Karl Edstrom and the Hesper

Lois Lyman; Music: Traditional

A few years ago the friends of the Wiscasset Schooners were trying to raise funds to "stabilize" them. They received a letter from Karl, who had sailed in Hesper when they were both young. Someone went to the nursing home to tape his recollections of those days. It was from this story that Lois made this song, and put it to the tune of The Swarthfell Rocks.

 

My name is Karl Edstrom, I am eighty years old,

And I heard that you're trying to save the Hesper.

I joined her crew in 'twenty-one for Le Havre we were bound

I was twenty then, and I never will forget her.

 

She was cloud-white and long, and her four masts so lofty

That her topsails seemed to pierce the sky above her.

She was strong and deep and wide, timberports on either side;

When I looked at her, I thought that she was lovely.

We sailed out of Rockland with a crew of nine men

And her hold was just as full as we could pack her.

She was loaded down and low with logwood and coal

And her bottom was so foul we could not tack her.

 

Caleb Haskell was master and the mate was his son

And a tougher bastard never sailed blue-water

For no matter what we tried he would not be satisfied,

And he drove us all the time we were aboard her.

 

When we landed in France the dockside was swarming

With peddlers and ladies so charming.

"Where are the men?" the laded cried: they could no believe their eyes

That only nine of us had brought her to this landing.

 

The cook got so drunk that we all ate on shore

And I thought the Old Man would hire another,

But the captain said: "Let him be, for he's sober out to sea,

And he makes a better pie than my mother."

 

Rolling out to Venezuela we sang and made music,

Played cribbage, killed rats and stood our watches.

We arrived on Christmas day, over New Year's we lay,

Loading goat manure until it reached the hatches.

 

In Charleston, Carolina, they paid off my time

I said goodbye to my mates and there I left her.

It's been fifty years for me since I made a life at sea;

Now and then I think of Haskell and the Hesper.

 

So here's my ten dollars to help you restore her

For it makes me sad that ships like her are gone, now.

But it grieves me even more to see her rotting on the shore

Who rode the waves like a snowy gull in summer.

 

Karl Edstrom and the Hesper is recorded on Schooners and is also in the songbook One to Sing, One to Haul