“I ain’t wuth a darn at spinnin’ a yarn what wanders away from the truth”

24 Apr

Another entry in honor of poetry month, here’s one of my favorite poems, first encountered some time in elementary school when I memorized it for extra credit then shared it with my brother, who remembers it to this day:

Wallace Irwin

I stood one day by the breezy bay a-watching the ships go by,
When a tired tar said, with a shake of his head: “I wisht I could tell a lie!
“I’ve seen some sights as would jigger yer lights,
And they’ve jiggered me own, in sooth,
But I ain’t wuth a darn at spinnin’ a yarn what wanders away from the truth.

“We were out in the gig, the Rigagajig, jest a mile and a half to sea,
When Capting Snook, with a troubled look, he came and he says to me:—
“‘O Bos’n Smith, make haste forthwith and hemstich the fo’ard sail;
Accordeon pleat the dory sheet, For there’s going to be a gale.’

“I straightway did as the capting bid — No sooner the job was through
When the north wind, whoof, bounced over the roof, and, murderin’ lights, she blew!
“She blew the tars right off the spars, And the spars right off the mast,
Sails and pails and anchors and nails flew by on the wings o’ the blast.

“The galley shook as she blew our cook straight out o’ the porthole glim,
While pots and pans, kettles and cans went clatterin’ after him.
“She blew the fire from our gallant stove and the coal from our gallant bin,
She whistled apace past the capting’s face and blew the beard off his chin!

“‘O wizzel me dead!’ the capting said (And the words blew out of his mouth);
‘We’re lost, I fear, if the wind don’t veer and blow awhile from the south.’
“And wizzel me dead, no sooner he’d said them words that blew from his mouth,
Than the wind switched round with a hurricane sound and blew straight in from the south.

“We opened our eyes with a wild surprise, and never a word to say —
In changin’ her tack the wind blew back the things that she’d blew away!
“She blew the tars back onto the spars, and the spars back onto the mast;
Back flew the pails, the sails, and the nails, which into the ship stuck fast.

“And ‘fore we could look she blew back the cook straight into the galley coop;
Back dropped the pans, kettles, and cans, without even spillin’ the soup.
“She blew the fire back into the stove where it burnt in its proper place —
And all of us cheered as she blew the beard back on the capting’s face.

“There’s more o’ me tale,” said the sailor hale, “As would jigger yer lights, in sooth,
But I ain’t wuth a darn at spinnin’ a yarn what wanders away from the truth.”

Wallace Irvin (1922)

Wallace Irvin (1922)

An interesting character, ol’ Wallace. According to Wikipedia, “he created a subgenre within detective fiction, the mystery novel set in antiquity,” and he adapted some of his work for film. More of his poems can be read at Poetic Portal.

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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in Uncategorized


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