This is a long mock-epic poem from one of my most favourite authors. As happens, it was quite some time after I read his most famous works that I chanced to come across it in an anthology.
I must admit that I did have some idea about it and that too from a brief reference in a novel adaption of a Star Trek movie… its funny where you find references from, but then that is the whole joy of reading, not to mention the appeal of an enduring work of literature, which can find resonance in the most unusual or incongruous of places. But anyway….
As is my habit, I will not identify the poem or the poet…. some will recognise it, I think, and I salute them, and for the others, my condolences….
As I said it is a mock-epic work dealing with a most unsual quest… and fit for the task in hand, is the most unusual crew. Let the poet introduce them….
~~~~ The crew was complete: it included a Boots–
A maker of Bonnets and Hoods–
A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes–
And a Broker, to value their goods.
A Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense,
Might perhaps have won more than his share–
But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
Had the whole of their cash in his care.
There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,
Or would sit making lace in the bow:
And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
Though none of the sailors knew how.
There was one who was famed for the number of things
He forgot when he entered the ship:
His umbrella, his watch, all his jewels and rings,
And the clothes he had bought for the trip.
He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
With his name painted clearly on each:
But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
They were all left behind on the beach.
The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
He had seven coats on when he came,
With three pair of boots–but the worst of it was,
He had wholly forgotten his name.
He would answer to “Hi!” or to any loud cry,
Such as “Fry me!” or “Fritter my wig!”
To “What-you-may-call-um!” or “What-was-his-name!”
But especially “Thing-um-a-jig!”
While, for those who preferred a more forcible word,
He had different names from these:
His intimate friends called him “Candle-ends,”
And his enemies “Toasted-cheese.”
And this man is no ordinary mortal…..
“His form in ungainly–his intellect small–”
(So the Bellman would often remark)
“But his courage is perfect! And that, after all,
Is the thing that one needs with a *****.”
He would joke with hyaenas, returning their stare
With an impudent wag of the head:
And he once went a walk, paw-in-paw, with a bear,
“Just to keep up its spirits,” he said.
I apologise for the asterisks in the first of the two stannzas above, but Had I let the word appear, it would have given you, well those of you who are interested, a clue to identifying the poem, and thence the author….
Some more on this forgetful individual….. but in the next post.
To be continued….