Another candidate for recollection
Is Charles Worlock, surely from my mother’s family,
For they farmed in Gloucestershire since who knows when
– Perhaps since Saxon times there on the marches –
And he embarked under the shining arches
Of North Star and Plough, 22, fair, 5 ft 10,
No further away than Bristol, to where he would see
The blaze instead of southern constellations.
He did not sail there for astronomy
But altogether against his better judgment:
The judgment was that of a judge.
The jewels he stole were bacon and potatoes.
His gaol report was bad, but when he put to sea,
Good: whether the waves and sky gave him contentment,
Or merely left him without an immediate grudge
As the hulk rolled and the stars fell and rose.
Once in the Antipodes his conduct was not impeccable.
I will not record the full roll of his crimes:
One was to make ‘five pairs of boots on his own account,
Without permission’. Was he not a shoemaker?
That, certainly, had been his trade in Bristol,
In what he had not then regarded as happy times,
As perhaps they seemed on the purgatorial mount
Where he slipped so often on his way to his Maker.
He married Ann Wilson, an alleged widow
And a fellow felon, who escaped from her wash-tub
And ‘pretended to be free’ – another misdemeanour.
In ‘59 he was insolent at the man-pushed railway,
Perhaps pushing it himself. In ‘67, they say,
Pardoned, he did not reckon that he could rub
His record clean, and maybe thought his behaviour
Would not do in Gloucestershire.
So, free to return whence he came, he did not go.
Send Letters To:
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN
Please include name, address, and a telephone number.