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banner - a lamentable ditty

By George Wise

In 1852, Assistant George Wise painted in verse a humorous, though melancholy, view of life in the field for the average Coast Surveyor.

Oh, what a life is the Coast Survey
Through mud and mire to wend my way
While on your head the sun shines bright
And on your nose the "skeeters" light.
The jiggers and ticks they scar each shin
They are not good looking, but they will get in
In spite of boots and trousers tight
The way my legs are is a sight.

Good people, is there nought beneath the sun
For me to be at except this one?
From the wife of my bosom I'm far away
Condemned to tramp on the Coast Survey.
Whether the road is dusty or the sands are hot
No rest for me; I must trot, trot, trot.
My children at home will forget their dad.
Dear me, is there no other trade to be had?
My living to earn is there no other way
Except to tramp on the Coast Survey?

A home I've got in a pleasant spot,
But (isn't mine an unfortunate lot)
I never see it in summer time
When lilies and roses are in their prime,
But only when winter's icy breath
Has put them all to a cruel death.
'Tis good on the land for one to talk
Of the pleasant sea and its pebbly walk
Of its crested waves and pearly deep
And on its bosom to be rocked to sleep.
I wouldn't give one foot of turf
For acres and acres of briny surf,
And I'd rather sleep in the town of York
Than bob up and down like a floating cork.
'Tis romantic I know but as for me
I like the land much more than the sea.
Who fancies may take such a place of rest,
But a quiet bed will suit me best,
And if on a bosom I have to sleep
I'd rather take one not so deep.

Good people, good people, oh tell me, I pray
Is there no other trade than the Coast Survey?
'Tis a deuced life for a married man;
I intend to leave it whenever I can.
And glad will I be when the time comes round
To spread our sails and be homeward bound.
In the meantime, good people, do try I pray
And help me to leave the Coast Survey.

George D. Wise, Assistant,

U.S. Surveying Schooner FRANKLIN,

September 25, 1852.

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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