Week 28: The Coiner, by Rudyard Kipling

The Coiner

(Circa 1611)

Against the Bermudas we foundered, whereby
This Master, that Swabber, yon Bo’sun and I
(Our pinnace and crew being drowned in the main)
Must beg for our bread through old England again.

For a bite and a sup, and a bed of clean straw,
We’ll tell you such marvels as man never saw,
On a Magical Island which no one did spy
Save this Master, that Swabber, yon Bo’sun and I.

Seven months among Mermaids and Devils and Sprites,
And Voices that howl in the cedars o’ nights,
With further enchantments we underwent there.
Good Sirs, ’tis a tale to draw guts from a bear!

’Twixt Dover and Southwark it paid us our way,
Where we found some poor players were labouring a play;
And, willing to search what such business might be,
We entered the yard, both to hear and to see.

One hailed us for seamen and courteous-ly
Did guide us apart to a tavern near by
Where we told him our tale (as to many of late)
And he gave us good cheer, so we gave him good weight.

Mulled sack and strong waters on bellies well-lined
With beef and black pudding do strengthen the mind;
And seeing him greedy for marvels, at last
From plain salted truth to flat leasing we passed.

But he, when on midnight our reckoning he paid,
Says, ‘Never match coins with a Coiner by trade,
Or he’ll turn your lead pieces to metal so rare
As shall fill him this globe, and leave something to spare…’

We slept where they laid us, and when we awoke
’Was a crown or five shilling in every man’s poke.
We bit them and rang them, and, finding them good,
We drank to that Coiner as honest men should!

Rudyard Kipling

I don’t go much for the more strident side of Kipling, but I do like his ventures down the byways of English history, such as this idiosyncratic take on the possible genesis of ‘The Tempest’.

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