Read introduction

This poem was submitted to the Kernewek Lowender poetry Prize. The theme was smugglers and sinners and I had quite a bit of fun researching the history of Cornwall for it. There has been a minor change to Stanza 4, reversing the line to remove the full end rhyme.

The Smuggler's Reply

4fb6320ff0e5e6ee10bd5840afdbc266by Sean Wright19 Jul 2013

A wretch, Doc Johnson labels me

for making use of natural skill,

for buying goods with honest coin

and selling them to folk with same.

For lugging lace from fine Calais

through black of night and stormy seas,

for shipping leaves to smoke or drink

against the threat of Cutter's fast.

And some may say this life's a breeze

and I'll not deny it has its thrill,

and nettin’ pilchards pays its way

but hellish seas treat both the same.

A merchant man is what I am

and taxed to pay for wars long fought

by Crown and aristocracy

without a thought, without consent.

To build this life's a crime you say

but truth be told it seems to me,

a saint or sinner's lot is cast

dependent on his family's class

A smuggler's cloak you clothe me in,

a criminal by stroke of quill.

And yet my trade is free and fair

and not some Custom's revenue

But if I die a sailor's death

I'll count my blessin’s joyfully

my money made from painful toil

not stole from starving families.