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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

How’s My Boy?

By Sydney Dobell (1824–1874)

“HO, sailor of the sea!

How’s my boy—my boy?”—

“What’s your boy’s name, good wife,

And in what good ship sailed 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 the sea,

And not know my John?

I might as well have asked some landsman,

Yonder down in the town.

There’s not an ass in all the parish

But 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?”