I had begun telling you about one of my favourite poems, characteristically mystifying you (or attempting to do so) by refusing to identify the poem or the poet, and even removing a specific word which could have helped you to identify it….. This was done to make you pay all attention to the poem only.
Here are some more passages, dealing with some more description of one of the strangest among the strange crew, undertaking a strange quest….. Just see the language
He came as a Baker: but owned, when too late–
And it drove the poor Bellman half-mad–
He could only bake Bridecake–for which, I may state,
No materials were to be had.
The last of the crew needs especial remark,
Though he looked an incredible dunce:
He had just one idea–but, that one being “S****,”
The good Bellman engaged him at once.
He came as a Butcher: but gravely declared,
When the ship had been sailing a week,
He could only kill Beavers. The Bellman looked scared,
And was almost too frightened to speak:
But at length he explained, in a tremulous tone,
There was only one Beaver on board;
And that was a tame one he had of his own,
Whose death would be deeply deplored.
The Beaver, who happened to hear the remark,
Protested, with tears in its eyes,
That not even the rapture of hunting the S****
Could atone for that dismal surprise!
It strongly advised that the Butcher should be
Conveyed in a separate ship:
But the Bellman declared that would never agree
With the plans he had made for the trip:
Navigation was always a difficult art,
Though with only one ship and one bell:
And he feared he must really decline, for his part,
Undertaking another as well.
The Beaver’s best course was, no doubt, to procure
A second-hand dagger-proof coat–
So the Baker advised it– and next, to insure
Its life in some Office of note:
This the Banker suggested, and offered for hire
(On moderate terms), or for sale,
Two excellent Policies, one Against Fire,
And one Against Damage From Hail.
Yet still, ever after that sorrowful day,
Whenever the Butcher was by,
The Beaver kept looking the opposite way,
And appeared unaccountably shy.
And the leader of the expedition, and his innovative navigation…..
The Bellman himself they all praised to the skies–
Such a carriage, such ease and such grace!
Such solemnity, too! One could see he was wise,
The moment one looked in his face!
He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.
“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?”
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
“They are merely conventional signs!
“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank
(So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best–
A perfect and absolute blank!”
This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
And that was to tingle his bell.
He was thoughtful and grave–but the orders he gave
Were enough to bewilder a crew.
When he cried “Steer to starboard, but keep her head larboard!”
What on earth was the helmsman to do?
Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes:
A thing, as the Bellman remarked,
That frequently happens in tropical climes,
When a vessel is, so to speak, “snarked.”
But the principal failing occurred in the sailing,
And the Bellman, perplexed and distressed,
Said he had hoped, at least, when the wind blew due East,
That the ship would not travel due West!
But the danger was past–they had landed at last,
With their boxes, portmanteaus, and bags:
Yet at first sight the crew were not pleased with the view,
Which consisted to chasms and crags.
The Bellman perceived that their spirits were low,
And repeated in musical tone
Some jokes he had kept for a season of woe–
But the crew would do nothing but groan.
He served out some grog with a liberal hand,
And bade them sit down on the beach:
And they could not but own that their Captain looked grand,
As he stood and delivered his speech.
“Friends, Romans, and countrymen, lend me your ears!”
(They were all of them fond of quotations:
So they drank to his health, and they gave him three cheers,
While he served out additional rations).
To be continued….