15 September 2006

"Out There Somewhere"

Like the narrator of the following poem, I ain’t much strong on poetry. Usually, in fact, I detest the stuff. But there are a few poems I like, and I’ll even go so far as to say that Rudyard Kipling is my favourite poet. This piece isn’t by him – it’s by a Canadian chap named Henry Herbert Knibbs (1874-1945) – but it is my absolute, number-one, all-time favourite poem.

And my thanks to the incomparable ERB for introducing me to it.

“Out There Somewhere”

As I was hiking past the woods, the cool and sleepy summer woods,
I saw a guy a-talking to the sunshine in the air;
Thinks I, he’s going to have a fit -- I’ll stick around and watch a bit;
But he paid no attention, hardly knowing I was there.

He must have been a college guy, for he was talking big and high --
The trees were standing all around as silent as a church --
A little closer I saw he was manufacturing poetry,
Just like a Mocker sitting on a pussy-willow perch.

I squatted down and rolled a smoke and listened to each word he spoke;
He never stumbled, reared or broke; he never missed a word,
And though he was a Bo like me, he’d been a gent once, I could see;
I ain’t much strong on poetry, but this is what I heard:

“We’ll dance a merry saraband from here to drowsy Samarcand.
Along the sea, across the land, the birds are flying South,
And you, my sweet Penelope, out there somewhere you wait for me,
With buds of roses in your hair and kisses on your mouth.

“The mountains are all hid in mist; the valley is like amethyst;
The poplar leaves they turn and twist; oh, silver, silver green!
Out there somewhere along the sea a ship is waiting patiently,
While up the beach the bubbles slip with white afloat between.

“The tide-hounds race far up the shore -- the hunt is on! The breakers roar,
(Her spars are tipped with gold and o’er her deck the spray is flung);
The buoys that rollick in the bay, they nod the way, they nod the way!
The hunt is up! I am the prey! The hunter’s bow is strung!”

“Out there somewhere, --” says I to me. “By Gosh! I guess that’s poetry!
Out there somewhere - Penelope - with kisses on her mouth!”
And then, thinks I, “O college guy, your talk it gets me in the eye,
The North is creeping in the air; the birds are flying South.”

And yet, the sun was shining down, a-blazing on the little town,
A mile or so ‘way down the track a-dancing in the sun.
But somehow, as I waited there, there came a shiver in the air;
“The birds are flying South,” he says. “The winter has begun.”

Says I, “Then let’s be on the float; you certainly have got my goat;
You make me hungry in my throat for seeing things that’s new.
Out there somewhere we’ll ride the range a-looking for the new and strange;
My feet are tired and need a change. Come on! It’s up to you!

“There ain’t no sweet Penelope somewhere that’s longing much for me,
But I can smell the blundering sea and hear the rigging hum;
And I can hear the whispering lips that fly before the outbound ships;
And I can hear the breakers on the sand a-booming ‘Come!’”

And then that slim, poetic guy, he turned and looked me in the eye:
“...It’s overland and overland and overseas to -- where?”
“Most anywhere that isn’t here,” I says. His face went kind of queer:
“The place we're in is always here. The other place is there."

He smiled, though, as my eye caught his. “Then what a lot of there there is
To go and see and go and see and go and see some more.”
He did a fancy step or two. Says he, “I think I’ll go with you --”
... Two moons, and we were baking in the straits at Singapore.

Around the world and back again; we saw it all. The mist and rain
In England and the dry old plain from Needles to Berdoo.
We kept a-rambling all the time. I rustled grub, he rustled rhyme --
Blind baggage, hoof it, ride or climb -- we always put it through.

Just for a con I’d like to know (yes, he crossed over long ago;
And he was right, believe me, Bo!) if somewhere in the South,
Down where the clouds lie on the sea, he found his sweet Penelope,
With buds of roses in her hair and kisses on her mouth.


(Originally published in Songs of the Outlands: Ballads of the Hoboes and Other Verse, by H H Knibbs; Houghton Mifflin Co, 1914)

2 comments:

Becky said...

Heavens. I was going to read quietly and leave until I noticed that I was observed as a "Canadian"! Nifty little country counter, that.

And many thanks for a poem new to me -- I'm a transplanted American (who somewhere still has a button emblazoned with "I Like Ike", after a work visit from DC to tour the USS Eisenhower...), and enjoy discovering gems like this.

Nancy said...

What a fun poem. I love how it sounds -- even better aloud I would say.