“The Pirates”–a poem

This week, for National Poetry Month, I present Hodgson’s poem, “The Pirates”.

Unlike most of Hodgson’s poetry, it was published during his lifetime.  It first appeared as part of his collection, THE LUCK OF THE STRONG (Eveleigh Nash, 1916), and later in the posthumous collection, THE CALLING OF THE SEA (Selwyn & Blount, 1920).   This poem shows Hodgson’s ability at conjuring images from words and rings with the air of a traditional sea chanty.



The roll of the ships

And the thud of bare feet on the deck!

See the flames tower

Over to larboard

Over to starboard

Where the tall ships are sinking

And the black water is winking

As it thinks

As it blinks

At the roar of our jinks,

Aoi! foot it, my lads!

Aoi! foot it!

Aoi! foot it!

The whole deck of her,

Make her bounce,

Hark to her timbers a-creak,

Lord, what a time!

Drink to the joy of our life.

Never a crime!

Only a rhyme

On the lip of the sea.

Hic! Hark unto me



Along with the rest of you.

Dance, damn you, dance!

Aoi! see the blue night

Rolling as mad as us!

Cuss, devils, cuss!

Lord! what a jolly mad fight!

What blood

And what doings!

What cud

And what ruings

For odd times in future,

What a night!

Aoi! what a night for a prance,

With the wood battle-fires on our decks

And the flames of our wrecks,

Dance, of, you lubbers!

You cockfighters!

You grubbers for gold!

Aoi! dance until the wash of the ocean

Boats back from our sides,

Dance until she rolls,

Death’s blasted black pendulum,

Between the two poles.

Aoi! we’re bad and we’re bold!

Dieu! what a grand notion!

Aoi! feel the glad motion

And the thud of your hoofs, old jellies

Around and about on the decks,

Make her drum

Like the fists of old Satan

On the walls of far heaven.



Let her go! Let her go!

Dance! All the gods damn you!

Dance! Drink and dance!

Prance, you sons of Satan, prance!

Make the rounded decks to drum!

(Hear me!)

Till she rolls the scuppers under,


Make her hum!

Gods of Thunder, yelp and wonder!

See us make her bounce and wander . . .

Make her heave and roll.

Send the wash across the whole black ocean

Till God rocks upon His throne!

(Aoi! The notion!)

Dance each marrow bone . . . Thud! Thud!

Thud! Thud!

So we pass on, dancing, dancing,

Aoi! Hand the bucket . . . damn the glass!

Aoi! we’re right and tight!

So we pass,

Lords of Darkness in the Everlasting Night.




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Filed under William Hope Hodgson

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