1. The Ballad of Shanghai Jack
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The Ballad of Shanghai Jack (and the Diamond-studded Skull with Emerald Eyes)

Born in the bilge with the rats in the hold of a privateer to a Hong Kong whore
Shanghai Jack grew up hard and wise
In the bordellos on the Barbary coast where first he heard the pirates toast
The diamond-studded skull with emerald eyes

From a celestial warlord’s treasure trove they say the skull was plundered
And washed up in a hidden cove as the robber’s ship went under
Well, an urge unquenched grew in Jack like a pain he could not dull
With rum, the Chinese pipe or wench to own that precious skull

From cabin boy to bosun and then to his own ship
Fired by a desire that held him in its grip
Enslaved like the tides to the moon’s mighty pull
To see with his own eyes that fabled diamond skull

Aw the captain’s in his cabin, he’s rantin’ and he’s ravin’
Up on deck the crew are panicin’ and slavin’
Boys keep her her head into the wind, don’t let her come around
With the sea like big green mountains goin’ up, up, up and down

Jack harkened not to what freebooters reckoned as good trade
Or the black sins of the corsairs with their holds full of slaves
For the wind that filled his sails was forfeit to another purse
And the stars that he was following set on a different course

‘Til ghosting in on a flat calm sea one blazing afternoon
He spied a glint from a cave in a tropical lagoon
And by fortune beyond measure his fate was realised
For he had found the treasure - the skull with emerald eyes

The ten long years he’d searched for it like mist faded away
For it so mesmerised him that it seemed like just one day
But as he reflected on the thing he’d come so far to chase
The skull bejwelled with diamonds showed him his own face

Well that’s how the legend goes – and many say it’s true
In a place known to Shanghai Jack and his scurvy crew
He found that curséd skull and went out of his head
And his men he marooned or killed or left for dead

Well some say he’s a gent of wealth and standing in the east
And others that his madness turned him to a raving beast
Or that opium and rum left him frail and dull
But me, I believe that he found that precious skull

But for whatever good it did him, I cannot surmise
All men search for something that they can idolise
But the thing of which they dream is often in disguise
And the price of what they find may not be worth the prize

Des Wade © 2017