Photo #: NH 47029 (extended caption)
"Spinning a Yarn"
Seven "Old Salts" engaged in telling tall tales aboard USS Enterprise (1877-1909), probably while their ship was at the New York Navy Yard, circa spring 1890.
Photographed by E.H. Hart, New York.
Suitable verses from "The Tale of the Gyascutus" are printed below the original photographic image.
The entire poem is provided below.
U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
Online Image: 141KB; 740 x 620 pixels
The Gratton C. Dichman Scrapbook (Naval Historical Foundation
Photographic Collection, Lot # NHF-107-A, page 23) contains a
newspaper clipping, circa 1910, that includes the entire poem
printed with Photo # NH 47029. The text of that clipping is reproduced
verbatim below. It should be mentioned that the usage of "nautical
terminology" in the poem is largely nonsense, no doubt made
so for the enlightenment of those "green hands" for
whom the original yarn was spun.
In a family scrapbook dating back to 1884 a correspondent discovers the amusing old Navy poem, "The Tale of the Gyascutus," for which inquiry was made last week. It is without date, but is credited to the Detroit Free Press, and under the title "A Sailor's Yarn" is given as follows:
This is the tale that was told to me
To me and my messmate, Silas Green,
'Twas the good ship Gyascutus,
With the wind a-lee and the capstan free
'Twas Captain Porgie on the deck,
While the boatswain bold in the forward hold,
"Oh, how does our good ship head to-night?
"Oh, she heads to the E.S.W. by N.,
"Oh, what does the quadrant indicate,
"Oh, the sextant's down to the freezing point,
"Oh, and if the quadrant has lost a hand,
It's our bodies and bones to Davy Jones
"Oh, fly aloft to the garboard strake!
Bend a studding sail on the martingale
"Oh, boatswain, down in the for'ard hold,
"Four foot and a half by the royal gaff
"Oh, sailors, collar your marlin spikes
Come stir your stumps and spike the pumps,
They stirred their stumps, they spiked the pumps,
Aloft and alow they worked, but oh!
They bored a hole above the keel
But strange to say, to their dismay,
Then up spoke the cook of our gallant ship
"I have several wives in various ports,
Then up spoke the Captain of Marines,
"It's awful to die, and it's worse to be dry,
Oh, then 'twas the noble second mate
The second mate, as bad men hate,
He took the anchor on his back
Through foam and spray he clove his way,
Through foam and spray, a league away
Till, safe at last, he made it fast,
'Tain't much of a job to talk about,
And suth'in to do, if I say it too,
Such was the tale that was told to me,
By that modest and truthful son of the sea,
And I envy the life of a second mate
Though captains curse him and sailors hate,
For he ain't like some of the swabs I've seen,
As would go and lie to a poor marine.
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Image posted 6 April 2000
Caption corrected 3 December 2004