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The Mystic Selvagee

Fun n.s. IX - 22nd May 1869


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.
Illustration by Gilbert

"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.

Illustration by Gilbert
"Now, JASPER" — 'twas 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 equalised —
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'raps 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!

Illustration by Gilbert

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