Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Mortal Blue

Their band, having finished this latest tune, gave out a bawdy cheer and settled into a spell of conversation.  Meantimes, Israel and Duncan, their purses heavy from their shares of the bold venture from which they'd just returned, and their stomachs empty and their spirits light, had set for themselves a course to draw at least to their bar-shipmates aft quarterdeck for drink, it being impossible to draw even with or overtake them. Whilst the fellows had carried on, carpenter and apprentice had doubled their efforts, matching two ales for every one the salts before them drank, and by now their sails were half-filled with a pleasant wind.

With the room somewhat subdued, now the sound of a lute from one of Gerakis' back rooms carried through to them. It was a devilish strain, like as if it were from some dark, unfathomable continent. It compelled the soul and haunted them, though, if pressed, they could not say the effect was altogether distressing, rather that they would follow it, though it were the Dark Lord himself strumming the chords, through black tempests across unknown seas.

Then a voice like a hurricane began to sing, and Duncan, though mesmerized as were they all, thought he recognized it, and rose from the bar to discover with his eyes if what his ears told him was true, the song being thus:

                    The night I was born
                    The moon turned a fire red
                    Of a gypsy's scorn
                    Under a bad sign was I bred
                    And my mother cried
                    And my father, too
                    It can't be denied
                    You've got a spell on you

                    Up from the dust of the Earth
                    Did that first man spring
                    It weren't no natural birth
                    The Hands of God wrought a curs-ed thing
                    With a heart to burn
                    For love untrue
                    And flesh to turn
                    A mortal blue

                    See it written in the stars
                    Hear that whispering wind
                    Feel the thunder in your heart
                    Lord, you know it's the end

Duncan stood in the doorway leaning against the post and saw that his ears did not deceive him. The player of the lute and the singer of the song was his old shipmate, Kilduff, whom he had not seen since they had sailed together to Cathay many years ago. Duncan made to hail him, but his gesture was missed as Kilduff struck up again another song that was more dirge and chant that soon had them all who heard it yet again in thrall.

                   We'd just gone down below decks
                   And settled in our bunks
                   When the ship began to pitch and roll
                   In a great and powerful swell
                   Our captain's voice
                   With all his might he did yell
                   Down the fo'c'sle
                   Loud and clear did we hear
                   "All hands topside that love their lives
                   "And will heave and will strive
                   "To see another year
                   "For the sea this night she's angry, some tar
                   "Has scoffed and scorned her
                   "Now she's thrown at us this storm
                   "And our dear sweet ship will founder
                   "If ye boys ye don't bound yer
                   "Carc'ses aloft this instant to save her."
                   What choice had we but to follow
                   The command of our captain so dire
                   Sure as the sea finds its way through the hawsehole
                   The laggard riles the master's ire
                   And but only conspires
                   With the gale to consign to the deep one and all.
                   Lay to, did we, to the topsails and royals
                   With our marlinspikes to reef and take in
                   With the sky all aboil
                   Flinging lightning and hail
                   Our masts in the maelstrom did shiver
                   On her side did our poor ship roll over
                   By but a splinter spared the yardarms did not injure and scar
                   The sea's foamy surface
                   Hope sank and fear rose to roil in our gullets
                   We hung from the spars and dangled from the gunwale
                   No footing sure, no purchase level
                   Four men lost we to the delight of the devil
                   Yet our captain remained at the wheel
                   And denied all our calls to strike masts
                   "Haul, men!" yelled he, "Haul the brace
                   "If on her keel ye don't want to dance!
                   "Square the main yard all fast!"
                   We hauled and choked and our captain cried with ardor
                   "If ye don't haul it's murder!"
                   And someone replied, "She's paying off, sir!"
                   She rose slowly with the wind abaft her beam
                   She lurched and jerked herself free from that deadly grasp
                   That held us all in darkness
                   Till the Fates saw fit to smash that hasp
                   And she righted herself and the seas effervesced into cream
                   And the storm lost heart and faded like an evil dream.

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