My mother, when vexed by some family misfortune, was wont to console herself by murmuring: “Men must work, and women must weep, and the sooner it’s over, the sooner to sleep.” It never occurred to me, until I was fully grown, to seek out the original of those words. They come from a poem, “The Three Fishers,” by a Victorian country parson, Charles Kingsley. The poet had spent his late childhood in the little fishing hamlet of Clovelly in North Devon, where his father, also a country parson, was rector of the church. Fishing was perilous work, and it was not unusual for men of the village to be lost at sea.

In the poem, three fishermen go sailing “away to the West,” but are drowned in a storm. The last stanza reads:

Three corpses lay out on the shining sands
    In the morning gleam as the tide went down,
And the...


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