The Old Grey Squirrel

A great while ago there was a schoolboy
who lived in a cottage by the sea,
And the very first thing he could remember
was the rigging of the schooners by the quay.
He could watch 'em from his bedroom window
with the big cranes a-hauling out the freight,
And he used to dream of shipping as a sea-cook
and a-sailing for the Golden Gate.

He used to buy the yellow penny dreadfuls,
he'd read 'em where he fished for conger eels,
As he listened to the slapping of the water
the green and oily water round the keels,
There were trawlers with their shark-mouthed flatfish
and the nets a-hanging out to dry,
And the skate the skipper kept because he liked 'em
and the landsmen never knew which ones to fry.
There were brigantines with timber out of Norway
just oozing with the syrups of the pine,
There were rusty dusty freighters out of Sunderland
and clippers of the Blue Cross Line.

To tumble down the hatch into a cabin
was better than the best of broken rules,
For the smell of 'em was like a Christmas dinner
and the feel of 'em was like a box of tools,
And before he went to sleep in the evenings
the last thing that he would ever see,
Was the sailormen a-dancing in the moonlight
by the capstan that stood beside the quay.

Now he's sitting on a high-stool in London,
the Golden Gate is far away,
For they caught him like a squirrel and they caged him,
now he's totting up accounts and turning grey,
And he'll never get to San Francisco
and the last thing that he will ever see,
Is the sailormen a-dancing in the moonlight
by the capstan that stands beside the quay.
To the tune of the old concertina
by the capstan that stands beside the quay.

by Alfred Noyes

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