NOAH AN’ JONAH AN’ CAP’N JOHN SMITH
By Don Marquis
From “Noah an’ Jonah an’ Cap’n John Smith,” 1921
Noah an’ Jonah an’ Cap’n John Smith,
Mariners, travelers, magazines of myth,
Settin’ up in Heaven, chewin’ and a-chawin’
Eatin’ their terbaccy, talkin’ and a-jawin';
Settin’ by a crick, spittin’ in the worter,
Talkin’ tall an’ tactless, as saints hadn’t orter,
Lollin’ in the shade, baitin’ hooks and anglin,
Occasionally friendly, occasionally wranglin’.
Noah took his halo from his old bald head
An’ swatted of a hoppergrass an’ knocked it dead,
An’ he baited of his hook, an’ he spoke an’ said:
“When I was the Skipper of the tight leetle Ark
I useter fish fer porpus, useter fish fer shark,
Often I have ketched in a single hour on Monday
Sharks enough to feed the fambly till Sunday —
To feed all the sarpints, the tigers an’ donkeys,
To feed all the zebras, the insects an’ monkeys,
To feed all the varmints, bears an’ gorillars,
To feed all the camels, cats’ an’ armadillers,
To give all the pelicans stews for their gizzards,
To feed all the owls an’ catamounts an’ lizards,
To feed all the humans, their babies an’ their nusses,
To feed all the houn’ dawgs an’ hippopotamusses,
To feed all the oxens, feed all the asses,
Feed all the bison an’ leetle hoppergrasses —
Always I ketched, in half a hour on Monday
All that the fambly could gormandize till Sunday!”
Jonah took his harp, to strum and to string her,
An’ Cap’n John Smith teched his nose with his finger.
Cap’n John Smith, he hemmed some an’ hawed some,
An’ he bit off a chaw, an’ he chewed some and chawed some: —
“When I was to China, when I was to Guinea,
When I was to Java, an’ also in Verginney,
I teached all the natives how to be ambitious,
I learned ’em my trick of ketchin’ devilfishes.
I’ve fitten tigers, I’ve fitten bears,
I have fitten sarpints an’ wolves in their lairs,
I have fit with wild men an’ hippopotamusses,
But the perilousest varmints is the bloody octopusses!
I’d rub my forehead with phosphorescent light
An’ plunge into the ocean an’ seek ’em out at night!
I ketched ’em in grottoes, I ketched ’em in caves,
I used fer to strangle ’em underneath the waves!
When they seen the bright light blazin’ on my forehead
They used ter to rush at me, screamin’ something horrid!
Tentacles wavin’, teeth white an’ gnashin’,
Hollerin’ an’ bellerin’, wallerin’ an’ splashin’!
I useter grab ’em as they rushed f rom their grots,
Ketch all their legs an’ tie ’em into knots!”
Noah looked at Jonah, an’ said not a word,
But if winks made noises, a wink had been heard.
Jonah took the hook from a mudcat’s middle
An’ strummed on the strings of his hallelujah fiddle;
Jonah give his whiskers a backhand wipe
An’ cut some plug terbaccer an’ crammed it in his pipe!
— (Noah an’ Jonah an’ Cap’n John Smith,
Fisherman an’ travelers, narreratin’ myth,
Settin’ up in Heaven all eternity,
Fishin’ in the shade, contented as could be!
Spittin’ their terbaccer in the little shaded creek,
Stoppin’ of their yarns fer ter hear the ripples speak!
I hope fer Heaven, when I think of this —
You folks bound hellward, a lot of fun you’ll miss!)
Jonah, he decapitates that mudcat’s head,
An’ gets his pipe ter drawin'; an’ this is what he said:
“Excuse me ef your stories don’t excite me much!
Excuse me ef I seldom agitate fer such!
You think yer fishermen! I won’t argue none!
I won’t even tell yer the half o’ what I done!
You has careers dangerous an’ checkered!
All as I will say is: Go and read my record!
You think yer fishermen! You think yer great!
All I asks is this: Has one of ye been ‘bait!
Cap’n Noah, Cap’n John, I heerd when ye hollered;
What I asks is this: Has one of ye been swallered?
It’s mighty purty fishin’ with little hooks an’ reels.
It’s mighty easy fishin’ with little rods an’ creels.
It’s mighty pleasant ketchin’ mudcats fer yer dinners.
But this here is my challenge fer saints an’ fer sinners,
Which one of ye has v’yaged in a varmint’s inners?
When I seen a big fish, tough as Methooslum,
I used for to dive into his oozly-goozlum!
When I seen the strong fish, wallopin’ like a lummicks,
I useter foller ’em, dive into their stummicks!
I could v’yage an’ steer ’em, I could understand ’em,
I useter navigate ’em, I useter land ’em!
Don’t you pester me with any more narration!
Go git famous! Git a reputation!”
— Cap’n John he grinned his hat brim beneath,
Clicked his tongue of silver on his golden teeth:
Noah an’ Jonah an’ Cap’n John Smith,
Strummin’ golden harps, narreratin’ myth!
Settin’ by the shallows forever an’ forever,
Swappin’ yarns an’ fishin’ in a little river!