‘The Tale of the Pasty-Eating, Man-Eating Seagull

‘The Tale of the Pasty-Eating, Man-Eating Seagull

“I was tied up alongside the quay one day,

when I heard the Coxswain to the Boatswain say:

‘Have you ever heard the tale

of the pasty-eating, man-eating seagull?’

‘No!’ replied the Boatswain,

with wonder did he speak,

‘I haven’t heard that tale at all

but twice or thrice this week;

I suppose I’ve little in the way of choice

but to hear it once again.’

‘Little choice indeed!’ then said

the Captain of the boat,

‘tis only through our telling tales

that we keep this craft afloat.’

‘There was an ancient mariner,

who stoppéthed one of three-

but, he’s not in this torrid tale,

there’s only thee and me.

‘One day, the Saucy Sue set sail

and left our harbour home;

we travelled light,

though it were night,

the salty seas to roam.

Setting out from lovely Looe,

as our want was wont to do,

we left the town aways behind,

it was no good as crew.’

‘You said that well.’

the Boatswain cried,

‘much better than before.’

‘Thank ‘ee!’ said the Coxswain,

‘and now, I’ll tell ‘ee more.

‘For three calm days we had fair wind,

though we were in no hurry,

we plied the straits to Dover,

where we stopped off for a curry.’

‘No!’ Spake the Boatswain,

‘we did there no such thing;

we never ate an Indian,

be he just about to sing.’

‘Quite right!’ affirmed the Coxswain,

‘tis wrong to eat a man;

but, here, this tale, it comes to tell

of a certain fair and foul seagull,

who had a different plan.

It was the pasty-eating, man-eating seagull,

of which this tale is all about.

He lived in Dover harbour,

of that there is no doubt;

for I once met him late at night,

upon a lonesome pier;

and if he hadn’t eaten me,

by God, I would be here.’

‘Are you a ghost?’ The Boatswain asked,

‘For, if you are, I be afeared of thee!’

‘No. Calm thee down,

I am just a sailing man,

who loves his old pasty;

could a ghost eat one like this?’

In one gulp he ate it so;

the Boatswain then gasped out, ‘I believe it – No!’

The Coxswain put his mind to sail,

and canvas was set true;

the Boatswain gathered up the ropes,

as Boatswains often do.

“About this gull…?’ the Boatswain said

‘Did it really eat up men,

and make the living, dead?’

‘Indeed it did, and it still does,

it has a hunger great;

it preys on men eating pasties;

and lures them to their fate.’

The horror on the Boatswain’s face,

as the Coxswain told the tale,

was a site to behold;

the Boatswain turned old,

and his hair went gray,

as the Saucy Sue went calmly on her way.

The Coxswain told of many men,

who had all breathéd of their last,

victims of the hungry gull,

‘… who now perches on our mast!’

Aghast, the Boatswain lookéd up,

and aloft did spy the bird;

ill omens seemed to gather there,

as the evil gull took wing to air;

and the Boatswain felt inside

a hunger newly stirred.

‘I must eat a pasty!’

from his mouth,

beneath his breath,

the fatal words were heard;

with a pasty in his hand,

a bite so nearly taken,

and, the Boatswain was so close to death,

at the hands of a seagull, God-forsaken.

Then he bit down, the Boatswain did,

and tasted Cornish Heaven;

the gull did swoop,

all cock-a-hoop,

and ate them both,

the sailor, and his vittles,

‘Oh, Devon!’ the Coxswain swore,

and then he swore a few words more,

at the strange and fearsome sight,

that the written (spoken) word here belittles;

‘twas a sad and fateful night.

The Coxswain and the Boatswain

will sail the seven seas forever,

the Saucy Sue’s a ghost ship now,

and where’er she goes

a sailor knows

she bringeth stormy weather.

The moral of this tale, my friends, is this:

‘Never put to sea

with ghosts as crew;

and, from Dover to Looe,

of pasties do not touch;

for if you do,

it’s the end for you

for as you bite,

there will be

another bite,

the bite of the pasty-eating, man-eating seagull,

who bids you to join his number,

and suffer the fate

of the Coxswain and his mate,

to forever sail the salty seas and never, ever slumber.’ “

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