October 18, 2013

The Sea Serpant

        Today is a very busy day, with preparation for Natick Artists Open Studios, and lots of other activities on the calendar, as well.  And that makes it an excellent time for another poem!  This fun, silly one by Wallace Irwin dates to 1906 and clearly takes its cue from the twin threads of colloquial poetry and nonsense verse that were both popular at the time.  I imagine this poem is a sort of a grandfather of Shel Silverstein's.  In any case, without further ado…

The Sea Serpant: An Accurate Description

A-sleepin’ at length on the sand,
Where the beach was all tidy and clean,
A-strokin’ his scale with the brush on his tail
The wily Sea Serpant I seen.

And what was his color? you asks.
And how did he look? inquires you,
I’ll be busted and blessed if he didn’t look jest
Like you would of expected ‘im to!

His head was the size of a — well,
The size what they always attains;
He whistled a tune what was built like a prune,
And his tail was the shape o’ his brains.

His scales they was ruther — you know —
Like the leaves what you pick off o’ eggs;
And the way o’ his walk — well, it’s useless to talk,
Fer o’ course you’ve seen Sea Serpants’ legs.

His length it was seventeen miles.
Or fathoms, or inches, or feet
(Me memory’s sich that I can’t recall which.
Though at figgers I’ve seldom been beat).

And I says as I looks at the beast,
“He reminds me o’ somethin’ I’ve seen —
Is it candy or cats or humans or hats,
Or Fenimore Cooper I mean?”

And as I debated the point,
In a way that I can’t understand.
The Sea Serpant he disappeared in the sea
And walked through the ocean by land.

And somehow I knowed he’d come back.
So I marked off the place with me cap;
‘Twas Latitude West and Longitude North
And forty-eight cents by the map.

And his length it was seventeen miles,
Or inches, or fathoms, or feet
(Me memory’s sich that I can’t recall which,
Though at figgers I’ve seldom been beat).

[Pictures: Sea serpents, wood block prints possibly by Lucas Schan from Historiae animalium by Conrad Gesner, 1558;
Draco marinus monophtalmosbipes, wood block print from Monstrorum historia by Ulisse Aldrovandi, 1642.
Poem by Wallace Irwin, Random Rhymes and Odd Numbers, 1906.

This coming weekend I'll be showing at Natick Artists Open Studios.  Come by to see me and my work, to ask questions, to chat, to grab a snack, and to have a little art adventure that's fun for all!  I'll be downstairs in the Morse Institute Library.

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