A History that Everyone “Knows”

Verse by Anthony Foliot

I drifted into reverie when I read my history book,

of the Erebus and Terror, and the effort that it took…

to find the Northwest Passage though many others tried;

Sir John must have had his doubts when the first two sailors died.

John Torrington, John Hartnell, those guys are smiling still,

They ate a lot of lead-tin food, I guess they had their fill.

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They found them in the permafrost, buried side by side,

on the Beechy Island beach, those guys were mummified.

We were north of King William Island, besettin’ there two years straight,

and if you were to ask me, Old Sir John wasn’t looking that great.

Commander Fitzjames started reading Shakespeare,

said he wanted to play Lady MacBeth;

Captain Crozier’s got that look in his eye, like he would march us to the death.

So what do you figure, me hardies? It’s each man to his share…

it’s pully-haully all night long for Erebus and Terror!

But, ring ring ring the dream is stopped, a phone call from ‘The Man.’

“Some verse of the Northwest Passage? Shucks! That isn’t worth a damn…

it’s got to have a local EDGE, a focus on what’s here…”

So I took a cruise down YK Bay, to my buddy’s for a beer.

And we talked about ‘Nose-worn’ Neilson, a pilot of Old Town renown…

but you never said ‘Nose-worn’ to his face, or else he’d smack you down.

Yes he sure knew his business, from his head down to his toes…

still you never were to mention the condition of his nose.

Then I hiked up to the watering hole, that’s called the ‘Chez Pierre E.’

And I asked a couple old boys for some ‘Nose-worn’ history.

So Moustache Mike and Lanky Lou, went on an anecdotal spree…

but when I focused on the ‘Nose-worn’ part, Lanky Lou admonished me.

“Oh come on, no-one called him that. ‘Nose-worn’? That’s absurd!…

his name is Neil, a real nice guy, you’ll have to take my word.”

Well rats! There goes my angle, where’s my story for ‘The Man’?

He doesn’t want my Franklin stuff, and I’ve lost my back-up plan.

This ‘Nose-worn’ Neilson’s still alive, I can’t make fun of him.

But, I need to get my verses wrote, so I can hand them in.

Then I started wandering ‘round the town, wondering what to do,

when suddenly it came to me on Franklin Avenue.

This versifying business sure puts me to the test…

and I’m roaming through the Old Town just like Franklin on his quest.

But minus all the scurvy, and the sledging heavy loads,

it’s my own small Northwest Passage along the Hearne Hill Road.

I trudged Otto Drive then Morrison, around to the old float base…

and I thought of ‘Nose-worn’ Neilson with his nose worn off his face.

I wished that he’d been living a long, long time ago.

‘Cause I could’ve versed ‘ol ‘Nose-worn,’ and he would never know.

So take it from me, me hardies, when all is done and said…

It’s easier to versify, about someone who’s long dead.


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