Billy in the Darbies
Good of the chaplain to enter Lone Bay
And down on his marrowbones here and pray
For the likes just o' me, Billy Budd. -- But, look:
Through the port comes the moonshine astray!
It tips the guard's cutlass and silvers this nook;
But 'twill die in the dawning of Billy's last day.
A jewel-block they'll make of me tomorrow,
Pendant pearl from the yardarm-end
Like the eardrop I gave to Bristol Molly --
O, 'tis me, not the sentence they'll suspend.
Ay, ay, all is up; and I must up too,
Early in the morning, aloft from alow.
On an empty stomach now never it would do.
They'll give me a nibble -- bit o' biscuit ere I go.
Sure, a messmate will reach me the last parting cup;
But, turning heads away from the hoist and the belay,
Heaven knows who will have the running of me up!
No pipe to those halyards. -- But aren't it all a sham?
A blur's in my eyes; it is dreaming that I am.
A hatchet to my hawser? All adrift to go?
The drum roll to grog, and Billy never know?
But Donald he has promised to stand by the plank;
So I'll shake a friendly hand ere I sink.
But -- no! It is dead then I'll be, come to think.
I remember Taff the Welshman when he sank.
And his cheek it was like the budding pink.
But me they'll lash in hammock, drop me deep.
Fathoms down, fathoms down, how I'll dream fast asleep.
I feel it stealing now. Sentry, are you there?
Just ease these darbies at the wrist,
And roll me over fair!
I am sleepy, and the oozy weeds about me twist.
Note: "Darbies" - British slang for handcuffs.
Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text),
listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)
by Ernst Bacon (1898 - 1990)
, "Billy in the Darbies", 194-?, published 2001, rev. 1976 [baritone and piano], Classical Vocal Reprints
by David Leo Diamond (1915 - 2005)
, "Billy in the Darbies", 1944, published 1946 [high voice and piano], from 7 Songs by David Diamond
by Robert Evett (1922 - 1975)
, "Billy in the Darbies", 1959. [baritone, clarinet, and string quartet]
by William Flanagan (1923 - 1969)
, "Billy in the Darbies", published 1954. [SATB chorus and piano]
Text added to the website: 2008-07-19.
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