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Bill Thayer

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The Unwelcome Veto

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Life in a Man-of‑War

a Fore‑top-man

published by
Houghton Mifflin Company
Boston and New York

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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The Sailor's Drill
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p34  Address to an Old Coir-Brush

Old friend, I'm loath to put you by,

But through the ship it is the cry,

That all must now give o'er

Using coir in any way.

This veto comes in force to‑day;

It grieves me to the core.

And why would it not? you've proved to me

A friend, the like we seldom see,

(And true friends now are rare,)

And spite the rubs I oft gave you,

Unshrinking, you have still proved true;

Old brush, you still were there.

Yes, my old comrade, 'tis full clear,

You've stood my friend the last three year;

Aye, that I know full well;

And if I could but now produce

The hammock I owned last cruise,

The same, 'twould plainly tell.

Can I forget the many times

When sailing in Italian climes,

On board the "States" last cruise,

How your assistance saved my back

From many a boatswain's-mate's hard crack,

And heaps of sore abuse!

The first day, well I recollect,

When they our hammocks did inspect —

It was a glorious muster;

Some sixty or seventy might be seen

With terror in their very mien,

Around the mainmast cluster.

And how the colt did fly! good lack,

There was many a sore and aching back

Amongst our jolly crew;

p35 And many a wish was then expressed,

That they might next time be possessed

Of such a brush as you.

And when my shipmates thus did stand

With dirt stained hammocks in their hand,

Each face with fear quite flush —

I laughed and chuckled with delight

To see mine look so clean and white,

And all through you, old brush.

When I think of this, can I

This veto hear without a sigh!

Oh no, indeed, I can't.

Some weeks when we will scrub again,

Your absence then will cause me pain —

Your service then I'll want.

For when on scrubbing I am bent,

I would not give one single cent

For brushes made of hair,

For let one rub with all his might,

He cannot make the hammock white,

The stains will still be there.

Then fare you well, once more, my friend,

This parting doth my heart-strings rend,

I almost drop a tear;

But the order's from the fountain head,

And who on board so rashly led

With this would interfere.

But while the veto does hold out,

I will not let you knock about,

Although I cannot use you;

For perhaps at some distant day,

This hubbub will all pass away,

And who would then refuse you.

So, until that time comes around,

Lie in my bag quite safe and sound,

However it may grieve me;

And when again I bring you forth,

Old coir-brush, I know your worth,

I'm sure you won't deceive me.

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Page updated: 17 Aug 21