In the ‘Hornblower Tavern’ on Lighthouse-ridge road,
the air was vibrant with gay revelry.
Amber laughter filled the tankards in the hands of the wenches
minstrels played to the crackle of fast-burning firewood,
and ‘Jack Tar’ took his rest, from the punishing sea.
My eyes drifted up to the cottage-pane window,
and my gaze rolled on out to the harbour wall,
where firefly city-lights, twitched on the water,
and flickering storm-lanterns fell twixt and between,
like the ghosts of old matelots working square-riggers tall.
The green & the red lights of the craft of the sea
signals of the vessels, coming in – going out.
Each with a mission in some far off kingdom
in bad lands and rich worlds and islands of darkness,
with cannibals and traders and Templers devout.
Midst the clink and the buzz of the pub and the cider,
my mind rippled back through the annals of time,
to relive the old days of Schooners and barkentines
pirates and prison ships, and black sails in the night
when the laws of the sea, were, the acts of the strong.
On the bridge decks of galleons, proud masters barked orders
at the salts as they shinnied up masts to the sky,
Carrying the cargoes of the monied and the mighty
to where, the men knew not, through seas high as mountains
For a crust and a promise and a ration of rye.
On the benches of galleys, slaves chained to their oar-shafts
felt the cracks of the whips, cross their backs as they pulled.
And on government ships, bound for wallaby waters,
men being transported for crimes not enormous,
cried out in their misery, but no ears heard their call.
Then fog slowly settled, and the lights faded softly
and my mind drifted back to the bar, to behold
the greying of the fire logs and the sailors gone homewards,
the romance of the oceans, once again history,
and I turned up my collar and walked into the cold.