Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IX. Tragedy: Humor
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IX. Tragedy: Humor.  1904.
Humorous Poems: II. Miscellaneous
The Nantucket Skipper
James Thomas Fields (1817–1881)
MANY a long, long year ago,
  Nantucket skippers had a plan
Of finding out, though “lying low,”
  How near New York their schooners ran.
They greased the lead before it fell,        5
  And then by sounding through the night,
Knowing the soil that stuck so well,
  They always guessed their reckoning right.
A skipper gray, whose eyes were dim,
  Could tell, by tasting, just the spot,        10
And so below he ’d “douse the glim,”—
  After, of course, his “something hot.”
Snug in his berth at eight o’clock,
  This ancient skipper might be found;
No matter how his craft would rock,        15
  He slept,—for skippers’ naps are sound.
The watch on deck would now and then
  Run down and wake him, with the lead;
He ’d up, and taste, and tell the men
  How many miles they went ahead.        20
One night ’t was Jotham Marden’s watch,
  A curious wag,—the pedler’s son;
And so he mused, (the wanton wretch!)
  “To-night I ’ll have a grain of fun.
“We ’re all a set of stupid fools,        25
  To think the skipper knows, by tasting,
What ground he ’s on; Nantucket schools
  Don’t teach such stuff, with all their basting!”
And so he took the well-greased lead,
  And rubbed it o’er a box of earth        30
That stood on deck,—a parsnip-bed,—
  And then he sought the skipper’s berth.
“Where are we now, sir? Please to taste.”
  The skipper yawned, put out his tongue,
Opened his eyes in wondrous haste,        35
  And then upon the floor he sprung!
The skipper stormed, and tore his hair,
  Hauled on his boots, and roared to Marden,
“Nantucket’s sunk, and here we are
  Right over old Marm Hackett’s garden!”        40

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