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The Ballad of Matelotage and Mutiny

—Hal Duncan—








           Now Jack and Tom they sailed out
                      On the Molly Mae McPhee,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Fresh as the day they left their play
                      To join the King's Navy.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           They sailed out north, south, east and west,
                      They sailed from sea to sea.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Sailed off into the sailor's life
                      That's lonely as can be.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           Now Jack was gay, with hair like hay,
                      And eyes blue as the sea,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And Tom was bless'd with lips as red
                      As the cherries on the tree.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           In six long weeks 'twas rare they'd speak,
                      Their hands upon the rope,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           But lips would lick and eyes they'd flick
                      In a thirst as dry as hope.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           For six long weeks, and double-six,
                      And then a dozen more,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           They'd heave and sweat, and then to bed
                      They'd crawl away to snore
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           But then one day, a storm it came
                      And the bosun rang his bell.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           The sails came down, and men did drown,
                      In a night as dark as hell.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           In the light of morn, the ship forlorn
                      Was adrift upon the waves,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And them were left to mourn the dead
                      Gave thanks that they were saved.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           But these two lads were doubly glad,
                      Each other the first to see,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           They raised their heads and both o' them said,
                      Thank God for sparing thee.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           The captain came out on the deck
                      With his compass and his chart.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           A cruel and angry man he was
                      With a Bible for his heart:
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Let prayers be said for all the dead
                      But there's cargo in the hold.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           We've snout to ship, a purse to tip,
                      And a merchant's heart is cold.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           But tho' he railed the wind had failed;
                      The sea was e'er still.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           For ten long days the ship it lay;
                      The sails they would not fill.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           The sun it set, the sun it rose,
                      The sun beat in the sky.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           The lads just lazed and passed the days
                      With cards or wi' the die.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           There's many a mate who knows the games
                      Two lads will play alone,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And there's many a mate who's tried his hand
                      On tackle that's not his own.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           There's many a mate has lost his head
                      From the gambling or the rum,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And many a mate who's given his
                      For a cabin boy's sweet plum.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           Our blue-eyed Jack was wandering aft
                      One evenin' when he sees:
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Tom he sits, his tongue twixt lips,
                      With ropes upon his knees.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           The ropes are frayed, of knots he's made
                      A strange and wond'rous art;
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           So smart the knots his hands have wrought,
                      They can't be teased apart.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           There's many a Jack whose knot's been cracked
                      By a smile on lips so sly,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And there's many a Tom whose been undone
                      By the wink of a bright blue eye.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           O, what do ye call those knots? says Jack.
                      Tis matelotage, says he.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Then take my hand if ye'll have a man,
                      And it's matelotage'd we'll be!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           The night was hot as they tied the knot
                      In a matelotage of limbs,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           As they came together, skin to skin,
                      Then he again, then him.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Whose arm was this, whose leg was that,
                      Whose hand upon whose cock?
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           At break of day abed they lay,
                      Their tongues and pricks still locked.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           The wind it rose, began to blow,
                      The ship went on its way.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Our lusty boys, they heave in joy,
                      By night and by the day.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Heave, me hearties, hold it fast,
                      Put sweat upon yer backs!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Heave, me hearties, hold it fast,
                      Ye Toms and all ye Jacks!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           They pulled to dock—weigh anchor, boys,
                      We've come to Kingston Town.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           'Tis time to spend yer monies,
                      Every guinea, every crown.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Rum and whores will all be yours,
                      Yer purses are too full.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           So spend it now before ye drown,
                      Ye know the sea is cruel.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           But Tom and Jack, they held it back,
                      Another plan had they.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           No girls and grog for these sea dogs
                      To fritter away their pay.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Down to the gunsmith off they went,
                      Their wages joined as one,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And they bought a brace of pistols there,
                      For each of them a gun.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           Twin flintlocks of the finest craft,
                      With aim as tight and true,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           As true as the hearts would never part
                      From the lover they would woo,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Of polished wood and polished steel
                      And balanced in the grip,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And each engraved with his lover's name
                      To wear upon his hip.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           Into their belts they tucked them then,
                      A-pointed at their jewels,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And many a lass who saw them pass
                      Would swear that they were fools.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           But Jack he scoffs, may I blow 'em off
                      If ever I'm false to thee.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           An' if mine don't hold ye true, says Tom,
                      They're bugger all use to me.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           From Kingston they did sail away
                      On the Molly Mae McPhee,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Fresh as the day they left their play
                      To join the King's Navy.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           They sailed out north, south, east, and west,
                      They sailed from sea to sea,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Sailed off into the sailor's life
                      That's jolly as can be.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           Now Tom was gay for hair like hay,
                      And eyes blue as the sea,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And Jack was bless'd by lips as red
                      As the cherries on the tree.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And ne'er a twain so fast remained
                      Whene'er the sea would crash,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           For ne'er a two were bound so true
                      In the knots of matelotage.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           But many a mate they spied the lads
                      As close as close can be,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And many a mate they spied the lads
                      With lust and jealousy.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           A hundred leagues, a hundred leagues,
                      A hundred more from land,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           On a sea that's bare of the maidens fair,
                      There's only what's at hand.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           The winds did blow, the salt it rose,
                      A swell to toss the ship,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And mate to mate, the pacts were laid,
                      An oath on every lip.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Ye'll not be thrown to Davy Jones,
                      Not lost upon the sea,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           If ye matelotage! matelotage!
                      Matelotage with me!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           Was ne'er a ship so hoared with salt
                      As the Molly Mae McPhee;
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           More salt there was upon the deck
                      Than in the deep blue sea.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           A ship of crusty seamen
                      Making sweat enough to swim.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           A ship of lusty lovers
                      Tied in knots of naked limbs.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           But a cold and angry captain
                      With a Bible for his heart
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Knew naught of what his crewmen did
                      Beneath the shining stars,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Until one night, he saw a sight
                      That stripped his anger bare—
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           'Twas Tom with Jack upon his back,
                      His legs up in the air
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           Ye scurvy bums, ye foul scum,
                      Ye sodomites, he cursed,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Ye godless beasts of buggery,
                      Who slake a sinful thirst!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Ye shame the ship, ye shame us all,
                      In the name of God above!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Says Jack, My shame, by any name
                      Of God is known as love.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           'Tis bound we are, as man and man,
                      'Gainst matelotage, ye rant,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           But I swear by Davy Jones, we'll not
                      Be bound by pious cant.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Our love is true as the sea is blue,
                      And we'll raise our standard here,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And curse the name of a God of shame,
                      Who'd curse a love that's queer.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           'Tis bound ye are, 'tis bound ye'll be,
                      Together to yer fate,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Keelhauled beneath the hull,
                      The briny waters for a grave!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Ye naked wretches, both of ye,
                      Will meet it in yer sin.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           The barnacles will strip the filth,
                      A-scouring naked skin.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           No man could move but only stand,
                      Afeart of his dread ire,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Till the captain lashed them into work,
                      His tongue a whip of fire:
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Now tie them tight, and tighter still,
                      With plenty of rope to reel,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And hie them up and lo'er them down
                      And haul them round the keel!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           'Twas a black day on the Molly Mae
                      As the mates began the task.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           The men held back in binding Jack,
                      And Tom they loosely lashed.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           But the captain swore they'd all be sore,
                      The Cat for he who slacked,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           So into the briny sea they gave
                      Two lads called Tom and Jack.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           A dozen times they hauled them thence,
                      T' the captain cried, Avast!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Now bring 'em ho, what's left to show,
                      I'll wager nought did last.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           So heaved the crew, and up they drew,
                      Till the horror sent them back,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           For there on the deck was an awful wreck
                      That might be Tom or Jack.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           With nary a strip of skin unripped,
                      Nor a hair left on his head,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           No man aboard could see the lad
                      And be sure he wasn't dead.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           With lips as red as the blood, 'tis said,
                      And his eyes dark as the sea,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           No man aboard could say for sure
                      Which one of the two was he.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           The men they turned, their bellies churned,
                      As a terrible sound was heard,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           A horrible moan, an awful groan,
                      And then the lad he stirred.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           He tore off the ropes that bound no more
                      And stood and raised his head,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And he pointed a claw at the captain cruel
                      And here are the words he said:
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           Nor Devil below nor God above
                      Holds sway upon the waves;
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           The sea belongs to Davy Jones
                      Wi' the lives he claims or saves.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           So we made Him a pact to pay Him back
                      Wi' the soul of who survived,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           The body to hold his lover's soul,
                      The soul of the one who died.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           'Tis the dead who stands before ye now
                      In the flesh of who he loved.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           'Tis a knot will never be broke by ye,
                      By man or God above.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           I swear on the grave of he who's saved,
                      The knot that's in my heart,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           The price ye'll pay, ye'll rue the day,
                      This Mutiny you did start.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           The captain cursed, swore on his Book,
                      This fearful thing to see.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           This crime ye've done is sin on sin,
                      Ye've sold yer soul, said he.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           'Tis a traitor to God, to God, you are,
                      So a Judas's death for ye.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Now string him high to kiss the sky
                      Wi' the yardarm for his tree.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           The crew drew back from Tom-or-Jack,
                      Their courage it had fled.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Till he tied a loop, for his own noose,
                      And slipped it o'er his head.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Heave-ho, he cries, for all yer lives,
                      Yer captain's word obey.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Be not afear'd, for all it's queer,
                      I'll not be dying today.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           The yardarm creaked, and men did weep
                      As the poor lad he was hung,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           But he gave a grin like bloody sin
                      And smiled there as he swung.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           For three long days the lad he sways,
                      But ne'er will he die.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           For three long nights, a dreadful sight,
                      The vengeance in his eye.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           O, what'll we do with this wretched fool?
                      The mates began to sigh.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           O, what'll we do with this captain cruel?
                      Their mutinous hearts replied.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           So by the light of a moon as white
                      As the surf upon the reef,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           They lo'ered him down, and gathered round,
                      And raised him to his feet.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           'Twere not a peep, no man could speak,
                      As his gaze cut to the quick.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           He gripped the noose and drew it loose
                      And he gave his lips a lick.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           His voice was low. Now go below,
                      Bring me the guns, says he,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           A pistol for each lover,
                      And we'll have us a mutiny.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           The captain in his quarters was
                      Retiring to his rest.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           The door it burst, he spit a curse,
                      Then terror struck his breast.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           For in he strides, the lad who died,
                      And firm and true he stands,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           With an eye as cold as a merchant's gold
                      And a pistol in each hand.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           Now in the night, by the pale moonlight,
                      The strangest thing was seen.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           The names upon the pistols
                      In his hand they seemed to gleam.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           No longer Tom, no longer Jack,
                      As everyone there could see,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           One carried the name of Matelotage,
                      The other of Mutiny!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           Ye'll burn for this, the captain spits,
                      In hell's eternal flame.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           If ye be man then ye be damned,
                      Whate'er be yer name.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           The lad he grins his smile of sin,
                      I'll tell you this, says he,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           'Tis Matelotage for whom ye die,
                      'Tis Mutiny who kills ye.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           Wi' the pistol in his right he shot
                      The captain in his heart.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           He put a hole right through his soul,
                      As 'twere a poison dart.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Then love it swept and the captain wept,
                      His heart it sorely bled.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Wi' the pistol in his left, our lad
                      Then shot the captain dead!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           For the gun of one, of Matelotage,
                      Now deals out only love,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           With every shot a binding knot,
                      To make yer heart a dove.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           But the other gun, alike this one,
                      Will also take yer breath;
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           For the gun of Mutiny, ye see,
                      Will deal ye out yer death.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           With narrowed eyes, he took his prize,
                      The Molly Mae MacPhee.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           He stripped the hold, and shared the gold,
                      Did Captain Mutiny.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           A flag of black for Tom and Jack,
                      A pirate flag he raised,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           And the cruel still run from his two guns
                      But ne'er can get away.
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!

           Ye scurvy bums, ye foul scum,
                      Ye sodomites, to me!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           Ye godless beasts of buggery,
                      Arise with Mutiny!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           We'll plunder from the Spanish Main
                      To the coast of Barbary,
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!
           For the pirate gods of Matelotage
                      And his lover, Mutiny!
           Cry, haul! Aye! A-diddle-aye-dee!


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Hal Duncan was born in 1971 and lives in the West End of Glasgow. A long-standing member of the Glasgow SF Writers Circle, his first novel, Vellum, was nominated for the Crawford Award, the British Fantasy Society Award and the World Fantasy Award. A sequel, Ink, is due out in 2007 along with a novella set in the same world, Scorched Earth (MonkeyBrain Books, forthcoming). A poetry collection, Sonnets for Orpheus, was recently released in a limited edition by Papaveria Press. His short fiction has been published in magazines and anthologies such as Fantasy, Strange Horizons, Electric Velocipede, Nova Scotia and Eidolon.

content Copyright 2006, Hal Duncan—All Rights Reserved










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