Will Watch

Melody - John Davy, 1765-1824

John Davy

One morn when the wind from the northward blew keenly,
While sullenly rear'd the big waves of the main,
A fam'd smuggler, Will Watch, kiss'd his Sue, then serenely
Took helm, and to sea boldly steer'd out again.
Will had promis'd his Sue that his trip, if well ended,
Should coil up his hopes and he'd anchor on shore;
When his pockets were lin'd, why his life should be mended,
The laws he had broken he'd never break more.

His sea boat was trim, made her port, took her lading;
Then Will stood for home, reach'd the offing, and cried,
"This night, if I've luck, furls the sail of my trading;
In dock I can lie, serve a friend, too, beside."
Will lay-to till night came on, darksome and dreary;
To crowd ev'ry sail, then, he pip'd up each hand;
But a signal soon 'spied - 'twas a prospect uncheery -
A signal that warn'd them to steer from the land.

"The Philistines are out!" cries Will - "we'll take no heed on't;
Attack'd, whose the man who will flinch from his gun?
Should my head be blown off, I shall ne'er feel the need on't
We'll fight while we can; when we can't, boys, we'll run."
Through the haze of the night, a bright flash now appearing,
"Oh, oh!" cries Will Watch, "the Philistines bear down;
Bear a hand, my tight lads, ere we think about sheering -
One broadside pour in, should we swim, boys, or drown.

But should I be popp'd off, you, my mates, left behind me,
Regard my last words, see 'em kindly obey'd;
Let no stone mark the spot; and, my friends, do you mind me,
Near the beach is the grave where Will Watch would be laid."
Poor Will's yarn was spun out - for a bullet next minute
Laid him low on the deck, and he never spoke more:
His bold crew fought the brig while a shot remain'd in it,
Then sheer'd off and Will's hulk to his Susan they bore.

In the dead of the night his last wish was complied with,
To few known his grave, and to few known his end:
He was borne to the earth by the crew that he died with,
He'd the tears of his Susan, the prayers of each friend.
Near his grave dash the billows, the winds loudly bellow:
Yon ash, struck with lightning, points out the cold bed
Where Will Watch, the bold smuggler, that fam'd lawless fellow,
Once fear'd, now forgot, sleeps in peace with the dead.

John Davy (1765-1824), the composer of 'Will Watch', was born in Upton-Helion near Exeter, came to London in his thirties and earned his living as a composer and teacher. As a very young child he showed immense musical precocity allied to kleptomania. At the age of six he stole between twenty and thirty horseshoes from a neighbouring smithy, selected the ones that would make a complete octave, hung them up in an upper room and imitated the chimes of the church bells in nearby Crediton. As a composer he is chiefly remembered for 'The Bay of Biscay'. His easy melodic style is clearly shown in this song subtitled 'The Death of the Smuggler'.

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