Literary Places

The Figure Head by Crosbie Garstin

There was an ancient carver who fashioned a saint ;
But the parson wouldn’t have it, so he took a pot of paint,
And changed its angel-garments for a dashing soldier-rig,
And said it was a figure-head and sold it to a brig.

The brig hauled her mainsail to an off-shore draught,
Then she shook her snowy royals and the Scillies went abaft,
And cloudy with her canvas she ran before the Trade,
Till she came to the Equator where she struck a merry -maid.

A string of pearls and conches were all of her togs,
But the porpoises and flying-fish they followed her like dogs ;
She had a voice of silver and lips of coral red ;
She climbed the dolphin-striker and kissed the figure-head.

The captain wore his blue coat with buttons of brass ;
The mate he greased his forelock at the cabin looking-glass ;
The bos’un paced the fo’castle and coughed ” Ah ha, ahem ! ”
But the merry-maid she turned her back and wouldn’t look at them.

And every starry evening she’d swim in the foam
About the bows a-singing like a nightingale at home.
She’d call to him and sing to him as sweetly as a bird,
But the wooden-headed effigy he never said a word.

And every starry evening in the Doldrum calms
She’d wriggle up the bob-stay and throw her tender arms
About his scarlet shoulders, and fondle him and cry,
And stroke his curly whiskers, but he never winked an eye.

She couldn’t get an answer to her tears or moans,
So she went and told her daddy, told the ancient Davy Jones.
Old Davy damned his eyesight, and puzzled of his wits
Then he whistled up his hurricanes and tore the brig to bits.

Down on the ocean-bed, green fathoms deep,
Where the wrecks lie rotting and the great sea-serpents creep,
In a gleaming grotto all built of sailors’ bones
Sits the handsome figure-head, listening to Miss Jones.

Songs o’ love she sings him the live-long day,
And she hangs upon his bosom and sobs the night away,
But he never, never answers, for beneath his soldier paint
The wooden-headed lunatic still thinks that he’s a saint.


from Vagabond Verses, by Crosbie Garstin (1887-1930). Sidgwick and Jackson, 1917.



–  Open Library: Vagabond Verses by Crosbie Garston

– Cornwall Artists Index: a brief biography

– Google Books: 101 Cornish Lives – Crosbie Garston, by Maurice Smelt