All day we fought the tides between the North Head and the South,
All day we hauled the frozen sheets to scape the storm’s wet mouth,
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.
We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
We saw the cliffs and houses and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, his glass against his eye.
The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fi res were burning bright in every ’long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.
The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it’s just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born.
And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And, oh, the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

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