Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Squid-jiggin': more classic Canadiana

Oh, this is the place where they're fishin' and gatherin'
Oil-skins and boots and the
Cape hands batten down
All sizes of figures with squid lines and jiggers
They congregate here on the squid jiggin' ground.

Some are workin' their jiggers, while others are yarnin'
There's some standin' up and there's more lyin' down
While all kinds of fun, jokes and drinks are begun
As they wait for the squid on the squid jiggin' ground.

There's men of all ages and boys in the bargain
There's old Billy Cave and there's young Raymond Brown
There's Rip, Red and Gory out here in the dory
A runnin' down squires on the squid jiggin' ground.

There's men from the harbor, there's men from the tickle
And all kinds of motor-boats, green, gray and brown
Right yonder is Bobby and with him is Nobby
He's chawin' hard tack on the squid jiggin' ground

God bless my soul, there's Skipper John, John Champy
He's the best hand at squid jiggin' here, I'll be bound
Hello, what's the row? Why he's jiggin' one now
The very first squid on the squid jiggin' ground.

The man with the whisker is old Jacob Steele
He's gettin' well on, but he's still pretty sound
While Uncle Bob Hockins wears six pairs of stockin's
Whenever he's out on the squid jiggin' ground.

Holy Smoke! What a scuffle! All hands are excited
It's a wonder to me that there's nobody drowned
There's a bustle, confusion, the wonderful hustle
They're all jiggin' squid on the squid jiggin' ground.

Says Bobby, "The squids are on top of the water,
I just got me riggers 'bout one fathom down"
But a squid in the boat scuddered right down his throat
And he swam like mad on the squid jiggin' ground.

There's poor Uncle Louie, his whiskers are spattered
With spots of the squid juice that's flyin' around
One poor little boy got it right in the eye
But they don't give a darn on the squid jiggin' ground.

Now, if you ever feel inclined to go squiddin'
Leave your white clothes behind in the town
And if you get cranky without your silk hanky
You'd better steer clear of the squid jiggin' ground.

De Nice Leetle Canadienne, and other racist poems

William Henry Drummond, now. We "took" him in school in the '60s, by God, and were supposed to take him seriously. This was the "Canadian content" that the school board so desperately craved, so we took him, along with Bliss Carman and a few other hopeless schmaltz-mongers.

I remember my English teacher reading these out loud. She was thirty-seven years old, unmarried, and dressed like a frump. Her interpretations of the poems in her breathy, hesitant voice were awkward, but what can you expect? I seem to have a dim memory of hearing Drummond himself perform some of these tasty verses, but I may be wrong; he may have died in 1872 or something.

It used to be OK, even desirable, even necessary to "poke fun" at French-Canadians, to say that they had litters of children like puppies, that they were crude and ignorant and illiterate. If you said that now, they'd blow you to kingdom come.

A bunch of raving separatists, aren't they? But by yiminy, dey make dern-toonderin'-good cornbeef avec moutard.  Meantime, here's some awful Canadian non-history. I offer this one only because it's one of the few Drummond poems that is less than 6,000 lines long.  I have a theory as to why the lines are numbered: to give you hope. If you knew it would be over in 40 lines, you could somehow hang on and keep from screaming. Then again, maybe it was like hypnosis. . . with each. . . line. . . taking you. . . deeper. . . and deeper. . .

. . . into a coma.

De Nice Leetle Canadienne

1 You can pass on de worl' w'erever you lak,
2 Tak' de steamboat for go Angleterre,
3 Tak' car on de State, an' den you come back,
4 An' go all de place, I don't care--
5 Ma frien' dat 's a fack, I know you will say,
6 W'en you come on dis contree again,
7 Dere 's no girl can touch, w'at we see ev'ry day,
8 De nice leetle Canadienne.

9 Don't matter how poor dat girl she may be,
10 Her dress is so neat ab' so clean,
11 Mos' ev'rywan t'ink it was mak' on Paree
12 An' she wear it, wall! jus' lak de Queen.
13 Den come for fin' out she is mak' it herse'f,
14 For she ain't got moche monee for spen',
15 But all de sam' tam, she was never get lef',
16 Dat nice leetle Canadienne.

17 W'en 'un vrai Canayen' is mak' it mariƩe,
18 You t'ink he go leev on beeg flat
19 An' bodder hese'f all de tam, night an' day,
20 Wit' housemaid, an' cook, an' all dat?
21 Not moche, ma dear frien', he tak' de maison,


22 Cos' only nine dollar or ten,
23 W'ere he leev lak blood rooster, an' save de l'argent,
24 Wit' hees nice leetle Canadienne.

25 I marry ma famme w'en I 'm jus' twenty year,
26 An' now we got fine familee,
27 Dat skip roun' de place lak leetle small deer,
28 No smarter crowd you never see--
29 An' I t'ink as I watch dem all chasin' about,
30 Four boy an' six girl, she mak' ten,
31 Dat 's help mebbe kip it, de stock from run out,
32 Of de nice leetle Canadienne.

33 O she 's quick an' she 's smart, an' got plaintee heart,
34 If you know correc' way go about,
35 An' if you don't know, she soon tole you so
36 Den tak' de firs' chance an' get out;
37 But if she love you, I spik it for true,
38 She will mak' it more beautiful den,
39 An' sun on de sky can't shine lak de eye
40 Of dat nice leetle Canadienne.


Yu bet!: The poetry of the Norsk Nightingale

Ay tel yu, dis har feller William F. Kirk, he ban write some dam gude werse! In his day, dialect poetry was wildly popular, usually read from the podium to howls of laughter. Dis har stuff is at least a little less cringe-inducing than the "negro dialect ballads" of the day, or even the awful stereotypical French-Canadian stuff we studied in school (I'll have to dig some of it out - it was excruciating).

If you read these aloud, which I recommend, you will note that you sound a lot like the Schmenge Brothers on SCTV. Though they were Leutonian and this guy was some kind of generic Scandinavian, it's close enough for jazz.

In the past I've posted Sonnet on Stewed Prunes and Ode to a Lumberyack, but here the Norsk Nightingale waxes even more poetic. Yu bet!

Vat for should dis spirit of mortal ban proud?
Man valk round a minute, and talk purty loud;
Den doctor ban coming, and say, "Ay can't save."
And man have to tak running yump into grave.

To-day dis har faller ban svelling around,
His head ban so light dat his feet ant touch ground.
To-morrow he light vith his face in the sand,
And hustle lak hal to get gude helping hand.

Ay see lots of fallers who tenk dey ban vise,
Yu see dem yureself ef yu open yure eyes;
Dey tal 'bout the gold dey skol making some day,
And yump ven the vash-voman com for her pay.

Ay tal yu, dear frend, purty sune we ban dead,
So ay tenk we ban suckers to getting svelled head.
It ant wery far from Prince Albert to shroud;
Vat for should dis spirit of mortal ban proud?

The Day is Done

The day ban done, and darkness
Falling from vengs of night,
Lak fedder flying from ruster,
Ven he ban having fight.
Ay see the lights of willage
Shining tru rain and mist,
And ay skol feel dam sleepy,
Lak fallers playing whist.

Come, read tu me some werses,
Ay ant care vat yu read,
Yust so it ant 'bout trouble
Or hearts vich ache and bleed.
Ay lak dese har nice yingles
'Bout sun and trees and grass;
But, ven it com to heartache,
Yerusalem! ay skol pass!

Read from some humble geezer,
Whose songs ban sveet to hear—
Who making, from his poetry,
'Bout saxteen cents a year.
Ay lak to hear his yingles,
Ay tell yu, dey ban fine;
Dis har ban vy ay lak dem—
Dey ban so much lak mine.

Such songs have gude, nice sound—
Dey making sorrow fly;
Dey coming lak glass of seltzer
Vich follows drenk of rye.
And night skol be full of music,
And tengs we lak to forget
Skol fold op tents lak yipsies,
And sneaking avay, yu bet!