He heads for hell beneath the surging sails;
One soul of tens of thousands bound in ships
East-driven by the roaring forties gales.
His gruel consumed, a brackish brew he sips —
Stares at the deck, and licks his leathered lips.
Sad hopeless thoughts beat in his beaten brain,
As with cold calloused hands his head he grips.
Perhaps he stole a pound of precious grain,
A handkerchief, a coin, a rich man’s cane.
Perhaps he is a villain through and through,
And so deserves this cruel unnatural pain,
Or maybe he is not — whichever’s true,
He’s landed on the wrong side of the law.
He’s branded by the cat for evermore.
— D.N. O’Brien