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Original Nautical Poetry: Tale of the Bounty by Terry Huntington

August 1, 2011

TALE OF THE BOUNTY

By Terry Huntington

Terry Huntington, Author

“Weigh anchor!” ordered Captain Bligh

And so the Bounty set her sail

“We’re heading for the Southern Sea

And isles of Cook’s romantic tale

.

“Our countrymen have settled in

The islands off the Spanish Main

They use the Negro for their slave

But he complains of hunger pain

.

“Now there’s a grand Pacific isle –

Tahiti, where the breadfruit grows

We’ll take this plant and sail it on

To help relieve the black man’s woes.”

.

From England Bounty set to sea –

From land her hearty crew called home –

And headed for the ocean deep

Where some until life’s end would roam

.

Now ‘ere the voyage scarce began

The Bounty’s captain showed his breed

He was a wicked, angry man,

And violence was much his creed

.

He quickly dealt out punishment

He rationed food where was no need

He bred a fear amongst the men

And planted midst them hateful seed

.

First land was the Canary Isles

And there the Bounty dropped her line –

Her men prepared to step ashore

To taste the Islands’ famous wine

.

But Bligh had diff’rent thoughts in store

(They’d braved a wild Atlantic storm)

He’d make the men set to repair

And bring the Bounty back to norm

.

When from these pleasant isles they sailed

For weeks and months no land they’d see –

And never having stepped ashore

They carried on – unhappily

.

And so His Majesty’s doom’d ship

Pressed on through Neptune’s vast domain

She bravely took her hearty men

Through mighty seas and wind and rain

.

But even her accomplish’d crew

With proven captain – sailor born –

Could not o’ercome the treacherous seas

Around the rough and stormy Horn

.

Old Bligh was forced to turn about

And sail into the rising sun

He cursed the storm; he cursed his men –

He cursed the fame he might have won

.

Three oceans now they had to cross

Toward islands of the Southern Sea

Three oceans full of fear and dread

Toward Bounty’s dismal destiny

.

Now when Tahiti came in sight

On every face there was a smile

They’d had a long and trying trip

Of twenty-seven thousand mile

.

And many were there on the ship

Who lay awake and thought at night

Of future in this paradise –

These lovely isles – a man’s delight

.

The thundering surf; the blue lagoons –

The royal feasts; the maidens fair –

The pleasant tropic eves they knew

All filled their souls with peace too rare

.

But when at last the breadfruit plant

Was stowed with care aboard the ship

A rising wind did fill her sail

And launch her on the homeward trip

.

Now Bligh, when they had set their sail

Commenced once more his sad abuse

He chided officers and men

Until their hatred wanted loose

.

The day of reckoning drew nigh

When Bounty’s Master cursed the Mate –

Accused him of complicity –

In theft that’d taken place of late

.

A coconut there had been stol’n

‘deed taken from the Captain’s share

(‘Twas one of many he’d been giv’n

By natives of the islands fair)

.

And Fletcher Christian he accused,

Upbraiding him before the men

And Christian’s tested temper flared

But quickly was subdued again

.

This sad abuse no one forgot

And least of all the Bounty’s mate

What Bligh had done to him that day

Sealed once for all the Bounty’s fate

.

Soon then one quiet tropic eve

Beneath the Southern Cross’s gaze

And out beyond the sight of land  –

Out where the carefree dolphin plays  –

.

When all around the sea was still

And ever silent night was clear

There passed a word from mouth to mouth  –

A word that fell on list’ning ear

.

That word was full of hate and fear  –

Ill omen of nigh treachery

It sealed the Bounty’s fate that night,

For Christian whispered – MUTINY

.

When once this horrid word was said

The action must be carried through

He quickly mustered to his side

Those hate filled members of the crew

.

And many were there who did choose

To side with Christian – risk to die,

To seek with him to take the ship

And sweet revenge on Captain Bligh

.

And in the quiet of the night

They quickly seized up every arm

And held Bligh’s loyal men at bay

So that no one could raise alarm

.

Old Bligh they turned out from his bunk

And pinioned him against the post

Some wanted then to piece the heart

Of this the man they hated most

.

But Fletcher Christian took command  –

His men stood by with bated breath

He ordered them away from Bligh

And saved him from an instant death

.

He gave to Bligh an open boat

And set him and his loyal men

With meager rations out to sea –

They’d likely not be seen again

.

And still the stars were twinkling nigh

When old Bligh’s crowded open boat

Had drifted off into the night

With scarce a hope to stay afloat

.

The ocean that was now defiled –

The blazing stars that lit the night  –

Just these alone, both nature’s own

Would know the loyal band’s ill plight

.

And Bounty sailed in her disgrace

The open sea must be her home

Her bunting never more would fly

To dominate the wounded foam

.

And in her wake she could not leave

The trinity she feared the most

Old Bligh, his men, and British law –

This trinity – a haunting ghost

.

Her sails ashamed before the sun –

Her men afraid before the stars –

She dared not greet another ship –

She could not hide her mut’nous scars

.

The scornful clouds looked down on her –

The albatross above her loomed –

The sea breeze whispered in her sail

“Oh Bounty!  Bounty!  You are doomed!”

__________________________________

About the Author:

Terry Huntington is a retired surveyor living in Victoria, B.C. He was born in Campbellton, New Brunswick, grew up in Montreal, and has lived in Australia, Jamaica, and Bermuda. His inspiration to write Tale of the Bounty came when, as a naive young man, he was one of two paying passengers aboard a British tramp freighter that took him on a 7-week voyage from Saint John, New Brunswick, to Brisbane, Australia. During that voyage the Portuguese passenger liner Santa Maria was hi-jacked and the refrigerated freighter Runic smashed up on Middleton Reef near Lord Howe Island. It was 1961, and his ship was in the same waters as these tragedies. His imagination ignited. The earliest drafts of this poem were penned more than forty years ago. According to Terry, “It was only after I retired that I did a lot of re-writes and new stuff” that culminated in the current poem.

The legendary sailing story of the HMS Bounty is rife with romance, and has been told in other poems, books and movies. Terry acknowledges that Byron’s epic poem “mastered the language much more than I ever could”, and tells in thousands of words what he attempts to do in hundreds.  The basis of Terrry’s poem is not completely accurate history. He doubts that any of the many Bounty stories are. “There’s a large element of romance. My poem is based on the first of the Nordhoff and Hall trilogy, “Mutiny on the Bounty.” Like that book, it recounts the story only up to and including the mutiny. It does not attempt the rest of the story such as the ship’s fate told in their “Pitcairn’s Island,” or the record open-boat voyage across the South Pacific as told in their “Men Against the Sea.” Since my poem is based on “Mutiny on the Bounty,” it echoes some romantic notions of the Bounty story and includes some historic details as well”.

Terry Huntington has been published in Canadian Stories, Engineering and Contract RecordThe English QuarterlyIsland WriterLester’s Army and Poetry WLU. His latest non-fiction writing appears in Lester’s Army on-line at: http://lestersarmy.com/a-soldiers-dread/. Terry can be reached by email at: terry@huntington.ca.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 8, 2012 13:44

    Hi Terry,

    I have moved into camping mode for the summer and am on YFi. This means I no longer have access to my contact list, so I’ve lost your email address. Thank heaven you’ve become quite techie. I’ve just finished “Nubra Valley Odyssey” and would like to email you about it. Therefore, please email me at so that I can have a return address again.

    Thanks Sheila.

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