Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sailors and their Sweethearts

These 'popsicle stick'- like things are busks made of whalebone with scrimshaw designs. A busk is a part of a corset - it fits into a pocket down the middle of the front to lift and separate the breasts. These were made by sailors as gifts for their wives and sweethearts back home.

And these pretty ladies are whalers' wives, perhaps the very wives these busks were made for. (I wonder how many total yards of fabric are worn in that picture)

The busk on the left has a poem which seems to have been written by the sailor who carved it. Kind of an odd sentiment, not sure how I would feel if The COG presented me with such a thing upon returning from a trip:

"This bone once in a sperm whale's jaw did rest,
Now tis intended for a woman's breast.
This, my love, I do intend
For you to wear and not to lend."


Vivi said...

Perhaps during a previous at-sea period, she lent away his most valued whatsis and this was a not-so-subtle gibe? Or he's just a really bad poet.

To make for thee an adornment for thy chest,
(in order to lift and separate thy breast)
I lived two years in dreary circumstances at sea,
and I killed a whale and scraped the bone. thinking only of thee.
Now for to make this gift worth the slaughter,
Reassure me that baby really is my daughter.

The Bride said...

Maybe she was just in the habit of lending them to her sisters and forgetting to get them back. Or, perhaps, she had re-gifted his busks once too often.

The Bride said...

PS. The COG loved your rewrite of the poem.