The passengers contentedly
aboard the tall ship Liberty
untroubled were by distant clouds
which faultless eyesight scarce allowed.
The captain didn’t help at all.
Quoth he, “Yon storm is no mere squall,
it’s Noah’s flood! I fear a wreck!”
and ordered all hands below decks.
The able-bodied and the trim,
all those who didn’t care to swim,
all passengers and all their gear
were crammed and hunkered down in fear.
“It’s for your own damn good,” said he,
his gold braid flapping violently.
“We shan’t survive this tempest’s whip
with people clambering o’er the ship!”
And yet, the mild storm took its time,
scant raindrops fell upon the brine.
Though gentle winds but murmured low,
his lordship still cried “Get below!”
A kind of martial law decree
he made, in this emergency
and penalties dire did he forewarn
for all who would deny the storm.
A gruesome fine he soon announced,
whilst on the peaceful tide they bounced,
that any who did not obey
would lose their rations for the day.
And furthermore, the captain said
with bulging eyes and face grown red,
those who disputed his remarks
would find themselves as food for sharks!
A balmy, nearly windless day
bore witness to this fierce tirade,
but all souls huddled in the hold
agreed to do as they were told.
Belowdecks was no place for crowds,
cramped walls no exercise allowed
and air grown stale with every sigh
collected, while germs multiplied.
The captain, firm in his resolve
stood by the orders he had called;
he lounged inside his stateroom fine
and chewed on steak and drank fine wine,
indeed, ignoring seemingly
his own directives: that to be
outside at all, even by chance,
would risk the gravest punishments,
he often strode out in the air,
at night or day, and didn’t care
who witnessed his carefree removal,
nor cared he for their disapproval.
A week went by, and then the next,
the moaning from below the decks
would crack the heart of any man,
save one, the Liberty’s captain.
The mate, who from his berthing strayed
peeked out to view the tranquil day
and wondered, rubbing at his eyes
if his chief’s bullying was wise.
Without a crew to tend the sails
the ship was late, and could not fail
to inconvenience all aboard
who had appointments on the shore.
The health of nearly everyone
who gloomed, sequestered from the sun,
diminished to a sad malaise,
though clement were the passing days
At last, a mutiny was reared;
they grabbed the captain by the beard
and tied him roughly to the mizzen,
yet he stood by his prior decision.
When Liberty sailed into port
some short time later, and the court
did find him guilty of, for one,
creating peril where there was none,
And also for duplicity
in disobeying the decree
that he condemned all others to,
his liberty was not renewed.
At the gallows, grim and terse
the poor chap uttered his last words:
“Better sick or weak or poor
than lying on the ocean floor.”
The gathered curious crowd dispersed
feeling somewhat reimbursed,
yet wondering still why DID that captain
predict such doom where none had happened?