A strange tale in verse by Jay Nicholls
PIRATE BLACKTARN MEETS THE SIREN Pirate Blacktarn was sailing around When all of a sudden, he heard a sweet sound, A marvellous melody, wafting on the sea. “Let’s go and see what that sound can be.” “No you can’t,” said Tim Parrot anxiously, “That’s the Siren’s song, turn back quickly.” “Nonsense Tim, don’t be such a bore Full sail ahead, I want to hear more.” “No, no,” said Tim, “the Siren’s song’s a trap. She’ll sing and tell tales till you doze and nap. And at last you’ll fall asleep and never wake again. Don’t you know the Siren makes statues of men?” “Rubbish, don’t make a fuss, we’re brave and tough And we’re not afraid of Sirens,” said Blacktarn in a huff. So they sailed at speed to the Siren’s shores Following her enchanted music’s lures. “Welcome,” called the Siren as they finally came near, “I have a tale or two, perhaps you’d like to hear?” Her hair was shining silver and her eyes were glinting green, The most amazing creature they’d ever seen. Her lilting, laughing voice was rich and sweet as honey. Mysterious and serious, fantastical and funny. “Don’t listen,” cried Tim, flapping his wings with worry. “Oh be quiet Tim, we’re not in a hurry, “We can surely stay for just a little while. Pleased to meet you Siren,” said Blacktarn with a smile. Then the Siren gave them all a potion to drink And they drank and drank and forgot to think. “I see you pirates have come a long, long way, You must stay here and rest,” they heard the Siren say. Then she told them tales of the people of Mer And of sunken ships full of long-lost treasure, And the terrible battles of the squids and the whales And the shining sea fire that never ever fails, And the undersea caves that glitter with diamonds And the eels that weave through the waving fern fronds, And the ghosts of dead pirates all shivering and cold Still seeking their hoards of silver and gold. Their heads began to nod and their eyes began to close And one by one they fell into a deep enchanted doze. They hardly knew if they were waking or dreaming For all was hazy and magical seeming. Blacktarn’s mouth opened wider and wider And he didn’t even notice when in jumped a spider. “Wake up! Wake up!” cried Tim in agitation, But the pirates were lost in their imagination. “Time for drastic action,” thought Tim, very worried, And away to his friends the seagulls, he hurried. “Help me, please help me, I don’t know what to do, The Siren’s enchanted Blacktarn and all his crew.” Then the Lord of the Seagulls held a meeting of his flock, They all gathered together on his great grey rock. They didn’t like the Siren, she turned birds into stone And wore necklaces and rings made of seagulls’ bones. “What we’ll do is hold a seagull’s chorus,” The Great Gull decided, “and we’ll make such a fuss That the Siren’s voice will be silenced and unheard, Then the pirates will wake,” announced the Great Bird. The gulls all agreed this was a very good idea For a certain sort of seagull screech is hideous to hear. So away they flew to the Siren’s shores And saw the pirates and heard their snores. The Great Gull himself let out a wild cry Then the seagull chorus screamed through the sky. The din they made echoed round and round Till the Siren’s voice was completely drowned. “Wake up Blacktarn,” called all the birds, “Wake up, don’t listen to the Siren’s words. Wake up Mick and Bob, wake Stowaway Fay Wake, if you want to live another day.” Tim went round pecking at the dozy crew. “Wake up Captain and Rakesh and you and you.” Then the crew stopped hearing the Siren’s voice. They only heard the gulls, they didn’t have a choice. “I must have been napping,” said Bob opening his eyes, “I’ve had some strange dreams,” said Mick in surprise. Then they stared at the Siren in horror and dismay She’d turned purple with rage, now she couldn’t get her way. She frothed at the mouth and her eyes went red And writhing snakes twisted round her head. “Run,” yelled Fay and at top speed they fled, And didn’t dare stop, they were so filled with dread. At last they reached the ship and sighed with relief. That was an adventure quite beyond belief!” “I wish I could remember the stories she told, I wanted to hear those magic tales unfold,” Said Stowaway Fay, with a rather sad sigh. “Me too,” said Bob. “Yes” said Mick, “so did I.” “You be grateful you haven’t been turned to stone,” Said Parrot Tim crossly, “then you’d really moan. If it wasn’t for the help of the gulls of the air You’d be trapped forever in the Siren’s snare.” “Nonsense,” said Blacktarn, “we were dozing a while, We weren’t caught up in the Siren’s guile. I told you no Siren would get the better of me, Now come on crew, get sailing, across the Lemon Sea.”
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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