Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Eric, the Straight White Guy, shares with me a love of Epic Verse. Anyone who encounters Eric in the convivial setting of a blogmeet is, in fact, likely to be schooled in the finer points of the poetry of Robert W. Service, the Bard of the North Woods.

At the legendary Helen Blown-Eyed Blodgemeet of 2005, within minutes of my first meeting him, Eric (1) complained that his site was not on my blogroll (an omission that was rapidly corrected), (2) threatened me with that razor-sharp Pig-Sticker he carries around, (3) offered me Strong Drink, and (4) treated me to a Recitation at Length of a classic Robert W. Service poem, The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill, strictly from memory. This will give you an idea of his Many-Faceted Personality.

I recall a Poetic Work that I had first seen back in my Small-Kid Days, a tale by one Wallace Irwin. Irwin (1875-1959) liked to write Nautical Tales and was a master of humorous dialect. Upon later reflection, what struck me about the piece that follows is its use of a rhyming scheme that will sound familiar to any fan of Robert W. Service.

For you delectation, below the fold, I am happy to present The Powerful Eyes O’ Jeremy Tait, by the late Wallace Irwin.

The Powerful Eyes O’ Jeremy Tait

An old sea-dog on a sailor’s log
Thus spake to a passer-by:
“The most onnateral thing on earth
Is the power o’ the human eye -
Oh, bless me! yes, oh, blow me! yes -
It’s the power o’ the human eye!

“We’d left New York en route for Cork
A day and a half to sea,
When Jeremy Tait, our fourteenth mate,
He fastened his eyes on me.

“And wizzle me hook! ’twas a powerful look
That flashed from them eyes o’ his;
I was terrified from heart to hide
And chilled to me bones and friz.

“ ‘O Jeremy Tait, O fourteenth mate’
I hollers with looks askance,
‘Full well I wist ye’re a hypnotist,
So please to remove yer glance!’

“But Jeremy laughed as he turned abaft
His glance like a demon rat,
And he frightened the cook with his piercin’ look
And he startled the captain’s cat.

“Oh, me, oh, my! When he turned his eye
On our very efficient crew,
They fell like dead, or they stood like lead
And stiff as a poker grew.

“So early and late did Jeremy Tait
That talent o’ his employ,
Which caused the crew, and the captain, too,
Some moments of great annoy.

“For we loved J. Tait, our fourteenth mate
As an officer brave and true,
But we quite despised bein’ hypnotized
When we had so much work to do.

“So we grabbed J. Tait, our fourteenth mate
(His eyes bein’ turned away),
By collar and sleeve, and we gave a heave,
And chucked him into the spray.

“His eyes they flashed as in he splashed,
But this glance it was sent too late,
For close to our bark a man-eatin’ shark
Jumped after Jeremy Tait.

“And you can bet he would ha’ been et
If he hadn’t have did as he done -
Straight at the shark an optical spark
From his terrible eye he spun.

“Then the shark he shook at Jeremy’s look
And he quailed at Jeremy’s glance;
Then he gave a sort of a sharkery snort
And fell right into a trance!

“Quite mesmerized and hypnotized
That submarine monster lay;
Meek as a shrimp, with his fins all limp,
He silently floated away.

“So we all of us cried with a conscious pride,
‘Hurrah for Jeremy Tait!’
And we hove a line down into the brine
And reskied him from his fate.

“And the captain cries ‘We kin use them eyes
To mighty good purpose soon.
Men, spread the sails - we’re a-goin’ for whales,
And we don’t need nary harpoon.

“ ‘For when we hail a blubberous whale
A-spoutin’ the water high,
We’ll sail up bold and knock ’im cold
With the power o’ Jeremy’s eye!’ ”

And thus on his log the old sea-dog
Sat whittling nautical chips:
“Oh, powerf’ler far than the human eye
Is the truth o’ the human lips;
But rarest of all is the pearls that fall
From a truthful mariner’s lips.”

- Wallace Irwin

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