TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Yarn of the "Nancy Bell", An Ammended Father's Day Post

Dad in Brooklyn, 1960

OK, I made a mistake in the previous post about the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This was a tribute to my father, who does still remember most of the poem, but at the end I stated, "To all the fathers out there, maybe your daughters won't honor you with some rock and roll, songs of dead birds and people eating each other, but hopefully, they will remember your words and thank you for the experiences you gave them when they were still young." Well, the part about eating other people has to to do with The Yarn of the Nancy Bell, another poem Dad has spoken out over the years. Both have to do with ships and disaster and I got them mixed up. Here goes (this is the one where he really rolled his eyes and made grimacing faces...):

The Yarn of the 'Nancy Bell'

by W.S. Gilbert

'Twas on the shores that round our coast
From Deal to Ramsgate span,
That I found alone on a piece of stone
An elderly naval man.

His hair was weedy, his beard was long,
And weedy and long was he,
And I heard this wight on the shore recite,
In a singular minor key:

"Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig."

And he shook his fists and he tore his hair,
Till I really felt afraid,
For I couldn't help thinking the man had been drinking,
And so I simply said:

"O, elderly man, it's little I know
Of the duties of men of the sea,
But I'll eat my hand if I understand
How you can possibly be

"At once a cook, and a captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig."

Then he gave a hitch to his trousers, which
Is a trick all seamen larn,
And having got rid of a thumping quid,
He spun this painful yarn:

"'Twas in the good ship Nancy Bell
That we sailed to the Indian sea,
And there on a reef we come to grief,
Which has often occurred to me.

"And pretty nigh all o' the crew was drowned
(There was seventy-seven o' soul),
And only ten of the Nancy's men
Said 'Here!' to the muster-roll.

"There was me and the cook and the captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig
And the bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig.

"For a month we'd neither wittles nor drink,
Till a-hungry we did feel,
So we drawed a lot, and accordin' shot
The captain for our meal.

"The next lot fell to the Nancy's mate,
And a delicate dish he made;
Then our appetite with the midshipmite
We seven survivors stayed.

"And then we murdered the bo'sun tight,
And he much resembled pig,
Then we wittled free, did the cook and me,
On the crew of the captain's gig.

"Then only the cook and me was left,
And the delicate question, 'Which
Of us two goes to the kettle?' arose
And we argued it out as sich.

"For I loved that cook as a brother, I did,
And the cook he worshipped me;
But we'd both be blowed if we'd either be stowed
In the other chap's hold, you see.

"'I'll be eat if you dines off me,' says Tom,
'Yes, that,' says I, 'you'll be,' --
'I'm boiled if I die, my friend,' quoth I,
And 'Exactly so,' quoth he.

"Says he, 'Dear James, to murder me
Were a foolish thing to do,
For don't you see that you can't cook me,
While I can -- and will -- cook you!'

"So he boils the water, and takes the salt
And the pepper in portions true
(Which he never forgot) and some chopped shalot,
And some sage and parsley too.

"'Come here,' says he, with a proper pride,
Which his smiling features tell,
' 'Twill soothing be if I let you see,
How extremely nice you'll smell.'

"And he stirred it round and round and round,
And he sniffed at the foaming froth;
When I ups with his heels, and smothers his squeals
In the scum of the boiling broth.

"And I eat that cook in a week or less,
And -- as I eating be
The last of his chops, why, I almost drops,
For a wessel in sight I see!

"And I never grin, and I never smile,
And I never larf nor play,
But I sit and croak, and a single joke
I have -- which is to say:

"Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig!"

Today was Father's Day and I've been feeling a bit fragile about my Dad. He now has heart failure, is up for a hip replacement, and was just diagnosed with diabetes. We all know that this life is a quick, passing light, but knowing doesn't take away from the profundity of feeling, of wanting to hold on. So many memories.... Yes, gruesome ones, too! I felt compelled to scan these photos of my handsome, weird father. (The Freudian thing here is that both my sister and I went for dark, handsome husbands who have some of the physical presence and moodiness of our father. Oh, my!)

This photo was taken in Brazil, in the early 1970's. We were on a youth group outing at a beach in Santa Catarina. I remember music, sand, frying shrimp and almost drowning with Dad. We were on an air mattress and an undercurrent took us far, far away from shore. Dad was squeezing my arm so tight. He hates the beach (ugh! sand in your skin and in your clothes!) where I have always been drawn to the sea, though simultaneously terrified by it. I remember people on the shore looking very, very small, so far away. I remember praying three times and each time a huge wave pushed us back closer. Dad was still squeezing my arm, quiet but steady. I don't think he is a good swimmer. Mom is the life saver... On the third prayer and wave, my feet touched sand, "Dad, I think we can stand up now..." Relief! Life!

I almost drowned a second time, another beach close by, several years later. This was at a missionary conference. It had rained during the night and the undercurrents had changed. I felt it grab at me and I pushed another MK (missionary kid) who had polio and had a weak leg to another kid, while I was whisked away. The woman who was watching us ran into where everybody was meeting and yelled, "Rachel is drowning! Rachel is drowning!" They all rushed out and I could see Dad throwing in pieces of wood into the ocean. I knew he hoped I would grab on and stay afloat. I was calm and thought the end had come. Huge waves came crashing down on me, pushing me into the sand, pulling me out further away. I remember someone had yelled, "You're swimming the wrong way!"

A pastor, Chuck Eidam, swam out and fetched me. Halfway back, he pooped out and Mrs. Fedde, mother of the girl I had pushed to safety, swam out and pulled both of us back in. I sat in the sand, recovering, and my brother came up to me and said, "Man.... I never realized how many freckles you have!" Hmmmm...

There are so many memories... Most good, many that made each of us grow, define ourselves, challenge the given order of things. I treasure them all!

This last photo is of me, Mom and Dad on my baptism. Need I say more? Any weirdness I can lay claim to comes from the Biel side of the family. My mother is normal, normal, normal! She has been the glue that has kept us all on track, including my dear ole' Dad who likes to recite poems about cannibalism to his young, and now aging, children... Thanks, Dad!

No comments:

Post a Comment

“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.


Related Posts with Thumbnails