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PAGE 2

The Rhyme Of The Three Sealers
by [?]

They rang and blew the sealers’ call — the poaching cry of the sea —
And they raised the Baltic out of the mist, and an angry ship was she:
And blind they groped through the whirling white and blind to the bay again,
Till they heard the creak of the Stralsund‘s boom
and the clank of her mooring chain.
They laid them down by bitt and boat, their pistols in their belts,
And: “Will you fight for it, Reuben Paine, or will you share the pelts?”

A dog-toothed laugh laughed Reuben Paine, and bared his flenching-knife.
“Yea, skin for skin, and all that he hath a man will give for his life;
But I’ve six thousand skins below, and Yeddo Port to see,
And there’s never a law of God or man runs north of Fifty-Three:
So go in peace to the naked seas with empty holds to fill,
And I’ll be good to your seal this catch, as many as I shall kill!”

Answered the snap of a closing lock and the jar of a gun-butt slid,
But the tender fog shut fold on fold to hide the wrong they did.
The weeping fog rolled fold on fold the wrath of man to cloak,
And the flame-spurts pale ran down the rail as the sealing-rifles spoke.
The bullets bit on bend and butt, the splinter slivered free
(Little they trust to sparrow-dust that stop the seal in his sea!),
The thick smoke hung and would not shift, leaden it lay and blue,
But three were down on the Baltic‘s deck and two of the Stralsund‘s crew.
An arm’s-length out and overside the banked fog held them bound,
But, as they heard or groan or word, they fired at the sound.
For one cried out on the Name of God, and one to have him cease,
And the questing volley found them both and bade them hold their peace;
And one called out on a heathen joss and one on the Virgin’s Name,
And the schooling bullet leaped across and showed them whence they came.
And in the waiting silences the rudder whined beneath,
And each man drew his watchful breath slow taken ‘tween the teeth —
Trigger and ear and eye acock, knit brow and hard-drawn lips —
Bracing his feet by chock and cleat for the rolling of the ships.
Till they heard the cough of a wounded man that fought in the fog for breath,
Till they heard the torment of Reuben Paine that wailed upon his death:

“The tides they’ll go through Fundy Race but I’ll go nevermore
And see the hogs from ebb-tide mark turn scampering back to shore.
No more I’ll see the trawlers drift below the Bass Rock ground,
Or watch the tall Fall steamer lights tear blazing up the Sound.
Sorrow is me, in a lonely sea and a sinful fight I fall,
But if there’s law o’ God or man you’ll swing for it yet, Tom Hall!”
Tom Hall stood up by the quarter-rail. “Your words in your teeth,” said he.
“There’s never a law of God or man runs north of Fifty-Three.
So go in grace with Him to face, and an ill-spent life behind,
And I’ll be good to your widows, Rube, as many as I shall find.”

A Stralsund man shot blind and large, and a war-lock Finn was he,
And he hit Tom Hall with a bursting ball a hand’s-breadth over the knee.
Tom Hall caught hold by the topping-lift, and sat him down with an oath,
“You’ll wait a little, Rube,” he said, “the Devil has called for both.
The Devil is driving both this tide, and the killing-grounds are close,
And we’ll go up to the Wrath of God as the holluschickie goes.
O men, put back your guns again and lay your rifles by,
We’ve fought our fight, and the best are down. Let up and let us die!
Quit firing, by the bow there — quit! Call off the Baltic‘s crew!
You’re sure of Hell as me or Rube — but wait till we get through.”
There went no word between the ships, but thick and quick and loud
The life-blood drummed on the dripping decks,
with the fog-dew from the shroud,
The sea-pull drew them side by side, gunnel to gunnel laid,
And they felt the sheerstrakes pound and clear, but never a word was said.