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The Compass, With Variations
by [?]

“The Needles have sometimes been fatal to Mariners.”
Picture of Isle of Wight.

[Note: Written when Walter Scott was familiarly known as the Wizard of the North,” the title which is the key to the present poem. Scott died in September, 1832, in the interval between the writing and the publishing of the verses, for which Hood makes regretful apology in the Preface to the Comic Annual for 1833, in which they appeared.]


One close of day–’twas in the Bay
Of Naples, bay of glory!
While light was hanging crowns of gold
On mountains high and hoary,
A gallant bark got under weigh,
And with her sails my story.


For Leghorn she was bound direct,
With wine and oil for cargo,
Her crew of men some nine or ten,
The captain’s name was Jago;
A good and gallant bark she was,
La Donna (call’d) del Lago.


Bronzed mariners were hers to view,
With brown cheeks, clear or muddy,
Dark shining eyes, and coal-black hair,
Meet heads for painter’s study;
But midst their tan there stood one man,
Whose cheek was fair and ruddy;


His brow was high, a loftier brow
Ne’er shone in song or sonnet,
His hair, a little scant, and when
He doff’d his cap or bonnet,
One saw that Grey had gone beyond
A premiership upon it!


His eye–a passenger was he,
The cabin he had hired it,–
His eye was gray, and when he look’d
Around, the prospect fired it,–
A fine poetic light, as if
The Appe-Nine inspir’d it.


His frame was stout, in height about
Six feet–well made and portly;
Of dress and manner just to give
A sketch, but very shortly,
His order seem’d a composite
Of rustic with the courtly.


He ate and quaff’d, and joked and laughed,
And chatted with the seamen,
And often task’d their skill and ask’d,
“What weather is’t to be, man?”
No demonstration there appeared,
That he was any demon.


No sort of sign there was that he
Could raise a stormy rumpus,
Like Prospero make breezes blow,
And rocks and billows thump us,–
But little we supposed what he
Could with the needle compass!


Soon came a storm–the sea at first
Seem’d lying almost fallow–
When lo! full crash, with billowy dash,
From clouds of black and yellow,
Came such a gale as blows but once
A cent’ry, like the aloe!


Our stomachs we had just prepared
To vest a small amount in;
When, gush! a flood of brine came down
The skylight–quite a fountain,
And right on end the table rear’d
Just like the Table Mountain.


Down rush’d the soup, down gush’d the wine,
Each roll, its role repeating,
Roll’d down–the round of beef declar’d
For parting–not for meating!
Off flew the fowls, and all the game
Was “too far gone for eating!”


Down knife and fork–down went the pork,
The lamb too broke its tether;
Down mustard went–each condiment–
Salt–pepper–all together!
Down everything, like craft that seek
The Downs in stormy weather.


Down plunged the Lady of the Lake,
Her timbers seem’d to sever;
Down, down, a dreary derry down,
Such lurch she had gone never;
She almost seem’d about to take
A bed of down forever!


Down dropt the captain’s nether jaw,
Thus robbed of all its uses,
He thought he saw the Evil One
Beside Vesuvian sluices,
Playing at dice for soul and ship,
And throwing Sink and Deuces.