The Thirteenth Afternoon
or The Follies of Krishna


General de Terrence
The Whale of Tintoretto

  1. The merchant of Venezuela
  2. I wish I were a porcupine upon the banks of Dee
  3. Oh, the gramophone is a marvellous beast, half bat, half snail, half prawn,
  4. The burglars of Leamington Spa

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The merchant of Venezuela
Was locked in his room by a sailor
Who demanded a bushel of blood
Or at least the address of his tailor,
And a lesson in chewing the cud.

The dream of a mid-autumn night
Is like an unflyable kite
Which will land in a tree
On a Saturday night
While trying to act like a bee.

Have you ever seen a meringue
Delivering a violent harangue
Or a dissident dove
With a sharp parasang
To give as a gift to his love.

The skylark once sang to his mate
"We'll meet at the buttery gate
And slip on the hinge
(For this is our fate)
If we ever go out on a binge."

The mad metallurgical monk
Was attacked by a scurrilous skunk
And the bullfighting Basque
Sailed away in a junk
And the skunk ran away with a flask.

As the flames of the candle grew dim
There appeared from the glow Cherubim
Who made off with the wax
Though feeble of limb
(They have strong oleaginous backs).

I wish I were a porcupine upon the banks of Dee
Or else a gilded telephone in far Trincomalee
For then I'd find myself at ease, though often I have said
That effervescent lemonade is better for the head
Than Montezuma's requiem performed while drinking tea
(For Montezuma had a thought: a lentil is a pea,
And half the sea is molten wax, the other half is lead,
But which is which we'll never know for Montezuma's dead).

I'm glad I'm not a pot of jam on Chile's distant plains
Or Genghis Khan's best blunderbuss, or even Tamburlaine's,
For then I'd feel that curried eel, though often rather poor
Was the only proper food to eat in Warsaw or the Ruhr,
Unless riding down the Rhine by night with sadly slackened reins,
My silver-plated tie awry, my stomach plagued by pains
I'd strike an attitude of wrath, a posture quite demure,
But what was what you'ld never know, for cancer has no cure.

Though there was a young doctor named Blake,
Who kept yellow mice in a cage.
When they said that he must be insane,
He replied that he undoubtedly wasn't,
But of course if they said he was wrong
(And in fact he was right all along)
He would make them a very fine cake
As an underhand Christmas prosent,
For 'twas all the result of a wage
That was not to be paid again.

I'm sorry never to have seen the marmoset at play,
For he's a child, and I to him in loco parente.
He dangles from a lofty limb and sits athwart a brook
And cries in sundry ancient tongues "pro carmine illuc".
He speaks anon appalling French and shouts, "Je suis été."
A cheerful lad he is, you see, just like a summer's day
And if I try to stop him, why -- he quells me with a look,
For if I am a bishop, why then he must be a rook.

Oh, the gramophone is a marvellous beast, half bat, half snail, half prawn,
Half wombat, half elephant, half kinkajou, the remaining half is the least.
Only three and one half in captivity, it's kept on a verdigris lawn.
It has nothing to do from even to morn, but at night it is always released.

It roams through the streets
And whomever it meets it cries,
"Where do you do?"
Like an arrogant you-
through a mouth full of sweets.

It roves over parks
And it frequently barks
To the denizens of
Far-flung Herzegov-
inia, "Linear B."

It runs through the town
In an old dressing-gown
Which it constantly doffs
(You can hear as it coughs
That it's feathers are down).

It paints at an easel
The size of a measle
Two armies in combat
Both chucking a bomb at
Whatever the breeze'll

Bear to the river,
Be it kidney or liver
Or pieces of bacon
The cat has forsaken
For the sake of a quiver.

Whatever it be, the gramophone beast, half this, half that, he will paint it
On a canvas to rare that the wealth of the world for to buy it could never aspire,
So rare, so unique, that the wrath of the world would descend on any that taint it
Or assault any seller who would try to dispose of this treasure to an eloquent buyer
(Yes, the wrath would be dire).

The burglars of Leamington Spa
Are renowned for their daring and dash
For they never make use of a car
Unless they are travelling terribly far,
In search of illicit cash.

The Lemmings of Bergen-op-Zoom
Have stormed the municipal pool
And invaded the manager's room
(Which is next to the emperor's tomb).
The emperor was a fool.

The martyrs of Montevideo
Were lynched every night by a mob
While the soldiers would faintly say, "Oh,
My goodness they are getting rough in their play-o,
What does a burglar but rob?"

The crabs which infest Marrakesh
Are careless up mountaintops.
When they're tipsy they get out of breath
Though the net has a very fine mesh
To help with the haul of hops.

The venomous vermin of Vaud
Has a hide like a hideous hag.
It speaks in the Highway Code
While painting its hearers with woad,
You see it is quite a wag.

The animal kingdom has come now to grief,
Though the vegetable garden is fully in leaf.

©1973, 1999 The Rat Fathom Poets
Edited by Peter Christian
May 31 2023.