A strange tale in verse by Jay Nicholls
Pirate Blacktarn was sick of the weather.
His big green hat with its red parrot feather
Was all sodden and wet and soggy and droopy
With the rain that kept falling and driving them loopy.
“I’m tired of this weather,” he grumbled again,
“All it does is rain, rain, rain.”
“Never mind Captain,” called Mick with a shout,
“Look over there, the sun’s coming out.”
“And look beyond,” cried Fay with joy,
“There’s a rainbow shining. Rainbow ahoy.”
The rainbow shone red and orange and gold,
Blue, violet and indigo and green and bold.
“What a wonderful rainbow,” the crew all cried.
“Humph!” said Blacktarn, “I’d rather it dried.
But wait a minute, there’s a tale I know.
Now what is it that lies at the end of a rainbow?
Gold! Yes of course, a crock of fine gold.
Below that rainbow there’s wealth untold.
Well come on crew, turn the ship,
Start to steer for the rainbow’s tip.”
“But Captain,” said Bob, “we can’t reach the end of a rainbow.”
“Of course we can,” said Blacktarn, “come on, let’s go.
I’ll be the richest pirate on all the Lemon Sea,
I’ll eat chocolate for breakfast, dinner and tea,
I’ll wear ten gold rings in each of my ears,
And wear cloth-of-gold trousers for years and years.”
“Well I think we should have some of this gold too,”
Said Bosun Mick to the rest of the crew.
“Well, maybe I’ll let you have a coin or so,”
Said Pirate Blacktarn as he paced to and fro.
But the crew felt annoyed and muttered and mumbled.
“It’s not at all right,” they sulked and grumbled,
“We do the work, why should Blacktarn have it all?
All he ever does is growl and bawl.
But first we must find this mysterious rainbow.
It’s very odd how it seems to come and go.”
All day they searched for the rainbow far and near.
But when they thought they were close, it seemed to disappear.
And when they reached the place where the rainbow should be,
There was nothing to be seen anywhere on the sea.
Everyone thought they knew the best course to take.
And each yelled at the others, “THAT way, for goodness sake!”
“Steer to starboard!” “No, to port!”
“No you fool, it’s the other way I thought.”
So they all grew crosser and crosser and then began to shout.
Until at last a horrible fight broke out.
And everyone joined in, with fierce kicks and punches.
And poor Tim’s feathers were pulled out in bunches.
But at last they grew weary and bruised and battered
And their heads were hurting and their clothes were tattered.
Then they heard a strange sound wafting over the sea.
“What’s that?” they asked, feeling rather panicky.
“It’s the people of Mer,” said Fay feeling sad,
“They’re laughing at us for being so silly and bad.
And do you know what’s happened now?
All the time we’ve been quarrelling and making such a row,
The sun’s gone down and the rainbow’s vanished.”
“Oh no,” cried Blacktarn, “my dreams of wealth are banished.”
“I’m very sorry,” said Big Bob, the cook.
“So am I,” said Rakesh with a shamefaced look.
“I didn’t really mean to pull out your feathers Tim,”
Said Bosun Mick, holding out a hand to him.
“And I wasn’t really trying to peck off your nose,”
Said Tim with a sigh, “or even gnaw your toes.”
Then they cleaned each other’s cuts and rubbed each other’s bruises.
And then they agreed that they’d all been losers.
“But look at our poor Captain,” cried Rakesh, “over there.”
For Blacktarn huddled by the stern, muttering, “It’s not fair.”
And he looked very miserable and gloomy and dejected
For all his hopes of gold hadn’t gone as he’d expected.
“Serves you right,” said a voice, “for being much too greedy.”
And Neptune himself rose from the deeps of the sea.
“We’re feeling very sorry,” said Stowaway Fay.
“So I should think,” said Neptune, “what a way to spend a day!”
But Big Bob the cook baked a great big cake,
The very best that he could possibly make,
And Blacktarn had the biggest piece with a nice cup of tea.
And Rakesh sang a song to try to make him happy,
Until at last he smiled again and seemed to cheer up,
While Neptune reminded him, as he took a cup,
“You can never find the end of a magical rainbow,
As every good sailor on the Lemon Sea should know.”
“Well of course I knew that,” said Blacktarn cheerfully,
“I was just testing the crew here, you see.
But now we’ve steered a long way off course.
It’s time we set sail again, to catch the salt-wind’s force.”
Note: The ‘Pirate Blacktarn’ poems were written in the early 1990s but were never submitted anywhere or shown to anyone. By lucky chance they were recently rescued from a floppy disc that had lain in the bottom of a box for almost thirty years. There are eleven poems in the series but no indication as to what order they were written in and the author no longer remembers. However, they seem to work well when read in any order. They all feature the same cast of characters, the eponymous pirate and his crew, including a stowaway and an intelligent parrot. The stories told by the poems are set on a fictional body of water named the Lemon Sea. (Dug up by Rhys Hughes from the bottom of an abandoned treasure chest).
Jay Nicholls was born in England and graduated with a degree in English Literature. She has worked in academia for many years in various student support roles, including counselling and careers. She has written poetry most of her life but has rarely submitted it for publication.
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