The Girl on the Quayside [poem]
She was naught but a girl of fifteen;
her skin was like porcelain unstained.
Her heart filled with delicate dreams;
her fantasies bred unrestrained.
As she lay on her mattress at night
(the moon and the stars in her bed),
no inkling she had of the plight
which would one day engulf her ahead.
Belle de Lentilles was her name
and she stayed in her room with her paints;
staining her canvas enflamed —
her brush knew no bounds or restraints.
Beneath her, elsewhere in her home,
two voices were raised in a war.
Distressed by their fury and tone
She swore she would live there no more.
She dreamed of a Prince on a horse
who was gallant and noble and true
(good-looking and youthful, of course) —
a knight who would shape her rescue.
One day, in the house all alone,
a visitor knocked on the door.
A man of some years, beard full-grown;
the clothes of Ship’s Captain he wore.
Politely he bowed with his head
and asked if her parents were home.
He saw that her cheeks turned full-red;
in her hair was an abalone comb.
“No sir, I’m here by myself”, she said
(and her heart beat with fire in her breast).
She wanted to pull him to bed;
as she stared at the weave on his chest.
‘This is he’, thought young Belle, as she yearned.
‘My Prince of the Sea has now come’.
At that point, her parents returned
and thus all her plans were undone.
He visited much (how time sped!).
When he came she abandoned her arts
and drew in her mind’s eye instead;
imagining vines round their hearts.
He had watched from the side of his eye
as this elegant girl graced the room.
When she showed him her art he had cried
to see such a flower in full bloom.
The next time the Captain did call
and she was alone in the place
(her parents had gone to a ball),
she planted a kiss on his face.
Shaken, he took one step back.
“How old are you, child?” he then said.
“I’m twenty” (she loved his fine cap!)
“That’s a lie, child” (while shaking his head).
“I can serve on your boat”, Belle went on.
“And I’ll love you; please take me aboard”.
“But you’re only a child!” Whereupon
Belle fell full on this worthy sealord.
“My child, you’re a beauty, it’s true
and a prize any man would adore.
But maybe as years come to view
you’ll be free to have suitors galore.”
At that Belle did come to a rage
and pommelled his chest with her fists.
The Captain (whose name was John Sage)
then held both her arms by the wrists.
He spoke as Belle sunk to her knees:
“When you’re no more a child or a girl
I’ll return to this town from the seas
and in my arms you I will whirl”.
At that, Belle then ran to her room,
fell down on her bed and did wail.
She wanted her captain… and soon.
His entreaties were to no avail.
So John Sage returned to the sea
for five years in all and three days.
And when he returned to the quay
near where Belle dwelt, his heart was ablaze.
For throughout those five years he had held
young Belle’s beauty and arts in his mind.
On his voyage every girl he’d repelled;
he knew no better lass he would find.
So he rushed to her house with great haste
in his best captain’s clothes — feathered hat.
But the effort was all just a waste
for Belle in her room she was sat.
Although she had thought of John Sage
every day since he’d gone off to sea,
in refusing to come to the door
she’d hoped to repay him fully.
For she bore him a grudge deep within
that he’d left her at home all alone.
Now determined that he should not win,
hard skin on her heart she had grown.
The next morn Belle woke with a fright
and thought ‘He’s tormented enough.
I’ll go to the quay — no more spite
and no more my Prince I’ll rebuff’.
So she ran in a rush to the dock
but was stunned when she took in the view.
“Where’s John Sage?” said young Belle all in shock.
“He has sailed just this morn with his crew”.
She was staggered by what he had said
and wished there was some antidote.
In her heart was just one mournful thread:
‘Through my folly I’ve now missed that boat’.
Some three years went by from that day
(young Belle had remained on her bunk).
Then news came from lands far away
that John’s ship had foundered and sunk.
For bereft of the girl of his dreams,
to bumbo he’d turned in his grief.
He then went downhill, so it seems
and sailed his boat onto a reef.
The moral of this little tale
(for those who are willing to hear)
is don’t let your chances set sail
or let fated love disappear.
© Alan Morrison, 2015