[From Manxiana, 1870]
When Sulby stream is dry, and mackerel none,
All fishing at a discount on the isle;
When dull ennui weighs heavy on the mind,
And all the walks walked o'er and o'er again;
When shell or seaweed have no more to teach,
And Nature silent wheresoe'er you look;
When all the sights are done of glen and town,
And boating dangerous from the rising sea;
No pleasure in the town, nor much without,
The newspaper all read; and sigh begins
To move for something new, on sea or land;
Just try for bollan, on the Maughold rocks.
Strong rod long line throw it out afar,
Whate'er the tide be anything will bait,
A sand-eel on a common hook will do ;
For float a common cork. May be you'll catch
A rock-cod, or may be a sea-devil,
Likely a bollan if so, hold him tight ;
Play him as you would a salmon for awhile,
Then haul him gently on the shelving rock,
And kill him quick and merciful. He'll weigh
Some few pounds, and goodly eating is.
Carve him most carefully; remember now
He bears a cross, and you'll find it where
Reason stands sentry to the outward world,
E'en in the head, the seat of Reason's home.
So, as you delicately pick the bone,
Search for the cross when found you'll value it
For ever 'tis the Manxman's safety-charm
By land or sea, where'er he chance to roam.
So keep it, friend, you'll find its use e'en here,
Up Sulby glen, or through the mountain gorge,
Or o'er the Claddagh of the Wealds far north,
By night or day you'll never lose your way.
So keep it by you, as a Catholic cross,
To guide you through the dangers by the way.
The sailors say that in old Catholic times,
When Manx folks wore the cross, and bore it too,
And none were shamed of it that in the strife
Of abbey pillage in King Harry's time,
When the old abbey chests were pilfered all,
And cross and relics all scatter'd to the wind,
That then the sailors who still held the faith,
Returning from long voyage, asked the priest
On outward voyage for the accustom'd cross,
As token of their safety when away ;
The priest would drop a tear, and whispering own
Their loss of ivory cross, but hint they'd saved,
What God, in mercy, sent them in its stead,
In the Lent fish, that served their humble meal,
The bollan cross this bless'd would be the same.
So since this time no sailor goes to sea
Without his cross; no fisherman puts out
From the Peel harbour with the herring fleet,
Without his bollan cross. The emigrant,
Bound to Australia or the western world,
About his person wears this simple cross.
So ere you trawl for mackerel round the coast,
Put on your bollan cross ne'er mind the sneers
Or charge of superstition from your friends.
As mackerel breeze increases to a gale
Off Maughold Head, and shipping sees affright,
Think of the cross, and He, who on the Sea
Of Gennesaret, bid the storm be still;
And as you think, and steer for Ramsey Bay,
The great calm there will calm your troubl'd mind,
You'll prize your bollan cross, and own its worth.