Desperately Seeking Poem (Non-Ceph but Aquatic)

Discussion in 'Culture' started by nanoteuthis, Jun 25, 2003.

  1. nanoteuthis

    nanoteuthis Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

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    I'm posting this here because it doesn't involve buying, selling, or trading, though whoever can find this for me will earn my undying gratitude. :notworth:

    When I was a kid (back in the Pre-Cambrian era), my family owned a children's multivolume encyclopedia called THE BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE published by Grolier. It contained many fascinating articles and stories for kids, as well as some of the finest poems by the great poets of the English language.

    Among the above was a wonderful story-poem by William Rose Benét, called simply WHALE. (The Benét brothers, William Rose and Stephen Vincent, were both prolific and distinguished writers of the early 20th century.) This poem, written in several quatrains, is a joyous depiction of a whale's canticle to God, ending with the great mammal returning to God on Judgment Day with all the other creatures of the deep in tow.

    Long ago I memorized the first two verses, which went:

    • Rain, with a silver flail;
      Sun, with a golden ball;
      Ocean, wherein the Whale
      Swims, minnow-small.

      I heard the Whale rejoice,
      And cynic sharks attend:
      He cried, in [or with] a purple voice,
      "The Lord is my friend!"

    Of course, my set of THE BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE is long gone, but when something reminded me of the poem, I did netsearches for it on both AltaVista and Google -- figuring that you can find just about anything online. Well, I was wrong. There were several references to the first verse as a "famous quotation" about the sea, but neither the second nor any of the subsequent verses were anywhere to be found on the net.

    I realize it isn't ceph-related, but I figured that the TONMO community -- with its high percentage of literate and ocean-loving members -- might be a good place to inquire about the entire poem. If any of you owns an anthology of sea poems, animal poems, devotional poems, story poems, 20th century American poems, or (even better) poems by William Rose Benét, please see if you can find the text of the entire poem WHALE, and either post it here or send it to me via the TONMO Private Message system.

    I cannot promise you anything in return but a big cyber-hug, and the experience of reading this delightful poem in its entirety. Gentlepersons, to your libraries!

    Many, many, many thanks in advance,
    Tani, Mellow Fellow
    Dept. of Biped Arts and Letters
    Bikini Bottom 'Tooniversity
     
  2. Architeuthoceras

    Architeuthoceras Architeuthis Staff Member Moderator

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    Taningia,

    I have a set of the multivolume encyclopedia called THE BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE published by Grolier. I will look for your poem, but you will have to wait until I get home. I hope that page isn't worn away, I spent many a day thumbing through those pages (back in the Ordovician).
     
  3. nanoteuthis

    nanoteuthis Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

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    Kevin, you are the greatest! I can't believe anyone still has copies of TBOK. Even as an adult, I often used to re-read the literary treasures found among those volumes. Unfortunately, I had to sell them years ago as part of my mother's estate -- the buyers wanted the entire contents of the apartment for a flat fee. I (foolishly) thought I wouldn't be referring to it anymore, and I figured it would be far too obsolete to be of any use to my son. (In the same transaction, I also gave up three of my old Madame Alexander dolls, which I later found out were collectibles worth several hundred $ apiece -- live and learn!)

    Take all the time you need to find the poem when you get home -- I imagine that the minute you get your hands on THE BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE, you will want to spend many days just browsing through the pages and savoring their contents. (I know that's what I would do.)

    Please accept half of those cyber-hugs in advance -- the rest will be forthcoming upon receipt of the poem! :D

    Your appreciative benthic buddy,
    Taningia
     
  4. Architeuthoceras

    Architeuthoceras Architeuthis Staff Member Moderator

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    Tani,

    I can't find that poem anywhere. A small part about W. R. Benet says "Whale" is his most popular poem, and in your BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE, but, it is not listed in the gerneral index, or the poetry index. I looked through all the other 19 volumes, found a poem called "Chambered Nautilus" by O W Holmes, "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville, and a story of a sperm whale and her calf that get into a fight with devilfish with tentacles as big as flagpoles called "Jackal of the Deep" by Paul Annixter. I will look further, but I dont think it's in there. The copyright on my set is 1962, maybe it came in a later or previous edition?
     
  5. Clem

    Clem Architeuthis Supporter Registered

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    Kevin,

    Sweet merciful crap, man. Don't just gloss over the story about the monstrous devilfish with tentacles big as flagpoles!

    Your sketch of the action recalls an apocryphal story about a physeter calf drowned by a giant squid (while mama stands by helplessly). Perhaps the "witnesses" to the event had that Encyclopedia volume on hand?

    I'd not heard of the Annixter story, before. Thanks for digging it up. In what year was it written?

    Clem

    ps: Taningia, I'm sniffing around for Benet's "Whale." Some cetacean enthusiast out there must have it on their home-page.
     
  6. nanoteuthis

    nanoteuthis Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

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    Hey there, Clem.... you're the greatest as well! I'd nearly given up after even the meta-search Google failed to turn up anything. But as you suggest, not every netizen has necessarily registered his/her homepage with a search engine.

    Sometimes in cases like these, the "detective work" involved is almost as much fun as finally finding the poem. I remember the NY TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT used to get lots of letters beginning something like, "HP in Paramus, NJ wants to know the origin of the following line: 'There once was a hermit named Dave....'," etc. (Well, actually, that was from a satire on the NY TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT, but you get the general idea :) )

    I participated (successfully) in a similar search last year, when Steve-O' kept mentioning a 1960s minor rock hit called ELOISE of which he was trying to get a recording. As it turned out, someone in the UK just happened to be selling a mint copy of the ELOISE CD on eBay around the same time, so the CD ended up making the trip from the UK to New Xena Land by way of Noo Yawk. In fact, later today I just might browse eBay and Half.com to see if anyone has posted an auction for a "Complete Poetic Works of the Benét Brothers" or the like.

    If more than one TONMOer finds the poem for me, no problem -- I've eight arms and more than enough cyber-hugs to go around!

    :squid:
    T'ann I'nja
     
  7. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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  8. nanoteuthis

    nanoteuthis Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

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    Yep, that's pretty much all I've gotten too. And the poem is a fairly long one. It's hard to believe that a work whose first verse is so allegedly famous, is so inaccessible in its entirety. Thanks for trying, anyway. Who knows, maybe at this moment somebody with a huge poetry library is saying, "Hey, maybe just for fun I'll post WHALE to the net."

    On the other hand, one of the URLs above did provide this gem:

    • "Sponges grow in the ocean. That just kills me. I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be if that didn't happen."

      -- Steven Wright

    I've no idea who Steven Wright is, but I'll betcha Stephen Hillenburg cites him as one of his major influences....

    Waiting for someone to yell, "Thar she blows!",
    Tani
     
  9. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    Oh, you would like Steven Wright, and you might recognize him if you saw him. He's a comedian that basically says very silly things in dry monotone. He was also the DJ's voice in Reservoir Dogs, of all things.

    Here are some of his quotes:

    I intend to live forever - so far, so good.

    If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving definitely isn't for you.

    I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.

    If you had a million Shakespeares, could they write like a monkey?

    I saw a bank that said "24 Hour Banking", but I don't have that much time.

    There's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an idiot.

    These and more at:

    http://www.weather.net/zarg/ZarPages/stevenWright.html
     
  10. Clem

    Clem Architeuthis Supporter Registered

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    What the...that's just...you've gotta be...

    Mr. Wright also has some funny things to say about hitch-hikers:

    I like to pick up hitch-hikers. I'll be silent for a few miles, then I'll turn to them and say: "So, how far do you think you're going?"

    :goofysca:
     
  11. WhiteKiboko

    WhiteKiboko Colossal Squid Supporter Registered

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    if youve ever seen 'canadian bacon' (john candy movie) steven wright is the mountie.....
     
  12. Melissa

    Melissa Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

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    A friend found this but not Tani's long lost favorite. It's Belloc, not Benet, but you might like it.

    The Whale
    by Hilaire Belloc

    The Whale that wanders round the Pole
    Is not a table fish.
    You cannot bake or boil him whole
    Nor serve him in a dish;

    But you may cut his blubber up
    And melt it down for oil.
    And so replace the colza bean
    (A product of the soil).

    These facts should all be noted down
    And ruminated on,
    By every boy in Oxford town
    Who wants to be a Don.



    Melissa
     
  13. nanoteuthis

    nanoteuthis Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

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    Hi Melissa -- thank you! I've heard of Belloc as a Catholic theologian, but was unaware he wrote such charming light verse. Reminds me a lot of Ogden Nash, who was a master of satirical poetry and did a few especially cute ones on animals. A couple of my favorites:

    • THE PANTHER

      The panther is like a leopard,
      Except it hasn't been peppered.
      Should you behold a panther crouch,
      Prepare to say Ouch.
      Better yet, if called by a panther,
      Don't anther.

    And here's one for Clem:

    • THE JELLYFISH

      Who wants my jellyfish?
      I'm not sellyfish!


    PS: What's your schedule for the second week of July? I'm free the 9th, 10th, and 11th, so if you'd like to set up an Aquarium expedition then, send me a PM.

    The Tanster
     
  14. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    There was once a great funk-rock band that played clubs in NYC called Yummy. One song was "Jellyfish", here are the lyrics from memory:

    Jellyfish

    Diving, diving, diving to the ocean
    The gentle current floods me with emotion
    I see a shark as he's gliding on by me
    Baracudas are waving and smiling

    Diving, diving, diving to the ocean
    Crest of the wave it shatters my emotion
    A lobster raises his claws, he salutes me
    Starfish (unintelligible)
    Charlie Tuna appears to say to me,

    "Oh no look out beware a Jellyfish"
    A peanut butter and Jellyfish
    Yeah, look out! Look out!
    Jellyfish
    An icky sticky yucky Jellyfish

    Jacques Cousteau is filming documentaries
    A striped bass from the ocean's penetentaries
    Blow fishes offer me their service
    I'd like to oblige but I am nervous
    If I reveal my trout today....

    It might get stung by big ol' Jellyfish
    A peanut butter and Jellyfish
    Yeah, look out! Look out!
    Jellyfish
    An icky sticky yucky Jellyfish

    Jellyfish....

    Saltwater fills my ears
    I cannot hear
    The sound of people screaming
    from the shore for me to look out.
    To look out... (unintelligible)

    Against the reef I was backed into a corner
    Looked like the end, I was thinking about a coroner
    Lucky for me I was carrying a weapon
    My Bad-Jellyfish-Neutralizing Ray Gun
    I'd like to introduce to you...

    His name is Hector he's my Jellyfish
    He is my buddy, he's my Jellyfish
    Yeah, look out! Look out!
    Jellyfish
    My peanut butter and my Jellyfish
    Jellyfish Jellyfish Jellyfish Jellyfish
    Fishy fish
     
  15. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    In fact, here's an MP3 version of that song for your listening enjoyment. Don't let the jerky start fool you, that's by design.

    One of my favorites!

    Yummy's Jellyfish - nearly 5 megs
     
  16. nanoteuthis

    nanoteuthis Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

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    Great original lyrics (don't know how they got that "blowfish" pun past the media censors 8) ), great guitar work, unimpressive melody -- a little too "generic heavy metal". Actually I liked the slow bridge section and coda better because they sounded more "jellyfish-y" than the rest. (I've always seemed to associate jellyfish and nudibranchs with dreamy, spacey, New Age type music, I guess because of the visual "lava lamp" effect.)

    I love the idea of "peanut butter and jellyfish".... wonder if that song was released before or after SPONGEBOB?

    (I can just see Clem curled up in fetal position right now!)

    Thanks for sharing the song,
    Tani
     
  17. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    Oh, their songs are rife with it, that's pretty much the only song that could possibly be shared here... I let it through on artistic license... :wink:

    That was released well before Spongebob... unfortunately they are no longer a band... the guitarist died of a heroin overdose, as I understand it. Shame, they were a very, very entertaining show.

    For some of the more... raunchy offerings, visit their site:

    Yummy
     
  18. Melissa

    Melissa Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

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    Tony, thanks for the links to Yummy. This is delightful! I'm only sorry I can't see them now.

    Tani, I have a copy of Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children, with gorey illustrations. Few better combinations exist! The contents include "Franklin Hyde, who caroused in the Dirt and was corrected by his Uncle." and "Algernon, who played with a Loaded Gun, and, on missing his Sister, was reprimanded by his Father." The only drwwback is that is contains nary a cephalopod.

    Melissa
     
  19. Clem

    Clem Architeuthis Supporter Registered

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    Taningia,

    Coiled like a feeding tentacle, more like it.

    Thanks to Kevin (Architeuthoceras), I've been able to read "Jackal of the Deep," a supremely purple bit of prose by one Paul Annixter. In this short story, a female sperm whale engages in an epic wrestling match with an über-squid. Annixter's description of the squid is worthy of a radio play:

    This one was a giant of his kind. His mighty tentacles were as big around as flagpoles, each of them thirty-five feet long. They sprouted like the stalks of a turnip from a bleached and bulbous body fully as large as that of the cachalot, and shaped like a Zeppelin. The center of this grisly mass was a gaping, senile-looking mouth with an overhanging, parrot-like beak, on either side of which glared two lidless eyes of awful and appalling blackness.

    Annixter's attempts to generate an aura of menace are undercut by his mingling of the dire (Zeppelin) and not-so-dire (turnip), and the dimensions of his "devilfish" are preposterous, but the story does have a fun pulp sensibility. Mama physeter amputates the squid's arms ("covered with round sucking discs, studded with black curved claws...") one by one, until the squid quits the scene and the whale is forced to surface before suffocating. Meanwhile, mama's calf is menaced by a spiteful pilot fish named Romero and his pal, a monstrous, 35-foot Grey Nurse shark.

    Setting aside the squid's size and the dubious arrangement of its beak, Annixter describes something not unlike Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, the colossal squid. His story has resonances with Benchley's "Beast," in which a sperm whale and her calf have a run-in with a falsified Architeuthis, but also recalls an apocryphal tale in which a sperm whale calf is said to have been drowned and dragged under by a monster squid (while mama watched helplessly). I imagine young Peter Benchley reading Paul Annixter's story in his Benet-edited volumes, tucking the images away for future reference.

    :roll:

    Clem
     

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