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Short poem

Robert Stephen Hawker (1803-1875)

A Croon on Hennacliff

              1Thus said the rushing raven,
              2    Unto his hungry mate, --
              3"Ho! gossip! for Bude Haven:
              4    There be corpses six or eight.
              5Cawk! cawk! the crew and skipper,
              6    Are wallowing in the sea:
              7So there's a savoury supper
              8    For my old dame and me."

              9"Cawk! gaffer! thou art dreaming,
            10    The shore hath wreckers bold;
            11Would rend the yelling seamen,
            12    From the clutching billows hold.
            13Cawk! cawk! they'd bound for booty
            14    Into the dragon's den:
            15And shout, for `death or duty,'
            16    If the prey were drowning men."

            17Loud laughed the listening surges,
            18    At the guess our grandame gave:
            19You might call them Boanerges,
            20    From the thunder of their wave.
            21And mockery followed after
            22    The sea-bird's jeering brood:
            23That filled the skies with laughter,
            24    From Lundy Light to Bude.

            25"Cawk! cawk!" then said the raven,
            26    "I am fourscore years and ten:
            27Yet never in Bude Haven,
            28    Did I croak for rescued men. --
            29They will save the Captain's girdle,
            30    And shirt, if shirt there be:
            31But leave their blood to curdle,
            32    For my old dame and me."

            33So said the rushing raven,
            34    Unto his hungry mate, --
            35"Ho! gossip! for Bude Haven:
            36    There be corpses six or eight.
            37Cawk! cawk! the crew and skipper,
            38    Are wallowing in the sea:
            39O what a savoury supper,
            40    For my old dame and me."


1] Croon: murmured tune or humming. Hennacliff: the highest cliff in Cornwall. The Bencoolen, a ship out of Liverpool for Bombay, wrecked at Bude on Oct. 2, 1862. Hawker's sarcasm at lines 27-28 reveals contempt for the Bude men who would not help him launch a life-boat to save the thirty men who were lost at sea and whose bodies, when they washed ashore, he helped bury (C. E. Byles, The Life and Letters of R. S. Hawker [John Lane, the Bodley Head, 1906]: 395-99).

3] Bude Haven: town on the north coast of Cornwall, north-west of Launceston.

10] wreckers: salvage men.

19] Boanerges: the two sons of Zebedee, named by Jesus, and signifying sometimes a loud debater or preacher.

24] Lundy Light: presumably the lighthouse on Lundy, Devon, a granite island at the entrance of the Bristol Channel.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Rev. R. S. Hawker, The Cornish Ballads And other Poems (Oxford and London: James Parker, 1869): 28-30. Facsimile Reproduction with an intro. by Kay J. Walter and Terence Allan Hoagwood. Delmar, N.Y.: Scholars' Facsimiles, 1994. PR 4759 H9C6 1869a Robarts Library
First publication date: 1864
Publication date note: All the Year Round 12 (Sept. 10, 1864): 108.
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2002
Recent editing: 1:2002/4/29

Composition date: 1862 - 1863
Rhyme: ababcdcd

Other poems by Robert Stephen Hawker