Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, JACK CREAMER [OCTOBER 25, 1812], by JAMES JEFFREY ROCHE



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JACK CREAMER [OCTOBER 25, 1812], by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The boarding nettings are triced for fight
Last Line: And the nation was close to its maker then.
Variant Title(s): Jack Cramer
Subject(s): Decatur, Stephen (1779-1820); Sea Battles; United States (Ship); War Of 1812; Naval Warfare


THE boarding nettings are triced for fight;
Pike and cutlass are shining bright;
The boatswain's whistle pipes loud and shrill;
Gunner and topman work with a will;
Rough old sailor and reefer trim
Jest as they stand by the cannon grim;
There's a fighting glint in Decatur's eye,
And brave Old Glory floats out on high.

But many a heart beats fast below
The laughing lips as they near the foe;
For the pluckiest knows, though no man quails,
That the breath of death is filling the sails.
Only one little face is wan;
Only one childish mouth is drawn;
One little heart is sad and sore
To the watchful eye of the Commodore.
Little Jack Creamer, ten years old,
In no purser's book or watch enrolled,
Must mope or skulk while his shipmates fight, --
No wonder his little face is white!

"Why, Jack, old man, so blue and sad?
Afraid of the music?" The face of the lad
With mingled shame and anger burns.
Quick to the Commodore he turns:
"I'm not a coward, but I think if you --
Excuse me, Capt'n, I mean if you knew
(I s'pose it's because I'm young and small)
I'm not on the books! I'm no one at all!
And as soon as this fighting work is done,
And we get our prize-money, every one
Has his share of the plunder -- I get none."

"And you're sure we shall take her?" "Sure? Why, sir,
She's only a blessed Britisher!
We'll take her easy enough, I bet;
But glory's all that I'm going to get!"
"Glory! I doubt if I get more,
If I get so much," said the Commodore;
"But faith goes far in the race for fame,
And down on the books shall go your name."

Bravely the little seaman stood
To his post while the scuppers ran with blood,
While grizzled veterans looked and smiled
And gathered new courage from the child;
Till the enemy, crippled in pride and might,
Struck his crimson flag and gave up the fight.
Then little Jack Creamer stood once more
Face to face with the Commodore.

"You have got your glory," he said, "my lad,
And money to make your sweetheart glad.
Now, who may she be?" "My mother, sir;
I want you to send the half to her."
"And the rest!" Jack blushed and hung his head;
"I'll buy some schoolin' with that," he said.

Decatur laughed; then in graver mood:
"The first is the better, but both are good.
Your mother shall never know want while I
Have a ship to sail, or a flag to fly;
And schooling you'll have till all is blue,
But little the lubbers can teach to you."

Midshipman Creamer's story is told --
They did such things in the days of old,
When faith and courage won sure reward,
And the quarter-deck was not triply barred,
To the forecastle hero; for men were men,
And the Nation was close to its Maker then.





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