The Legend of Hamilton Tighe

Richard Harris Barham

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The Captain is walking his quarter-deck,
With a troubled brow and a bended neck;
One eye is down through the hatchway cast,
The other turns up to the truck on the mast;
Yet none of the crew may venture to hint
'Our Skipper hath gotten a sinister squint!'

The Captain again the letter hath read
Which the bum-boat woman brought out to Spithead--
Still, since the good ship sail'd away,
He reads that letter three times a-day;
Yet the writing is broad and fair to see
As a Skipper may read in his degree,
And the seal is as black, and as broad, and as flat,
As his own cockade in his own cock'd hat:
He reads, and he says, as he walks to and fro,
'Curse the old woman--she bothers me so!'

He pauses now, for the topmen hail --
'On the larboard quarter a sail! a sail!'
That grim old Captain he turns him quick,
And bawls through his trumpet for Hairy-faced Dick.

'The breeze is blowing -- huzza! huzza!
The breeze is blowing -- away! away!
The breeze is blowing -- a race! a race!
The breeze is blowing -- we near the chase!
Blood will flow, and bullets will fly,--
Oh where will be then young Hamilton Tighe?'--

--'On the foeman's deck, where a man should be,
With his sword in his hand, and his foe at his knee.
Cockswain, or boatswain, or reefer may try,
But the first man on board will be Hamilton Tighe!'

Hairy-faced Dick hath a swarthy hue,
Between a gingerbread-nut and a Jew,
And his pigtail is long, and bushy, and thick,
Like a pump-handle stuck on the end of a stick.
Hairy-faced Dick understands his trade;
He stands by the breech of a long carronade,
The linstock glows in his bony hand,
Waiting that grim old Skipper's command.

'The bullets are flying -- huzza! huzza!
The bullets are flying -- away! away!'--
The brawny boarders mount by the chains,
And are over their buckles in blood and in brains:
On the foeman's deck, where a man should be,
Young Hamilton Tighe
Waves his cutlass high,
And Capitaine Crapaud bends low at his knee.

Hairy-faced Dick, linstock in hand,
Is waiting that grim-looking Skipper's command:--
A wink comes sly
From that sinister eye--
Hairy-faced Dick at once lets fly,
And knocks off the head of young Hamilton Tighe!

There's a lady sits lonely in bower and hall,
Her pages and handmaidens come at her call:
'Now haste ye, my handmaidens, haste and see
How he sits there and glow'rs with his head on his knee!'
The maidens smile, and, her thought to destroy,
They bring her a little, pale, mealy-faced boy;
And the mealy-faced boy says, 'Mother dear,
Now Hamilton's dead, I've a thousand a-year!'

The lady has donn'd her mantle and hood,
She is bound for shrift at St. Mary's Rood:--
'Oh! the taper shall burn, and the bell shall toll,
And the mass shall be said for my step-son's soul,
And the tablet fair shall be hung up on high,
Orate pro animâ Hamilton Tighe!'

Her coach and four
Draws up to the door,
With her groom, and her footman, and half a score more;
The lady steps into her coach alone,
And they hear her sigh and they hear her groan;
They close the door, and they turn the pin,
But there's one rides with her that never stept in!
All the way there, and all the way back,
The harness strains, and the coach-springs crack,
The horses snort, and plunge, and kick,
Till the coachman thinks he is driving Old Nick;
And the grooms and the footmen wonder, and say,
'What makes the old coach so heavy to-day?'
But the mealy-faced boy peeps in, and sees
A man sitting there with his head on his knees!

'Tis ever the same, in hall or in bower,
Wherever the place, whatever the hour,
That lady mutters and talks to the air,
And her eye is fixed on an empty chair;
But the mealy-faced boy still whispers with dread,
'She talks to a man with never a head!'

There's an old Yellow Admiral living at Bath,
As grey as a badger, as thin as a lath;
And his very queer eyes have such very queer leers,
They seem to be trying to peep at his ears.
That old Yellow Admiral goes to the Rooms,
And he plays long whist, but he frets and fumes,
For all his knaves stand upside down,
And the Jack of Clubs does nothing but frown;
And the kings, and the aces, and all the best trumps
Get into the hands of the other old frumps;
While, close to his partner, a man he sees
Counting the tricks with his head on his knees.

In Ratcliffe Highway there's an old marine store,
And a great black doll hangs out at the door;
There are rusty locks, and dusty bags,
And musty phials, and fusty rags,
And a lusty old woman, call'd Thirsty Nan,
And her crusty old husband's a hairy-faced man!

That hairy-faced man is sallow and wan,
And his great thick pigtail is wither'd and gone;
And he cries, 'Take away that lubberly chap
That sits there and grins with his head in his lap!'
And the neighbours say, as they see him look sick,
'What a rum old covey is Hairy-faced Dick!'

That Admiral, Lady, and Hairy-faced man
May say what they please, and may do what they can;
But one thing seems remarkably clear,--
They may die to-morrow, or live till next year,--
But wherever they live, or whenever they die,
They'll never get quit of young Hamilton Tighe

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