I'm no way "superstitious," as the parson called our Mat,
When he'd none sail with the herring fleet, 'cause he met old Susie's cat.
There's none can say I heeded, though a hare has crossed my road,
Nor burnt my nets as venomed, where a woman's foot had trod.
And though it's mebby wisest to hearken when they tell,
The sea-maids shriek their warning, from the reef beside the bell;
Seeing I reckon one hears them, when the wind has a northerly set,
And at the lip of the Nab out there, the breakers rouse and fret;
Still I'm no way superstitious, but this I allis say,
You may get the coffin ready, when a doomed man is fey.
Aye laugh, and call it folly, I see you glance aside,
Wait a bit until I tell you how poor Jem Dobson died.
We were mates, but he was master, and a cautious man was he,
Forever studying at the glass, and watching sky and sea,
I'se sure it ofens put me about, when the fish were as rank as ought,
And he'd none sail, for "the wind was shy," or "the clouds were raffled," he thought.
One day, an April morning, it was blowing east-nor'-east,
The call of the surf was on the Scar, the billows frothed like yeast;
Great foam-flakes rested on the-sand, and the hollow, sullen roar
Rose in the offing loud enow to bid us keep ashore.
Guess how the boldest among us stared, when Jem came swinging down,
And bade me help to launch the "Rose," with an oath, and with a frown.
I was loath, but young and foolish, and shrank like from a sneer:
There's naught a frightened lad won't do, to prove he has no fear.
There were plenty spoke to stop him, but he'd nor hear nor heed,
But sorted gear, and hauled up sail, all in a strange, dumb speed;
I tell you my heart leapt fit to burst, as we shot out in the bay,
For I met poor Jem's wild, wandering eyes, and I knew the man was fey.
I said when I durst, "There's mischief there," and I nodded where, right ahead,
The black squall lay on the water, the foe we mariners dread;
But he scarcely shifted the helm a point, as his eye o'er the distance ran,
But laughed and said, "The breeze is like to wait for a sure-doomed man.'"
Doomed, aye, for the squall burst on us, and he turned her broadside-to,
I sprang to the helm, but over late, the stout sheet strained and flew;
And as the "Rose" heeled over, and the seas broke fierce and grim,
I heard Jem saying quietly, 'Poor lad, it's hard on him.'
Sam Lacy told me afterwards — he steered the lifeboat then —
And their work was set to save me, those strong, seafaring men,
Jem just threw up his hands to heaven, and with never a cry or call,
Went down to the death he was bound to die, in the very face of them all.
So, though no way superstitious, I neither jest nor sneer,
When old wives talk of omens and signs, they reckon should guide us here;
For it's little we know of the world beyond, and I cannot forget the day,
When I so nigh touched hands with Death, and poor old Jem was fey.