Poems and Essays

by Joseph Howe




Though the idle may heed not, the wealthy despise
    The race to which I and my fellows belong,
My voice o’er my own native waters shall rise,
    And the deck of my shallop resound to my song.

Though my craft may be small, she is snug and she’s trim,
    And her crew are accustomed to battle the wave,
They are cheerful of heart, and athletic of limb,
    And follow the business their bold fathers gave.

Through the storm and the sleet of the winter we sail,
    While the rich and the feeble on couches repose;
There is health in our toil, and a charm in the gale,
    And our courage still rises the harder it blows. [Page 85]

Every harbor from Sable to Canso’s a home,
    Every depth from the Banks to St. Lawrence we’ve tried,
And we care not though round Labrador we may roam,
    Or sweep on the strength of old Fundy’s fierce tide.

Now wealth from the wave we draw forth with our lines,
    And now with a cargo of produce we’re stow’d,
Or having a full freight of coal from the mines,
    We slowly sail on with our cumbersome load.

Though the Merchantman looks gay, her crew are but slaves
    And own not a stick of the vessel they steer,
Though the Frigate glides by, like the Queen of the Waves,
    We know that the cat and the bilboes are there.

     Then who would exchange the rough life that we lead,
Joint owners at sea, and free sons of the soil,
At the bidding of others to labor and bleed
    With but little of pleasure to sweeten our toil.

We build our own shallops, we rear our own crew,
    And life has for us sweet endearment in store,
For though luxury’s fetters our souls never knew,
    Bright eyes bid us welcome when peril is o’er.

Thus we Coasters enrich the fair land that we love,
    And if danger should threaten, the cutlass we’d seize,
And our hearts and our sinews in battle should prove,
    That the spirit of freedom is nursed by the breeze. [Page 86]