Will Clewline

A poem about the violence of the press gang.

Will Clewline Poem

Will Clewline Poem


FROM Jamaica’s hot clime, and her pestilent dews,
From the toil of a sugar-stow’d barque,
From the perilous boatings that oft thin the crews,
And fill the wide maw of the shark -,
From fever, storm, famine, and all the sad store
Of hardships by seamen endured,
Behold poor Will Clewline escaped, and, once more,
With his wife and his children safe moor’d.

View the rapture that beams in his sun-embrown’d face,
While he folds his loved Kate to his breast,
While his little ones, trooping to share his embrace,
Contend who shall first be caress’d:
View them climb his loved knee, whilst each tiny heart swells,
As he presses the soft rosy lip,
And of cocoa nuts, sugar, and tamarinds tells,
That are soon to arrive from the ship.

Then see him reclined on his favorite chair,
With his arm round the neck of his love,
Who tells how his friends and his relatives fare,
And how their dear younglings improve.
The evening approaches, and, round the snug fire,
The little ones sport on the floor,
When lo! while delight fills the breast of the sire,
Loud thunderings are heard at the door.

And now, like a tempest that sweeps through the sky,
And kills the first buds of the year,
Oh! view, midst this region of innocent joy,
A gang of fierce hirelings appear;
They seize on their prey all relentless as fate,
He struggles – is instantly bound,
Wild scream the poor children, and lo! his loved Kate
Sinks pale and convulsed to the ground.

To the hold of a tender, deep, crowded, and foul,
Now view your brave seaman confined,
And on the bare planks, all indignant of soul,
All unfriended, behold him reclined.
The children’s wild screamings still ring in his ear,
He broods on his Kate’s poignant pain,
He hears the cat hawling – his pangs are severe.
He feels, but he scorns to complain.

Arrived now at Plymouth, the poor enslaved tar
Is to combat for freedom and laws,
Is to brave the rough surge in a vessel of war
He sails – and soon dies in the cause.
Kate hears the sad tidings, and never smiles more,
She falls a meek martyr to grief,
His children, kind friends and relations deplore,
But the parish alone gives relief.

Ye statesmen who manage this cold-blooded land,
And who boast of your seamen’s exploits,
Ah ! think how your death-dealing bulwarks are mann’d
And learn to respect human rights.
Like felons, no more let the sons of the main
Be sever’d from all that is dear;
If their sufferings and wrongs be a national stain,
O! let the foul stain disappear.

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