The Yarn Of The "Nancy Bell"

by

William Schwenck 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:


"Oh, elderly man, it's little I know

Of the duties of men of the sea,

And I'll eat my hand if I understand

However you can 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 happened to me.


"And pretty nigh all 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 worshiped men;

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 larf, and I never smile,

And I never lark nor play,

But 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!'"


(1866)



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