Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BILL SWEENY OF THE BLACK GANG, by JAMES BARNES

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First Line: Ther's a feller in the black gang
Last Line: If they don't — say! — I'd like to know!
Subject(s): Fights; Fire; Firefighters

The "Black Gang" is the fire-room force — firemen, oilers, water-
tenders, coal-passers, and so on.

THER'S a feller in the Black Gang
Aboard the Ampertrite;
Bill Sweeny is the feller's name,
You can bet that Bill's all right.
He's seen a heap o' the world, has Bill,
He's fired all there is to fire,
From a lime-juicer tramp
To a brand-new Cramp
With a stack like Trinity spire.

Bill Sweeny is a feller
With stars agin his name;
But Bill he gets his liberty
When any gets the same.
He stands right in with them all, does Bill,
And they lets him go ashore,
Though he'd smuggle a swig
To a lad in the brig
And he's sure to smuggle in more.

Bill Sweeny is a feller
You won't back on his looks,
He's pitted up with small-pox
And he ain't much read in books;
But he's got a laugh that you like, has Bill,
(I likes to hear him laught,)
No matter where,
You can swear Bill's there,
Consumin' his own forced draught.

Bill Sweeny is the feller
When the starboard engine's broke,
He stays below in the scalding steam
Where a man was like to choke;
And he dodges the flying cranks, does Bill,
And he climbs past that hammerin' rod;
The rest all run,
But that son-of-a-gun
He shuts her off, b' God!

Bill Sweeny is the bully lad
I likes to see around.
I'd rise to take a drink with Bill
Though six foot under ground.
But Bill, he's soft as a goil, is Bill,
I mind the night he cried,
When he come away
From that hot sick bay,
And told us old Tom had died.

Bill Sweeny is a fighter
Of the rough and tumble kind,
He laughts when he fights, but he shows his teeth,
I've seen him at it, mind;
He was one of the Baltimore's crew, was Bill,
When we had the row down there.
Valparaiso? Say!
Don't ferget that day,
Weren't Bill in thet fight for fair?

Say! Did y' hear Bill Sweeny?
He says one night, says he:
"I've got a chanst for a good land job,
But I guess I'll stick to the sea.
I knows meself and me work," says Bill,
"And I'm going to sign once more —
I'm safe all right
On the Ampertrite,
And I'm all at sea, ashore."

Bill Sweeny of the Black Gang —
He's a first-class fireman now,
He entered water-tender —
But if we had a row,
We lads at the guns has a chanst — but Bill
And the Jacks o' the Dust below,
A-feedin' the flame,
Fights just the same —
If they don't — say! — I'd like to know!

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