As mentioned in the last few posts (here and here), I recently found a reference to two poems possibly by William Hope Hodgson that were published in 1902. Neither of these poems were in any of the WHH poetry volumes nor could I find any reference to them.
Still, I opened up the call to the readers of this blog for copies and more information. Dennis Lien ably supplied the copies and Andy Robertson provided transcriptions of the poems. “Stout fellows all!”, as WHH might say.
We reprinted one of the poems in the last post and today we provide the other poem. This one is a bit more nautical but it is more concerned with the mothers of lost sailors not receiving any relief from government for their loss than with any terrors of the sea.
Now, this poem is interesting to us for two reasons. First, it attempts to replicate a pattern of speech (perhaps an accent?) and Hodgson was known to do this most obviously in the novel, THE GHOST PIRATES. Second, it concerns a financial aspect of life at sea which was something that Hodgson would write about in such articles as “Is the Mercantile Navy Worth Joining?” which is a long piece about the bad economics of a life at sea. These are two points in favor of Hodgson being the author unlike the previous poem which, apparently, had no ties to Hodgson in either theme or execution.
But, again, we cannot state with absolute certainty that the “W.H.H.” who is credited with the poem is our own William Hope Hodgson and probably never will be able to unless new evidence emerges.
For now, I simply present the poem and leave the question open.
A WAY THEY HAVE IN THE NAVY
(“A widow gets an allowance; a bereaved mother none; the Government takes the sons and forgets the mothers.” — Miss Weston, “the Bluejacket’s Friend”)
You shout for cash by the million pound,
An’ the ships you’re sharp to build,
There’s “great indocements” ‘anded round,
F’r plices wot must be filled;
The chaps, they lissens to sense an’ — rot,
The worldwide seas they roam,
But they ‘ave some ‘eart — which you ‘ave not,
F’r the pore old soul at ‘ome.
There’s a bit of cash wot’s reg’ler sent,
There’s a scrawl that’s sweet to scan,
F’r its line on line for comfort meant
From Billy or Bob or Dan;
–Till a biler busts, or the ship goes down
(Your ‘nollidge is bought with life),
An’ then — I hav’n’t a single “brown”
Bein’ but mother, not wife.
Me lords, they ‘ave a jolly good time,
‘N me lidies knows no need;
The swell is the flow’r of place an’ time,
An’ I’m but a useless weed;
You tikes me lad f’r th’ connin’ tow’r,
F’r the tops, or the turret gun,
An’ when ‘e falls, me luck turns sour–
Its the ‘Ouse, when me best is done.
Now, the pore young widder, the weepin’ kid,
You spares ‘em a bite of bread,
They’ve a drink o’ tea ‘n’ a ‘addick to grid,
They’ve a glimmer of sun ahead,
But a mother she counts just nothink at all,
A botherin’, wrinkled crone;
She give ‘er boy, at the nation’s call,
An’ now — she may starve, alone.
(Thanks again to Dennis Lien and Andy Robertson for their help with these items.–Sam Gafford)