Verse > Anthologies > Louis Untermeyer, ed. > Modern British Poetry
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Louis Untermeyer, ed. (1885–1977). Modern British Poetry.  1920.
 
Anthony C. Deane. 1870–
 
73. The Ballad of the Billycock
 
IT was the good ship Billycock, with thirteen men aboard, 
  Athirst to grapple with their country's foes,— 
A crew, 'twill be admitted, not numerically fitted 
  To navigate a battleship in prose. 
  
It was the good ship Billycock put out from Plymouth Sound,         5
  While lustily the gallant heroes cheered, 
And all the air was ringing with the merry bo'sun's singing, 
  Till in the gloom of night she disappeared. 
  
But when the morning broke on her, behold, a dozen ships, 
  A dozen ships of France around her lay,  10
(Or, if that isn't plenty, I will gladly make it twenty), 
  And hemmed her close in Salamander Bay. 
  
Then to the Lord High Admiral there spake a cabin-boy: 
  "Methinks," he said, "the odds are somewhat great, 
And, in the present crisis, a cabin-boy's advice is  15
  That you and France had better arbitrate!" 
  
"Pooh!" said the Lord High Admiral, and slapped his manly chest, 
  "Pooh! That would be both cowardly and wrong; 
Shall I, a gallant fighter, give the needy ballad-writer 
  No suitable material for song?"  20
  
"Nay—is the shorthand-writer here?—I tell you, one and all, 
  I mean to do my duty, as I ought; 
With eager satisfaction let us clear the decks for action 
  And fight the craven Frenchmen!" So they fought. 
  
And (after several stanzas which as yet are incomplete,  25
  Describing all the fight in epic style) 
When the Billycock was going, she'd a dozen prizes towing 
  (Or twenty, as above) in single file! 
  
Ah, long in glowing English hearts the story will remain, 
  The memory of that historic day,  30
And, while we rule the ocean, we will picture with emotion 
  The Billycock in Salamander Bay! 
  
P.S.—I've lately noticed that the critics—who, I think, 
  In praising my productions are remiss— 
Quite easily are captured, and profess themselves enraptured,  35
  By patriotic ditties such as this, 
  
For making which you merely take some dauntless Englishmen, 
  Guns, heroism, slaughter, and a fleet— 
Ingredients you mingle in a metre with a jingle, 
  And there you have your masterpiece complete!  40
  
Why, then, with labour infinite, produce a book of verse 
  To languish on the "All for Twopence" shelf? 
The ballad bold and breezy comes particularly easy— 
  I mean to take to writing it myself! 
 
 
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