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Lay for the Day
23rd July

Neptunalia, the Roman festival of the sea-god Neptune.

Pardon & Sly

There once was a bold stout fisherman
And he fished the shores of ice
And his captain was a skulking wretch
As tight as a blacksmith’s vice.
Tom Pardon was the fisherman’s name
And the captain they called Old Sly,
And the fellows grew fond of Tom Pardon
But they prayed Old Sly would die.
“Go down in the stormy waters,
Down in the angry sea,
Go down alone now, captain,
And no more trouble me.
No more trouble me,
Pickled in brine for eternity.”

They came to the seas of the midnight sun
And their nets they could scarcely raise
For twenty tons of the fine codfish
For seven nights and days.
Old Sly he kept them hard at work
So they scarce could eat or sleep,
Staggering about like men in a daze,
They were half-dead on their feet.
“Go down in the stormy waters,
Down in the plentiful sea,
Come back overflowing
And a rich man I will be.
A rich man I will be,
And I’ll have the hand of sweet Rose-Marie.”

Tom Pardon had a young sister
And she was Sly’s delight,
And he hated Tom for his beautiful sister
As he dreamed of the wedding night.
“Over my dead body
Will you wed sweet Rose-Marie.”
“Very well then,” says the captain,
“If that’s how you’d have it be.
Go down in the stormy waters,
Down in the hungry sea.
Go down alone now, sailor,
And no more trouble me.
No more trouble me.
Goodbye, brother-in-law-to-be.”

On the very same night that Captain Sly
Pitched Tom overboard
They cast their nets and drew them in
Empty of all reward.
Seven days and nights they cast
And had not a single cod.
“Very well then,” says Captain Sly,
“We’ll sail for home, by God.
Home from the stormy waters,
Home to my blushing bride.
Come to me now, Rose Marie,
For your brother asked if he died
I’d take you to my side.
Let not his dying wish be denied.”

On the last night of her maidenhood
As she lay on her bed full of care,
A pale and trembling form appeared
And cried, “Oh sister dear,
Marry not my murderer
But revenge your brother’s cold bed,
For I lie where Sly has sent me
With the codfish about my head.
Down in the deathly waters
Where daylight never comes,
Poor Tom who has wronged no-one
Is a shimmering wretch, you see.
This glimmering wretch is me,
Brother Tom who once saw the sun.”

On the very next night when she was wed
And the captain’s lust itched hot,
“Oh husband mine,” says Rose-Marie,
“Will you take me down to the dock?
Oh captain mine, I wish to see,
Before we go to bed,
The ship you master, tall and true.”
So by the hand she was led,
And there she picked up a cobble up,
And there upon the quay
With two fine blows she knocked him dead
And pitched him into the sea,
Down in the righteous sea,
Pickled in brine for eternity.

That was 1963.
Rose-Marie’s long out of jail.
She had to serve her time, you see,
For who would believe her tale?
Who would believe her tale of ghosts
And treachery at sea,
Who would believe the tale she told
One night in the pub to me?
Though I was told by a sailor
Who worked that Island Queen,
One night by the rail he saw
Silhouetted on the ice
The form of two tall ghosts,
Pardon and Sly at each other’s throats.

Words and music by The Children

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar