ANNE BONNY TO DANIEL DEFOE
Now we are to begin a History full of surprizing Turns and Adventures; I mean, that of Mary Read and Anne Bonny; the odd Incidents of their rambling Lives are such, that some may be tempted to think the whole Story no better than a Novel or Romance…—Daniel Defoe, General History of the Most Notorious Pirates
were no mere amatorious novel,
unlike your Roxanas, Clarindas
and such drabs of the bookseller’s stall.
I was pirate and woman and all,
and I sailed with and slept with Jack Rackham,
who, if he had fought like a man,
need not have been hanged like a dog.
And still a warm glassful of grog
or a lungful of salt air recalls those
fiery kisses from Jack and from Mary
and the tang of hot blood on the deck.
We left many brave warships a wreck,
many argosies spoiled of their cargo.
We were pardoned by Governor Rogers
but returned to our old course the same.
Beyond law, beyond guilt, beyond shame,
slipped free of the cables of duty,
we sailed by the wind and the starlight
and lived by the codes that we chose.
When the pirate-hunters, our foes,
found us moored off the coast of Jamaica,
the men fled below, drunk and fearful.
Only Mary and I stayed to fight,
and our cutlasses gleamed and flashed bright,
and our pistols roared out like the thunder.
We fought, back to back, for our freedom,
with our teeth and our nails and our knives.
I’m the only one now that survives.
The Revenge’s crew went to the gallows;
Mary’s dead in the jail of a fever;
I’m left with the memories alone,
the proud sins that I’ll never atone
for, adventures not found in the pages
of your idle romances and novels
poured upon by the leisured and bored
where the heroines find their reward
in making a dazzling marriage
to a cultured and virtuous husband
as their dainty and dutiful wives.
Thomas Tyrrell has a PhD in English Literature from Cardiff University. He is a two-time winner of the Terry Hetherington poetry award, and his writing has appeared in Spectral Realms, Wales Arts Review, Picaroon, Lonesome October, Three Drops From A Cauldron and Words for the Wild.