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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Sydney Dobell 1824–74

How ’s My Boy?


“HO, Sailor of the sea!

How ’s my boy—my boy?”

“What ’s your boy’s name, good wife,

And in what good ship sailk’d he?”

“My boy John—

He that went to sea—

What care I for the ship, sailor?

My boy’s my boy to me.

“You come back from sea,

And not know my John?

I might as well have ask’d some landsman

Yonder down in the town.

There ’s not an ass in all the parish

But he knows my John.

“How ’s my boy—my boy?

And unless you let me know

I ’ll swear you are no sailor,

Blue jacket or no,

Brass buttons or no, sailor,

Anchor and crown or no!

Sure his ship was the ‘Jolly Briton’”—

“Speak low, woman, speak low!”

“And why should I speak low, sailor,

About my own boy John?

If I was loud as I am proud

I ’d sing him over the town!

Why should I speak low, sailor?”

“That good ship went down.”

“How ’s my boy—my boy?

What care I for the ship, sailor?

I was never aboard her.

Be she afloat or be she aground,

Sinking or swimming, I ’ll be bound,

Her owners can afford her!

I say, how ’s my John?”

“Every man on board went down,

Every man aboard her.”

“How ’s my boy—my boy?

What care I for the men, sailor?

I ’m not their mother—

How ’s my boy—my boy?

Tell me of him and no other!

How ’s my boy—my boy?”