The "Mary Gloster"

Original Text: 
Rudyard Kipling's Verse: Definitive Edition (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1940): 129-36.
1I've paid for your sickest fancies; I've humoured your crackedest whim--
2Dick, it's your daddy, dying; you've got to listen to him!
3Good for a fortnight, am I? The doctor told you? He lied.
4I shall go under by morning, and--Put that nurse outside.
5'Never seen death yet, Dickie? Well, now is your time to learn,
6And you'll wish you held my record before it comes to your turn.
8I've made myself and a million; but I'm damned if I made you.
10Ten thousand men on the pay-roll, and forty freighters at sea!
11Fifty years between 'em, and every year of it fight,
14"Not least of our merchant-princes." Dickie, that's me, your dad!
15I didn't begin with askings. I took my job and I stuck;
16I took the chances they wouldn't, an' now they're calling it luck.
17Lord, what boats I've handled--rotten and leaky and old--
20And a big fat lump of insurance to cover the risk on the way.
22(They've served me since as skippers). I went, and I took my wife.
23Over the world I drove 'em, married at twenty-three,
24And your mother saving the money and making a man of me.
25I was content to be master, but she said there was better behind;
26She took the chances I wouldn't, and I followed your mother blind.
28When we bought half-shares in a cheap 'un and hoisted a flag of our own.
29Patching and coaling on credit, and living the Lord knew how,
30We started the Red Ox freighters--we've eight-and-thirty now.
34And we dropped her in fourteen fathom: I pricked it off where she sank.
35Owners we were, full owners, and the boat was christened for her,
36And she died in the Mary Gloster. My heart, how young we were!
38But your mother came and warned me and I wouldn't liquor no more:
39Strict I stuck to my business, afraid to stop or I'd think,
40Saving the money (she warned me), and letting the other men drink.
41And I met M'Cullough in London (I'd saved five 'undred then),
42And 'tween us we started the Foundry--three forges and twenty men.
43Cheap repairs for the cheap 'uns. It paid, and the business grew;
44For I bought me a steam-lathe patent, and that was a gold mine too.
49But M'Cullough 'e wanted cabins with marble and maple and all,
51And pipes for closets all over, and cutting the frames too light,
52But M'Cullough he died in the Sixties, and--Well, I'm dying to-night ...
56When we came with our nine-knot freighters and collared the long-run trade!
57And they asked me how I did it, and I gave 'em the Scripture text,
59They copied all they could follow, but they couldn't copy my mind,
60And I left 'em sweating and stealing a year and a half behind.
61Then came the armour-contracts, but that was M'Cullough's side;
62He was always best in the Foundry, but better, perhaps, he died.
63I went through his private papers; the notes was plainer than print;
64And I'm no fool to finish if a man'll give me a hint.
65(I remember his widow was angry.) So I saw what his drawings meant,
66And I started the six-inch rollers, and it paid me sixty per cent.
67Sixty per cent with failures, and more than twice we could do,
68And a quarter-million to credit, and I saved it all for you!
69I thought--it doesn't matter--you seemed to favour your ma,
70But you're nearer forty than thirty, and I know the kind you are.
72But I stood you an education, an' what have you done for me?
73The things I knew was proper you wouldn't thank me to give,
74And the things I knew was rotten you said was the way to live.
75For you muddled with books and pictures, an' china an' etchin's an' fans,
76And your rooms at college was beastly--more like a whore's than a man's;
77Till you married that thin-flanked woman, as white and as stale as a bone,
78An' she gave you your social nonsense; but where's that kid o' your own?
81(So there isn't even a grandchild, an' the Gloster family's done.)
82Not like your mother, she isn't. She carried her freight each run.
83But they died, the pore little beggars! At sea she had 'em--they died.
84Only you, an' you stood it. You haven't stood much beside.
85Weak, a liar, and idle, and mean as a collier's whelp
87So he gets three 'undred thousand, in trust and the interest paid.
88I wouldn't give it you, Dickie--you see, I made it in trade.
89You're saved from soiling your fingers, and if you have no child,
90It all comes back to the business. 'Gad, won't your wife be wild!
91'Calls and calls in her carriage, her 'andkerchief up to 'er eye:
92"Daddy! dear daddy's dyin'!" and doing her best to cry.
93Grateful? Oh, yes, I'm grateful, but keep her away from here.
94Your mother 'ud never ha' stood 'er, and, anyhow, women are queer ...
95There's women will say I've married a second time. Not quite!
96But give pore Aggie a hundred, and tell her your lawyers'll fight.
97She was the best o' the boiling--you'll meet her before it ends.
98I'm in for a row with the mother--I'll leave you settle my friends.
99For a man he must go with a woman, which women don't understand--
100Or the sort that say they can see it they aren't the marrying brand.
101But I wanted to speak o' your mother that's Lady Gloster still;
102I'm going to up and see her, without its hurting the will.
103Here! Take your hand off the bell-pull. Five thousand's waiting for you,
104If you'll only listen a minute, and do as I bid you do.
105They'll try to prove me crazy, and, if you bungle, they can;
106And I've only you to trust to! (O God, why ain't it a man?)
107There's some waste money on marbles, the same as M'Cullough tried--
108Marbles and mausoleums--but I call that sinful pride.
110Down in their wills they wrote it, and nobody called them cracked.
111But me--I've too much money, and people might ... All my fault:
113I'm sick o' the 'ole dam' business. I'm going back where I came.
114Dick, you're the son o' my body, and you'll take charge o' the same!
115I want to lie by your mother, ten thousand mile away,
116And they'll want to send me to Woking; and that's where you'll earn your pay.
117I've thought it out on the quiet, the same as it ought to be done--
118Quiet, and decent, and proper--an' here's your orders, my son.
119You know the Line? You don't, though. You write to the Board, and tell
120Your father's death has upset you an' you're goin' to cruise for a spell,
121An' you'd like the Mary Gloster--I've held her ready for this--
122They'll put her in working order and you'll take her out as she is.
123Yes, it was money idle when I patched her and laid her aside
124(Thank God, I can pay for my fancies!)--the boat where your mother died,
125By the Little Paternosters, as you come to the Union Bank,
126We dropped her--I think I told you--and I pricked it off where she sank.
129Easy bearings to carry--Three South--Three to the dot;
130But I gave McAndrew a copy in case of dying--or not.
132They'll give him leave, if you ask 'em and say it's business o' mine.
133I built three boats for the Maoris, an' very well pleased they were,
134An' I've known Mac since the Fifties, and Mac knew me--and her.
135After the first stroke warned me I sent him the money to keep
136Against the time you'd claim it, committin' your dad to the deep;
137For you are the son o' my body, and Mac was my oldest friend,
138I've never asked 'im to dinner, but he'll see it out to the end.
139Stiff-necked Glasgow beggar! I've heard he's prayed for my soul,
140But he couldn't lie if you paid him, and he'd starve before he stole.
142And you'll take Sir Anthony Gloster, that goes on 'is wedding-trip,
143Lashed in our old deck-cabin with all three port-holes wide,
144The kick o' the screw beneath him and the round blue seas outside!
146Ten thousand men on the pay-roll and forty freighters at sea!
147He made himself and a million, but this world is a fleetin' show,
148And he'll go to the wife of 'is bosom the same as he ought to go--
149By the heel of the Paternosters--there isn't a chance to mistake--
150And Mac'll pay you the money soon as the bubbles break!
151Five thousand for six weeks' cruising, the staunchest freighter afloat,
152And Mac he'll give you your bonus the minute I'm out o' the boat!
153He'll take you round to Macassar, and you'll come back alone;
154He knows what I want o' the Mary ... I'll do what I please with my own.
155Your mother 'ud call it wasteful, but I've seven-and-thirty more;
156I'll come in my private carriage and bid it wait at the door ...
157For my son 'e was never a credit: 'e muddled with books and art,
158And 'e lived on Sir Anthony's money and 'e broke Sir Anthony's heart.
159There isn't even a grandchild, and the Gloster family's done--
160The only one you left me--O mother, the only one!
161Harrer and Trinity College--me slavin' early an' late--
162An' he thinks I'm dying crazy, and you're in Macassar Strait!
163Flesh o' my flesh, my dearie, for ever an' ever amen,
164That first stroke come for a warning. I ought to ha' gone to you then.
165But--cheap repairs for a cheap 'un--the doctors said I'd do.
167Excep'--I know--about women; but you are a spirit now;
168An', wife, they was only women, and I was a man. That's how.
169An' a man 'e must go with a woman, as you could not understand;
170But I never talked 'em secrets. I paid 'em out o' hand.
171Thank Gawd, I can pay for my fancies! Now what's five thousand to me,
172For a berth off the Paternosters in the haven where I would be?
173I believe in the Resurrection, if I read my Bible plain,
174But I wouldn't trust 'em at Wokin'; we're safer at sea again.
176I'm sick of the hired women. I'll kiss my girl on her lips!
177I'll be content with my fountain. I'll drink from my own well,
178And the wife of my youth shall charm me--an' the rest can go to Hell!
179(Dickie, he will, that's certain.) I'll lie in our standin'-bed,
181Down by the head an' sinkin', her fires are drawn and cold,
182And the water's splashin' hollow on the skin of the empty hold--
183Churning an' choking and chuckling, quiet and scummy and dark--
184Full to her lower hatches and risin' steady. Hark!
186'Never seen death yet, Dickie? ... Well, now is your time to learn!


7] the Line: Red Ox. Back to Line
9] Master: master-mariner, the "officer in charge of a ship in the British mercantile marine" (Ralph Durand, A Handbook to the Poetry of Rudyard Kipling [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1914]: 135). Back to Line
12] baronite: baronet. Back to Line
13] his Royal 'Ighness: the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII (1841-1910). Back to Line
18] opened the bilge-cock: by letting water into the ship's hold, caused her to sink. Back to Line
19] Grub: food. bind: constipate. 'ud: would. Back to Line
21] dursn't: dared not. Back to Line
27] egged: incited. Back to Line
31] clippers: "sailing-ships built with bows raking forward and masts raking aft" (Durand 136), made for speed in delivering cargo. Back to Line
32] Macassar Straits: between Borneo and Celebes, Indonesia. Back to Line
33] the Little Paternosters: small shoals and islands (see below). Union Bank: unidentified. Back to Line
37] on a spree: a drunken binge or bout. Back to Line
45] shied: became reluctant. Back to Line
46] the Clyde: shipbuilding centre in Scotland. Back to Line
47] "The Cunard, the P. & O., and the Pacific Steam Navigation Company started in 1840. There was no further important development till 1850, when the Inman line began. The Leyland started in 1851. The Allan, the African Steamship Company, and the Ocean Company began in 1852; the Union Steamship Company in 1853; and the British India in 1855" (Durand 136-37). Back to Line
48] boiler square: box-boilers. Back to Line
50] Social Hall: lounge. Back to Line
53] Byfleet's keel: the main structure for a ship named the Byfleet. Back to Line
54] piddled: messed about. piffled: dithered. "The construction of steel ships began between 1870 and 1875. Between 1875 and 1880 twenty-six steel steamers were built in the United Kingdom, and three hundred and sixty-two iron steamers. In 1906 six hundred and sixty steel steamers were built in Great Britain, and only one iron steamer. In 1907 no iron steamers were built at all" (Durand 137). Back to Line
55] first expansions: "The improvement introduced by Watt's patent of 1782 consisted in the economizing of steam by allowing the piston to be propelled, during the latter portion of its excursion, by the 'expansion' of the steam first introduced. An engine in which this is done is said to work 'by expansion'. A double (or triple) expansion engine is one in which the steam passes from one cylinder into another, so that the expansive force is used twice (or thrice)" (OED, "expansion," 7). Back to Line
58] "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Back to Line
71] Harrer and Trinity College: Harrow, a prestigious English public school, and Trinity College, Cambridge. Back to Line
79] Cromwell Road: elegant neighborhood in London. Back to Line
80] brougham: " A one-horse closed carriage, with two or four wheels, for two or four persons" (OED). unload: give birth. Back to Line
86] galley: kitchen. Back to Line
109] soldered: sealed in a lead coffin. Back to Line
112] Wokin': the Woking Necropolis Company (Durand 138). Back to Line
127] treacly: sticky. Back to Line
128] "This point is in Macassar Strait, in the channel between the Little Paternosters and Celebes, a little to the south-east of the former" (Durand 137). Back to Line
131] McAndrew: "once third engineer on the Mary Gloster; later he was on a ship running out to New Zealand via the Cape and homewards round the Horn" (Durand 137). Back to Line
141] in ballast: "without cargo. Steamers are ballasted with water in tanks" (Durand 137). a lively ship: "a ship that rolls and pitches a good deal" (Durand 137). Back to Line
145] 'ouse-flag: flag of the house or shipping firm. Back to Line
166] allus: always. Back to Line
180] she trims best by the head: "the Mary Gloster balances best when so ballasted that her bow is slightly lower in the water than her stern" (Durand 138). Back to Line
185] after-bulkhead: the hinder partition or wall "between the water-tight compartments" (Durand 138). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: