and pork.
Send me my men, their pay and stores,
Cease to rip up our healing sores,
In honour and in wisdom’s name,
Help me, some prudent plan to frame,
To gain a happy crew’s affection;—
Blow it, ‘twill be thy own protection,
Our ship we’ll work, its deck we’ll clear,
Nor wind, nor wave, nor both we’ll fear.
As to the tow-rope I am loath
To try it, for ‘twill hurt us both;
A course for you’s no course for me,
Our trims are diff’rent as can be;
But I shall, as I’m wont to do,
Keep constant company with you,
And overboard the traitor-hearted
Shall go—that wish to see us parted;
But I perceive ‘tis my crew’s mind
By ropes we never should be joined.’
‘Twas all in vain—a scoundrel few
About the helm, betrayed the crew;
And for a bounty, basely gotten,
Lash’d the sound vessel to the rotten.
No sooner was this fouled deed done
Then slap on board comes ton on ton
Of cargo—a most grievous burden,
Ten times as much as she’d her name on;
A storm comes on—a dreadful blast,
Now goes a sail! now groans a mast!
The silvery waves in mountains curled
Now wrap them in the wat’ry world!
Shot on the billow, now they rise,
And seem to penetrate the skies.
Their heaving sides with frightful crash
The rolling ships together dash;
The tight-built ship now ‘gan to think
That thus united both must sink;
And better ‘twas that they should part
For ever, than a plank should start.
To save herself, nought else was left,
She cut the rope, and sent adrift
The crazy ship, to live at sea
Well as she could and bore away.