It is reported that the following poem was found among the papers of Admiral Sir Martin N. Rowan, possibly dating back to the days of his memorable service aboard HMS Surprise during the Napoleonic Wars:
A Visit From St. Neptune(?)
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the barky
Not a creature was stirring, not even an aardvarky;
The kit-bags were hung in the galley with care,
In hopes that St. Neptune soon would be there;
The crew were nestled all snug in their hammocks,
While three-water grog danced in their stomachs;
And Killick in his 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When up in the rigging there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the cot to see what was the matter.
Away to the hatchway I flew like a plover,.
Tore open the grating and threw up the cover.
The moon on the crests of the wave-tossed ocean
Gave the lustre of mid-day to this watery motion,
When, what should my wondering eye there did see,
But a miniature boat, and eight manatee,
With a little old boatswain, with kelp all festooned,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Neptune.
More rapid than sharks his swimmers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Flotsam! now, Jetsam! now, Cathead and Pudding!
On, Larboard! on Starboard! on, Boomkin and Knotting!
To the top of the main! to the top of the mast!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away fast!"
As wave froth that before the wild hurricane flies,
When it meets the leeward shore, mounts to the skies,
So up to the main-top the swimmers they flew,
With the boat full of slops, and St. Neptune too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the yard
Each little flipper go slapping so hard.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the shrouds St. Neptune came with a bound.
He was dressed all in seaweed, without error or mar,
And his clothes were all covered with sea-salt and tar;
A bundle of slops he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a purser just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples did shine!
His cheeks were like durians, his nose like a lime!
His mouth was drawn up like that of a bass,
And the beard of his chin was as green as the grass;
A trident of gold he held tight in his hand,
And three points did shine as if polished with sand;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right bluff-bowed old crank,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of my rank;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the kit-bags; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the shroudlines he rose;
He sprang to his boat, to his team gave a quick call,
And away they all flew like a twelve-pounder ball.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove straight athwart,
"Happy Christmas to all, and confusion to Buonaparte!"
© 2003 Bruce Trinque