Take As Take Can

We're huddled in Mother Redcap's one freezing night
swigging rum and porter, content that we've stowed
our wreckers' best-found gains in Redcap's cellars,
a-ready to haul them out shortly, up over the moors

when in swaggers Jack Daws, excise officer -- our foe!
-- may Beelzebub take the man! Daws eyes us cannily.
We lean closer, devise a plan: Jack has not spied me,
so I sneak out the back way, sprint down to the beach,

like a fool lay down in the dark cold, incoming tide.
Water licks my face, drenches my clothes immediately.
What is taking them so long? Has our plan gone awry?
Will I succumb to b-b-bone-numbing cold, ever get dry?

My teeth are a-chattering; do I though hear a yell?
Jack Daws comes a-swaggering down to the swell,
believes me dead. Aye -- I might be soon as well!
Blighter picks my pocket, takes my best fob watch!

I groan and pretend to wake, grasp my handspike,
stun him smack! with an almighty swing. Oh, brother!
So, mateys, we haul our goods through the back door!
Aye, 'tis some neat and crafty work tonight at Mother's!*

* This poem is based on a story told about the tavern run in the 18th century by Mother Redcap on the shore at Liscard across the Mersey from Liverpool. Tradition has it that the inn was frequented by smugglers and wreckers -- men who would pillage shipwrecked ships. They were said to have hidden their ill-gotten gains at Mother Redcap's and at the Red Noses west of New Brighton.

By Christopher T. George