No matter how we scrubbed the wood the smell of death remained
For once the slaves had put ashore the ship was truly stained.
Loading then we set our backs with spice and goods of trade
And within the week we left the port, – homeward then we made.
And so to England we did aim the bow spit truly bound
To seek a birth in God’s own world at homely Plymouth Sound.
I herd the call from the nest above that England was in sight
And in secret thoughts I meant to escape this ugly loathsome plight.
And so it was on that April day we mustered aft the wheel.
England’s shore was now in sight, home I could almost feel.
I cast my eye to the distant view, and saw a sight that pleased
The land was near enough to see, but the sea looked sorely freezed.
My mind it said with certain fear, again I would be chained
And no escape would be achieved, no matter how I strained.
My pounding brain and shaking heart reminded me of home
And despite my fear of Captain “Chial” I knew I was alone.
How strange it was that memories came of things I’d done and seen
And ever more my world would be, a sea of deathly green.
No more would I see, the mist on fields of ripened corn, or wheat
Or gather in a harvest field with tired and aching feet.
No more would Tess chase rabbits young and rats with wagging tail
Whilst I would walk behind the horse, or heft the wheat stalk flail.
To the rails edge I ran and jumped, into that freezing sea.
And trusted God to decide my fate whatever – please’th he
How grateful now I thanked the Lord that I knew how to swim
Taught in the pond at Tavistock mill both I and all my kin.
The cold was much and stung my head, but fear was more my master
I set my will to Gods own land and swam no spirit faster.
The calls and shouts soon faded fast as stroke on stroke I lunged
And thankful was I, that my lord, had set me to that plunge
I know not how my strength endured that cold and fearful way
My pounding heart and aching limbs was tested sore that day.
By close of day I found firm land beneath my numb cold feet
And staggered up a stony beach, sea death I did defeat.
Exhausted in a ditch I fell, wet through my shivers went
I struggled brief, and then let go, such was I sorely spent
Next day I found I had not died, though muscles screamed I had
And grief befell my tortured mind, my future left me sad.
Within a mile of setting forth, a pilgrim I did meet
A ragged man in sack cloth robe, like me with bare of feet
“I beg you sir,” I said polite, “I’m lost and would enquire
The way to Tavistock the Town?” and by it so my squire.
His estimate was five whole days, from Penryn to – St-Germans
Then north-east to walk to Tavistock, I’d share with him his sermons.
I quickly learned the man was strange, and thanked him for his learning
I then as quickly made my excuse and trod a separate path in turning.
Four days of travel hard, I walked down muddy tracks
And slept in ditches, barns and lofts, my feet of blistered cracks.
Roots and berries field plants too I took and ate them raw,
And every day I travelled, so bone weary – aching sore.
In fear I walked towards my home, in prison I’d be thrown
And troubled was my heart in truth for I was sore alone.
And so it was as the sun went down I broached my home farm gate,
My master watched me walk his path, I trembled at my fate.
His look was such it said in ways how awful I did feel
For the fact was fact nigh on a year gone by his money did I steal.
My tears were real I begged his grace to first listen to my statement,
And after if he was a-mind, to take my life in payment.
But being such a gentleman he took me to his room
And listened while I told him, of my sorry tale of doom.
I did not lie about the night, I spent my master’s trust
How sorry then I was for him, for punish me he must.
But instead of wrath and a prison cell or making of a fuss,
He said my lad I bless the fate – that brought you home to us
When your bed was empty four whole nights we guessed the devils hand
In Plymouth Town we heard the news that many had been ganged.
Come my boy your lessons learnt, think no more – those days
For Blain came by and paid to me the pledges he had raised.
Your parents sister and Tess your dog are waiting in your home
But if you once again decide around the world to roam.
Perhaps if you repeat your tale in every graphic scene
So other lads around the Town can learn from what you’ve been.
You may protect some other lads who might befall your fate
In looking in the windows of an ale house dark and late.
And so it is I give to you this tale of foolish youth
For home is best I do confess as I am here the proof.
Well that’s my story!
Sorry it’s in rhyming couplets, but it seemed to be the easiest way to cut down on descriptions, that would otherwise have taken pages.
Was it a dream? I don’t know.
The only research I did was to check where Penryn and St Germans were as I had either forgotten or never recognised those names.
I wrote it over several weeks in about 2006 and mostly – (no totally) half drunk at the time.
As always both grammar and spelling are poor but the spell check has worked overtime.