Here you will find the Long Poem The Mystic Selvagee of poet William Schwenck Gilbert
Perhaps already you may know SIR BLENNERHASSET PORTICO? A Captain in the Navy, he - A Baronet and K.C.B. You do? I thought so! It was that Captain's favourite whim (A notion not confined to him) That RODNEY was the greatest tar Who ever wielded capstan-bar. He had been taught so. "BENBOW! CORNWALLIS! HOOD! - Belay! Compared with RODNEY" - he would say - "No other tar is worth a rap! The great LORD RODNEY was the chap The French to polish! "Though, mind you, I respect LORD HOOD; CORNWALLIS, too, was rather good; BENBOW could enemies repel, LORD NELSON, too, was pretty well - That is, tol-lol-ish!" SIR BLENNERHASSET spent his days In learning RODNEY'S little ways, And closely imitated, too, His mode of talking to his crew - His port and paces. An ancient tar he tried to catch Who'd served in RODNEY'S famous batch; But since his time long years have fled, And RODNEY'S tars are mostly dead: EHEU FUGACES! But after searching near and far, At last he found an ancient tar Who served with RODNEY and his crew Against the French in 'Eighty-two, (That gained the peerage). He gave him fifty pounds a year, His rum, his baccy, and his beer; And had a comfortable den Rigged up in what, by merchantmen, Is called the steerage. "Now, JASPER" - 't was that sailor's name - "Don't fear that you'll incur my blame By saying, when it seems to you, That there is anything I do That RODNEY wouldn't." The ancient sailor turned his quid, Prepared to do as he was bid: "Ay, ay, yer honour; to begin, You've done away with 'swifting in' - Well, sir, you shouldn't! "Upon your spars I see you've clapped Peak halliard blocks, all iron-capped. I would not christen that a crime, But 'twas not done in RODNEY'S time. It looks half-witted! Upon your maintop-stay, I see, You always clap a selvagee! Your stays, I see, are equalized - No vessel, such as RODNEY prized, Would thus be fitted! "And RODNEY, honoured sir, would grin To see you turning deadeyes in, Not UP, as in the ancient way, But downwards, like a cutter's stay - You didn't oughter; Besides, in seizing shrouds on board, Breast backstays you have quite ignored; Great RODNEY kept unto the last Breast backstays on topgallant mast - They make it tauter." SIR BLENNERHASSET "swifted in," Turned deadeyes up, and lent a fin To strip (as told by JASPER KNOX) The iron capping from his blocks, Where there was any. SIR BLENNERHASSET does away, With selvagees from maintop-stay; And though it makes his sailors stare, He rigs breast backstays everywhere - In fact, too many. One morning, when the saucy craft Lay calmed, old JASPER toddled aft. "My mind misgives me, sir, that we Were wrong about that selvagee - I should restore it." "Good," said the Captain, and that day Restored it to the maintop-stay. Well-practised sailors often make A much more serious mistake, And then ignore it. Next day old JASPER came once more: "I think, sir, I was right before." Well, up the mast the sailors skipped, The selvagee was soon unshipped, And all were merry. Again a day, and JASPER came: "I p'r'aps deserve your honour's blame, I can't make up my mind," said he, "About that cursed selvagee - It's foolish - very. "On Monday night I could have sworn That maintop-stay it should adorn, On Tuesday morning I could swear That selvagee should not be there. The knot's a rasper!" "Oh, you be hanged," said CAPTAIN P., "Here, go ashore at Caribbee. Get out - good bye - shove off - all right!" Old JASPER soon was out of sight - Farewell, old JASPER!