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The Bearded Dwarf

(a.k.a. Dennis Publishing)
Felix Dennis
February 12, 2002
New York City
Available in:

There’s them as plan and them as chance
And them as rather walk than dance,
There’s them as never leaves the shore,
But me, I’ve always seized an oar,
A mate or two on either side
To set our backs against the tide,
Not knowing where our prow might touch,
Nor turning round, nor caring much.

Strange it is for them as row,
Never seeing where they go,
While lubbers Nelson couldn’t teach
Shout out instructions from the beach —
Dry-sailors with their spread-sheet screens
Who count the cost of pork and beans,
New chandlers with their silly lists
Saluting flags and analysts.

I’ve sailed the ship, I’ve owned the line,
I’ve swilled on bilge and drunk fine wine,
I’ve paced the bloody jetty, too,
Not knowing how I’d pay the crew.
I’ve sailed at dawn without a plan,
Faced mutiny and ’ung a man,
(’ung more than one, if truth be told);
I’ve stacked the decks with blood and gold
Paid out upon the barrel-head
(With widows and their orphans fed
Most scrupulous, ‘cash money down’ —
I’m quite the thing in Portsmouth Town).

There’s men whose backs I ’ad to flay
Who’ll tell you I worked ’ard as they,
Stood my watch and stood with ease
While younger men went on their knees;
And though the seas we sail aren’t salt,
And though I’m not without some fault,
They line along Canary wharf
To sail upon the Bearded Dwarf.

And why?  Is it to learn a trade
Or all the filthy gelt we’ve made?
To ’elp convert our ’eathen kin
Or bang out weevils in a tin?
No sir!  It’s just they love to mock
The Royal Navy, lock and stock,
To never ’ave to kneel and cow —
Or curtsey on the starboard bow.

There’s not a Navy ship that sails
Could ’ope to catch the Dwarf’s coat tails,
(Unless the crew was drunk, the sods —
And then I’d give ’em even odds
’Gainst toady jacks who buff the brass
Or kiss the first lieutenant’s arse).

No sir!  I’d rather starve afloat
Than scoff swill in a Navy boat,
A measly pint of grog a day
And ‘Christmas pud on Christmas Day’
If you’ve behaved — then forced to sing
Like choirboys: ‘God Save The King!’

“So up my lads, we’re glory bound,
The tide is turning on the Sound,
There’s native girls with luscious lips
And nowt but grass upon their hips,
There’s Spanish Dons, the old buffoons,
Their fat tubs stuffed with gold doubloons;
Strange stars there are in Southern skies —
Am I a man who’d tell you lies...?

                                 *  *  *

Line up along Canary wharf:
Sign up to sail the Bearded Dwarf!”

Dedicated with heartfelt thanks to all those shipmates who have toiled aboard The Bearded Dwarf these past 30 years.  She’s a fine barky, made finer still by the exceptional talent of the men and women who have crewed her, past and present.  I never was much of a captain, I know that.  But at least I had the sense to place her in seamanlike hands and retreat to the owner’s cabin.  (For most of the time, anyway!)

 From ‘A Glass Half Full’ by Felix Dennis, published by Hutchinson (UK) and Miramax (USA)