A Ferry Fable

This little tale dates from the days of the old ferry, a horse boat rowed by two men. There were often difficulties in getting animals into the boat, while other beasts would readily jump into the boat, and with equal readiness jump over the opposite side and have a swim until recaptured!

A Ferry Fable; From Saltash, Cornwall, by Anonymous

A bumpkin came to the river's side
With a sow from his master's store,
And strict command to cross the tide –
A task which vexed him soar.
For though the boat was waiting there,
And the skipper watched the shore –
And the tide was high and the wind was fair,
For sail or labouring oar –
There still remained a task more stern
Than ruling wind or tide;
For the sow would neither walk nor turn
Towards the vessel's side.
The bumkin screamed – enticed and gored –
And cursed with might and main;
But still to get the pig on board
His efforts were in vain.
At length a parson hurried down,
With chidings oft and long,
Upon the language of the clown,
Because it was so strong.
"Now cease your oaths," said Clerico,
"For naught can they avail;
But slyly give a poke or so,
Till in the way you want to go,
You find the lady turning – ho!
Then pull her by the tail!"
The clown obeyed – and, quick as thought,
The victim was on board.
Though hard to learn, yet quickly taught,
Are lessons rightly stored.
The bumpkin stared aghast to know
How 'twas that priests so learned grow;
The skipper stood amazed –
And had it been some years ago,
The parson then and there, I trow,
'Midst faggotts would have blazed.
Now if you wish to reason how
The parson learnt his plan,
'Tis simply this you have to know –
He was a married man!

published in The Oxford Book of Local Verses, by John Holloway (Editor)

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page updated 2016-06-07

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