It was confusing, sir—
All those damned cherubs hanging in the air
Tangling their wings against the mizzen-mast;
And then the mermaids—trouble enough we had,
Such crowds of creatures tumbling through the waves,
The crew agape in round astonishment.
And Triton always blowing up somewhere
Sounding his conch-shell trumpet-like at us;
And whales that stretched the length of continents
And took us twenty days to sail around.
And all the scrolls, sir, mixed up with the clouds,
They made the voyage very troublesome—
The same again, sir, thank you very much.
You know the pictures then, the maps and prints?
Those were the crowded days for voyaging,
The things I've seen I doubt if you'd believe,
But this here jack-knife proves I've been around—
It's slit near thirty heathen at the throat,
You'll know, to feel the edge, sir.
That there's Columbus at the Isle of Pearls,
I and Columbus, sir, we stride the deck,
His name in letters written round his head.
The waves like that, all fixed and ribbed with light,
The naked Indians in the foreground here
Are just as I remember.
Thank you, sir.
And not a space unfilled. Three-masters those,
I just forget
How they got mixed up with the Isle of Pearls,
Boarding and gunning with their sails square-rigged
And puffs of smoke that, staying in the air,
Blot out a toppling Spaniard but his leg.
Aye, that's the Gold Lion, too,
With ten dead Indians swinging at the mast.
De Bry's the fellow, sir, that done the prints
And got it very accurate.
I said to him
“Put in a cherub, Will, to blow the wind,”
And showed him how to draw the mermaids so,
And very lifelike, too.
Well, thank you, sir.
Yes, the first turning, thirty paces down,
That's the best way. You'll not mistake it, sir.
One for the road? Your health, then. Down the hatch.
A Coggle Diagram about The crude description of the slaughter of "heathens" and victory signified by the "ten dead Indians swinging at the mats" challenges the glory that is often associated with discovery, reiterating the incredulity that may accompany it. This also brings the audience to a discovery about the moral complexities of the "Old World".
, The reference to the "name written in letter around his head" suggests that the two are alluding to an illustration, perhaps on a map.
, The use of the dash following "sir" indicates a pause after which he launches into his false discovery
, The use of the expletive "damned" alongside "cherubs", which are celestial beings related to the heaven, is oxymoronic and reflects the persona's uncouth character.
, The term "mizzen mast" refers to the third mast of the bow, indicating the use of sailor jargon to provide legitimacy to the absurd combination of the fantastical and the real.
, The alliteration and assonance in "crowds of creatures" suggests the sounds of the sea, implying a voyage of discovery
, The use of assonance in "agape in astonishment" shows marvelling of the crew at the sight of the mermaids, whilst he takes them as a nuisance, indicating a suggestion of self-importance
, The use of simile in "conch shell trumpet-like" evokes a sensory experience that is particularly aural. This is yet again, an attempt to lend legitimacy to his description of the possibly false voyage of discovery. #
, The use of hyperbole in "whales that stretched the length of continents" signifies the extent of exaggeration that the persona engages in. The clear mistruth in his words adds to our own scepticism of his recount. In fact, it may also display a clear lack of knowledge.
, The use of polysyndeton reflected in the anaphoric use of "And" indicates the extent of challenges that are contrived by the speaker in his attempt to appear impressive
, The addressal to the audience evident in "The same again, sir, thank you very much" breaks from the flow of the story reiterating the dramatic monologue that Dobson employs in the construction of the poem.
, The phrase "the crowded days of voyaging" suggests that the persona lives in the age of discovery
, The italicisation of "was" places emphasis on the agreement on the opinion that "it" was confusing suggesting a sudden delight in the acknowledgement of the difficulties that he experienced.
, The use of dash following "around" indicates a pause before the traveller introduces another lie.
, The shift from "cherubs" to "heathens" indicates movement from the fanciful to seeming reality, and so a tonal shift from simply an amused approach to the tale, to a more speculative perspective of the grave inhumanities associated with discovery in the "Old World", introducing ambivalence to the concept of discovery
, The challenge conveyed in the use and interpretation of "scrolls" suggests two levels of discovery occurring; the illustrator discovers the expanse of their imaginative possibilities during the creation of the art, whereas the voyagers discover the physical aspect, and perhaps the more 'real' aspect of what the illustration depicts.
, The phrase "I and Columbus" is grammatically incorrect, however, is key in showing his air of self-importance as he suggests that he is even more significant than a well-known discoverer such as Columbus, which further makes us question the credibility of his "tale"
, The use of the word "tale" in the title immediately challenges the authenticity of the traveller's anecdotes by suggesting its story-like impression.
, The effect of the direct speech in "Put in a cherub, Will, to blow the wind" is used to suggest the strength of the persona's relationship with the famous illustrator De Bry. It is ironic that despite this, the persona is unable to persuade the audience of this as his lack of sobriety is indicated in the reference to the wrong first name.
, The indentation of "Thank you, sir" suggests the other person's response to the tale #
, The integration of first person narrative voice with the description of the illustration stresses on his personal experience with the features depicted by the picture in an attempt to legitimise his 'tale'
, The use of the adjective 'naked' to describe the Indians presents their vulnerability as they are exposed both literally and metaphorically. Dobson
, The image created of the naval battle is a truly chaotic one, suggesting Dobson's chaotic impression of colonisation and the discovery of new lands
and As opposed to the beginning of the poem, the mermaids and cherubs almost seem like a deliberate addition of his own further challenging the credibility of his discovery