Australian Folk Songs

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"Starboard" (1887)

The sun shone bright as the sea slipped by,
The keel was even, the deck was dry,
The blue-black water reflected the sky,
The salt spray splashed from our bows on high--
And the breeze was fresh from starboard.

From the steamer's wash the clear cut crest,
In glittering show'rs, fell back on the breast
Of the indigo waves, and the sun caressed
The pea-green foam as it sank to rest
Deep down to port and starboard.

On deck the shadows swung to and fro.
Young men and maidens did sentry go,
Whispering compliments soft and low ;
Lightsome laughter, in languorous flow,
Was wafted away to starboard.

Marching about, with masterly tread,
Was a parson, who looked on the wine when 'twas red :
He looked, and it somehow got into his head--
Cheerful though hiccoughy words he said,
As he unctuously smiled to starboard.

But as o'er the sea we joyously bowled,
The waves ran high and the weather turned cold,
The good ship trembled from topmast to hold ;
She rocked and tumbled, and slipped and rolled,
And the cargo shifted to starboard.

The wind grew thin, and the weather grew thick,
The passengers mostly grew mightily sick,
And dived below uncommonly quick.
How they performed the vanishing trick--
With a comical list to starboard.

The great birds screamed as they skimmed the sea,
The cordage crooned a weird symphony,
The foaming waves boiled under our lee,
The black smoke flew from our funnels free,
And rolled away to starboard.

She buried her nose in the heaving swell,
our stomachs in sympathy rose and fell ;
Somebody asked the captain to tell
the danger was great, he said " Go to--well,
We've a dangerous list to starboard."

And all through that night and all the next day
Our decks were swept by the scudding spray;
We looked for the parson and asked him to pray,
But the poor man hadn't a word to say--
As he rolled in his bunk to starboard.

The storm let us live, but renewed an old thought
That is ever recurring--but few it has taught--
When man, like a ship, in a cyclone is caught,
He often has either a leaning to port--
Or a ---- of a list to starboard,



From the South Australian newspaper the Quiz and the Lantern Thursday 20 June 1895, p. 3.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory