The Women of Mumbles Head by Clement Scott

Bring, novelist, your note-book! bring, dramatist, your pen!
And I'll tell you a simple story of what women do for men.
It's only a tale of a lifeboat, of the dying and the dead,
Of the terrible storm and shipwreck that happened off Mumbles Head!
Maybe you have traveled in Wales, sir, and know it north and south;
Maybe you are friends with the "natives" that dwell at Oystermouth;
It happens, no doubt, that from Bristol you've crossed in a casual way,
And have sailed your yacht in the summer in the blue of Swansea Bay.
 
Well! it isn't like that in the winter, when the lighthouse stands alone,
In the teeth of Atlantic breakers that foam on its face of stone;
It wasn't like that when the hurricane blew, and the storm-bell tolled,or when
There was news of a wreck, and the lifeboat launched, and a desperate cry for men.
When in the world did the coxswain shirk? a brave old salt was he!
Proud to the bone of as four strong lads as ever had tasted the sea,
Welshmen all to the lungs and loins, who, about that coast, 'twas said,
Had saved some hundred lives apiece—at a shilling or so a head!
 
So the father launched the lifeboat, in the teeth of the tempest's roar,
And he stood like a man at the rudder, with an eye on his boys at the oar,
Out to the wreck went the father! out to the wreck went the sons!
Leaving the weeping of women, and booming of signal guns;
Leaving the mother who loved them, and the girls that the sailors love;
Going to death for duty, and trusting to God above!
Do you murmur a prayer, my brothers, when cozy and safe in bed,
For men like these, who are ready to die for a wreck off Mumbles Head?
It didn't go well with the lifeboat! 'twas a terrible storm that blew!
And it snapped the' rope in a second that was flung to the drowning crew;
 
And then the anchor parted—'twas a tussle to keep afloat!
But the father stuck to the rudder, and the boys to the brave old boat.
Then at last on the poor doomed lifeboat a wave broke mountains high!
"God help us now!" said the father. "It's over, my lads! Good-bye"!
Half of the crew swam shoreward, half to the sheltered caves,
But father and sons were fighting death in the foam of the angry waves.
 
Up at a lighthouse window two women beheld the storm,
And saw in the boiling breakers a figure—a fighting form;
It might be a gray-haired father, then the women held their breath;
It might be a fair-haired brother, who was having a round with death;
It might be a lover, a husband, whose kisses were on the lips
Of the women whose love is the life of men going down to the sea in ships.
They had seen the launch of the lifeboat, they had seen the worst, and more,
Then, kissing each other, these women went down from the lighthouse, straight to shore.
 
There by the rocks on the breakers these sisters, hand in hand,
Beheld once more that desperate man who struggled to reach the land,
'Twas only aid he wanted to help him across the wave,
But what are a couple of women with only a man to save?
What are a couple of women? well, more than three craven men
Who stood by the shore with chattering teeth, refusing to stir—and then
Off went the women's shawls, sir; in a second they're torn and rent,
Then knotting them into a rope of love, straight into the sea they went!
 
"Come back!" cried the lighthouse-keeper. "For God's sake, girls, come back!"
As they caught the waves on their foreheads, resisting the fierce attack.
"Come back!" moaned the gray-haired mother, as she stood by the angry sea,
"If the waves take you, my darlings, there's nobody left to me!"
"Come back!" said the three strong soldiers, who still stood faint and pale,
"You will drown if you face the breakers! you will fall if you brave the gale!"
"Come back!" said the girls, "we will not! go tell it to all the town,
We'll lose our lives, God willing, before that man shall drown!"
 
"Give one more knot to the shawls, Bess! give one strong clutch of your hand!
Just follow me, brave, to the shingle, and we'll bring him safe to land!
Wait for the next wave, darling! only a minute more,
And I'll have him safe in my arms, dear, and we'll drag him to the shore."
Up to the arms in the water, fighting it breast to breast,
They caught and saved a brother alive. God bless them! you know the rest—
Well, many a heart beat stronger, and many a tear was shed,
And many a glass was tossed right off to "The Women of Mumbles Head!"