Giltstone Rock

Giltstone Rock;Or, the Slaver in the Solway

The Betsey-Jane sailed out of the Firth,
As the Waits sang "Christ is born on earth"—
The Betsey-Jane sailed out of the Firth,
On Christmas-day in the morning.
The wind was East, the moon was high,
Of a frosty blue was the spangled sky,
And the bells were ringing, and dawn was nigh,
And the day was Christmas morning.

In village and town woke up from sleep,
From peaceful visions and slumbers deep—
In village and town woke up from sleep,
On Christmas-day in the morning,
The many that thought on Christ the King,
And rose betimes their gifts to bring,
And "peace on earth and good will" to sing,
As is meet upon Christmas morning.

The Betsey-Jane pass'd village and town,
As the Gleemen sang, and the stars went down—
The Betsey-Jane pass'd village and town,
That Christmas-day in the morning;

And the Skipper by good and by evil swore,
The bells might ring and the Gleemen roar,
But the chink of his gold would chime him o'er
Those waves, next Christmas morning.

And out of the Firth with his reckless crew,
All ready his will and his work to do—
Out of the Firth with his reckless crew
He sailed on a Christmas morning!
He steer'd his way to Gambia's coast;
And dealt for slaves; and Westward cross'd;
And sold their lives, and made his boast
As he thought upon Christmas morning.

And again and again from shore to shore,
With his human freight for the golden ore—
Again and again from shore to shore,
Ere Christmas-day in the morning,
He cross'd that deep with never a thought
Of the sorrow, or wrong, or suffering wrought
On souls and bodies thus sold and bought
For gold, against Christmas morning!

And at length, with his gold and ivory rare,
When the sun was low and the breeze was fair—
At length with his gold and ivory rare
He sailed, that on Christmas morning
He might pass both village and town again
When the bells were ringing, as they rung then,
When he pass'd them by in the Betsey-Jane,
On that last bright Christmas morning.

The Betsey-Jane sailed into the Firth,
As the bells rang "Christ is born on earth"—
The Betsey-Jane sailed into the Firth,
And it was  upon Christmas morning!
The wind was west, the moon was high,
Of a hazy blue was the spangled sky,
And the bells were ringing, and dawn was nigh,
Just breaking on Christmas morning.

The Gleemen singing of Christ the King,
Of Christ the King, of Christ the King—
The Gleemen singing of Christ the King,
Hailed Christmas-day in the morning;
When the Betsey-Jane with a thundering shock
Went ripping along on the Giltstone Rock,
In sound of the bells which seemed to mock
Her doom on that Christmas morning.

With curse and shriek and fearful groan,
On the foundering ship, in the waters lone—
With curse and shriek and fearful groan,
They sank on that Christmas morning!
The Skipper with arms around his gold,
Scared by dark spirits that loosed his hold,
Was down the deep sea plunged and roll'd
In the dawn of that Christmas morning:—

While village and town woke up from sleep,
From peaceful visions and slumbers deep—
While village and town woke up from sleep,
That Christmas-day in the morning!

And many that thought on Christ the King,
Rose up betimes their gifts to bring,
And, "peace on earth and good will to sing,"
Went forth in the Christmas morning!

Note

The rock thus named, lies off the harbour at Harrington, on the coast of Cumberland, and is only visible at low water during spring tides.

The Gleemen, or Waits, as the Christmas minstrels are called, still keep up their annual rounds, with song and salutation, and with a heartiness and zeal, which have been well described by the great Poet of the Lake district in those feeling and admirable verses to his brother, Dr. Wordsworth, prefixed to his Sonnets on the River Duddon.

In the parish of Muncaster, on the eve of the new year, the children go from house to house, singing a ditty, which craves the bounty, "they were wont to have, in old king Edward's days." There is no tradition whence this custom arose; the donation is two-pence or a pie at every house. Mr. Jefferson suggests, may not the name have been altered from Henry to Edward? and may it not have an allusion to the time when King Henry the sixth was entertained at Muncaster Castle in his flight from his enemies?