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THE MARY DELL

Having served my penal yoke, I stood a Felon freed,
Seven years and transportation the Judge he had decreed.
An older man and wiser my thoughts they were of home.
As I gazed at the Tasman Sea with its ribbons of frothing foam.

I imagined breakers crashing in another hemisphere,
Around an island people far away and nowhere near.
It was just then I saw her, a square rigger on the swell,
Her Master wanted crewmen; she was the Mary Dell.

On seeking out the Agent I agreed to join the crew,
No money to be paid me, only passage home in lieu.
The Agent looked me in the eye and spat upon he ground,
I could see him thinking, unblinking, he made no sound.

Then he asked if I knew the ship being the Mary Dell,
Bound for home, known by some as the Barque from Hell.
Her Master once a slaver, cursed to the core of his soul,
Incited by the call of profit, delivering cargo his only goal.

The figurehead was a Siren fair arms stretched like a bird in flight,
Mouth open wide in a silent scream, her eyes burning bright.
So, I went and climbed aboard with others of my kind,
Before the black-eyed Master, crew of eighty-three were lined.

“I am the captain here”, said he, “We’ll sail without delay,
any man found slacking, his back I’ll surely flay”.
Seeing him with speckled beard and eyes like coals at night,
I could sense the iron within him, a friendless chilling sight.

Windlass wound and anchor stowed, he gave order to make sail,
Surveying all before him, leaning o’er the bowsprit rail.
That penal shore behind me, I felt like a man reborn,
But unbeknown to some aboard, ahead of us lay the Horn.

For a week or two plain sailing was the order of the day,
Then an unforgiving tempest struck, with Neptune in the fray.
O’er the storm’s relentless roar, the Master cursed us all.
Pulling canvas to the yardarm, I saw three Mariners fall.

Pitched and thrown upon the wave was that accursed ship,
By all the power of the Gods who held us in their grip.
Worse still to face was the Horn, that cauldron of angry water,
Where the mainmast split, like a musket I heard it shatter.

Many a man went overboard never seen or to return.
In hatred we damned the Master that he in Hell would burn.
Then we left that Cape behind sailing north on a safer sea,
A triumphant battered Spectre, no longer crewmen eighty-three.

As we disembarked at Plymouth, I saw him standing there,
The black-eyed poisoned Master, watching me with malignant stare.
A shiver ran along my spine leaving that Mary Dell,
As I glanced to the figurehead, the Siren out of Hell!

Monty Alexander 23.11.96

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