Fever Ship

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Fever Ship is an early poem by John Masefield. It was first published in his Salt-Water Ballads.

There'll be no weepin' gells ashore when our ship sails,
Nor no crews cheerin' us, standin' at the rails,
'N' no Blue Peter a-foul the royal stay,
For we've the Yellow Fever — Harry died to-day. —
    It 's cruel when a fo'c's'le gets the fever!

'N' Dick has got the fever-shakes, 'n' look what I was told
(I went to get a sack for him to keep him from the cold):
"Sir, can I have a sack?" I says, "for Dick 'e's fit to die."
"Oh, sack be shot!" the skipper says, "jest let the rotter lie !" —
    It 's cruel when a fo'c's'le gets the fever!

It 's a cruel port is Santos, and a hungry land,
With rows o' graves already dug in yonder strip of sand,
'N' Dick is hollerin' up the hatch, 'e says 'e's goin' blue,
His pore teeth are chattering, 'n' what 's a man to do?—
    It 's cruel when a fo'c's'le gets the fever !

Masefield was himself a sailor in early life, so this is probably an accurate image of life on a merchantman around 1900 when yellow fever strikes. What can it tell us about conditions then, and how the seamen themselves reacted?