The Black Freighter
The Cormorant was the darkest ship,
As dark as a ship could be,
Not only the paint was pitted black
From the funnels to the sea,
But deep inside in its rusted gloom
In the echoes from its shell,
It was like a monster roamed abroad
Released from the depths of hell.
It roared and echoed by day and night
As the boilers turned the screw,
Lurching across every wave that might
Try to break its hull in two,
It was laden down with a thousand tons
Of a cargo that made it groan,
While breakers slapped its quivering sides
As it made its way back home.
The Captain stood on the shuddering bridge,
A man with a heart of steel,
He tried to control this raging beast
As he lashed himself to the wheel,
He gave no quarter to any man
Who would shirk, avoid his task,
But called the crew to witness his due
As the man was soundly lashed.
Down in the depths of the engine room
The firemen shovelled coal,
Each shovel sprayed like a black dismay
In the light of that glowing hole,
And steam built up on the pressure gauge
Of each boiler, one and two,
As men would fret, while running in sweat,
To do what they had to do.
The seas built up and the rain came down
As the Cormorant rolled and swayed,
Then lightning flashed and it ran to ground
Like an imp in a masquerade,
It left three dead on the afterdeck,
They hurried to help them there,
But the captain roared, ‘Throw them overboard,
We’ve more than enough to spare.’
A mutter grew up among the crew
As dark as the bosun’s hat,
I never knew what the crew would do
So I wasn’t in on that.
But the Captain disappeared from the bridge
And the wheel was swinging free,
With the Cormorant broadside to the waves
At mercy of wind and sea.
They said it must be a miracle
When we finally entered port,
The bilge half full of water, they said,
And the Captain fell overboard.
But the ship was done, had made its last run
As the fires went out in the hull,
Then raking through the mountain of ash
I found the late Captain’s skull.
The Black Freighter -- Raoul Dufy