Cicely Fox Smith

The Tryphina Extra Hand

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In the clipper ship Tryphina
Swingin' nor'ard from the line
With the trade wind blowin' steady
And her flyin' kites ashine
Five and sixty days from Angier
With her freight of Foochow teas
There a sailor man lay dyin'
And the words he spoke were these:

Many a year I've knowed this packet
And I've got to like her well
And I've not much hope of heaven
And I've not much use for hell
But if so be as they'll let me
By the great hookblock I swear
When the old Tryphina wants me
Dead as livin' I'll be there

There'll be one more at the haliards
There'll be one on the yard
Fistin' down from thundering choruses
When they're frosted good and hard
One more tallyin' on the forebrace
When they're waist neck deep in foam
One more hand to sweat the tops'l's up
Ond sheet t'ga'ns'l's home

So just off the Western islands
When he smell't the land he died
And they laid a back the main y'rd
And they dropped him overside
Then they squared away for England
Pulley haulin' with a will
But for all they thought they'd left him
He sailed aboard her still

And the chaps as was his shipmates
Went the way as all chaps go
and the folks as was her owners
Sold the old ship long ago
But whoever owned or sold her
And whoever went or came
The Tryphina's extra hand
He sailed aboard her just the same

And he never signed no articles
He never drawed no pay
He never scoffed no vittles
But by night as well as day
Though you'd never know his comin'
Nor you'd never see him go
He'd be always somewheres handy
When it's comin' on a blow

And he'd stand by wheel and lookout
And you'd kind of feel him near
Kind of see him and not see him
Kind of hear him and not hear
And the funny thing about it
Was you somehow couldn't swear
Though you knew it sure as shootin'
When the extra hand was there

And in port when all the chaps had gone
Ashore to take their ease
And left the ship as lonely
And as quiet as you please
Not a blessed soul aboard her
But the galley cat and you
Then you'd hear a sort of somethin'
More than once I've heard it too

Like a feller up aloft there
Putterin around amongst the gear
Seizing there another rat line
Putting on a mousing here
And rum-tumming old tunes over
Such as shell backs used to know
In the good old China tea trade
Many, many's the year ago

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Cicely Fox Smith