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Lyr Add: Canopus

20 Mar 16 - 06:54 AM (#3779952)
Subject: Lyr Add: Canopus
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch

Authors' notes on "The John B. Sails"

John T. McCutcheon, cartoonist and kindly philosopher, and his wife Evelyn Shaw McCutcheon, mother and poet, learned to sing this song on their Treasure Island in the West Indies. They tell of it, "Time and usage have given this song almost the dignity of a national anthem around Nassau. The weathered ribs of the historic craft lie imbedded in the sand at Governor's Harbor, whence an expedition, especially sent up for the purpose in 1926, extracted a knee of horseflesh and a ring-bolt. These relics are now preserved and built into the Watch Tower, designed by Mr. Howard Shaw and built on our southern coast a couple of points east by north of the star Canopus."

(Italics are mine.)
(Italicized: The Island Song Book: Foreword by John and Evelyn McCutcheon, Privately Printed at The Chicago Tribune Tower, Jan. 15, 1927)

(All: American Songbag, Sandburg, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1927)

Here, now the other two thirds of The John B. Sails trilogy, "Canopus" and "The Watch Tower," as told to Carl Sandburg by the Clan McCutcheon c.1927.

20 Mar 16 - 06:59 AM (#3779955)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Canopus
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch


When quacks with pills political would dope us,
When polictics absorbs the live-long day,
I like to think about the star Canopus
So far, so far away.

Greatest of visioned suns, they say who list 'em;
To weigh it science always must despair
Its shell would hold our whole dinged solar system,
Nor ever know 'twas there.

When temporary chairmen utter speaches,
And frenzied henchmen how their battle hymns,
My thoughts float out across the cosmic reaches
To where Canopus swims.

When men are calling names and making faces,
And all the world's ajangle and ajar,
I meditate on interstellar spaces
And smoke a mild seegar.

For after one has had about a week of
The arguments of friends as well as foes,
A star that has no parallax to speak of
Conduces to repose.

Notes to poem:
"This poem, by the late B.L.T., first appeared in the Line o' Type column of The Chicago Tribune."

"The star so favorably mentioned in this poem is just south of Treasure Island. In fact, our residence has been called the Half-Way House to Canopus. Canopus is visible from all parts of the Island. It is seen to advantage from the parapet of Fort Canopus, but the best view is from the Watch Tower, which is a quarter of a mile nearer the star."

(The Island Song Book: Foreword by John and Evelyn McCutcheon, Privately Printed at The Chicago Tribune Tower, Jan. 15, 1927)

Notes: The lyrics appear both as a poem and set to music. Bert Leston Taylor was a much-in-demand navigator in his "spare time." Charles Atkinson was an in-law of the Shaws and the family arranger-banjoist.

20 Mar 16 - 07:03 AM (#3779956)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Canopus
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch

The Watch Tower

The year of Nineteen Twenty-five was drawing to a close,
The Northern winter settled down with frost and ice and snows,
The King and Queen of Treasure Isle beside their glowing fire
Were thinking of a tropic Cay, their land of heart's desire.

Then spoke the King, "I like to think of sunshine and of sea,
And flowers and birds and soldier-crabs, that wait us at the Cay,
And I've another thought," sezze, "if your consent is won,"
To build a tower at the Cut and mount the other gun."

"Consent is granted," said the Queen, "of course we must expect
The building of a tower needs a first class architect.
May I suggest that we engage one Mr. Howard Shaw,
An architect of brilliant parts, likewise your Pa-in-law?"

So Mr. Shaw was seen at once: "I'll take it on," sezze,
"And build a shaft to stand for time, of solid masonry.
We'll take the old frame tower down, now falling in decay
Since it was struck by lightning in a most unfriendly way."

The sketch was made upon a card and building plans begun,
By cabling for the stone to Mr. Cyril Solomon;
And then the famous architect set forth to cross sea,
To boss the job himself and build the Tower on the Cay.

The gallant ship "Lord Roberts" brought the cement, stone and lime;
And when the waves were surging, had the dickens of a time;
And once with anchors dragging, was saved from wreck and shocks
When the "Lucaya" took their line and towed them off the rocks.

A half a dozen masons now were camping on the isle,
And stone by stone and course by course the Tower grew the while.
At last the finished structure reared its battlements on high,
Completed 'neath the architects keen, all-compelling eye.

The famous and historic gun, once salvaged from the sea,
Was loaded on a riding sled and hoisted carefully;
And on its platform by the Tower by block and tackle put,
To guard in most imposing style the entrance to the Cut.

Now came the most propitious time, the day to celebrate
With fitting ceremonies, and the Tower to dedicate.
When all was done, arrangements made, and everything was fixed,
The date was set in history as March the twenty-sixth.

A most distinguished group of guests assembled at the Cay,
His Excellency, the Governor, C.B. and C.M.G.
And all of Nassau's social and official life held sway
To make of the occasion a momentous holiday.

The Hon'ble Harcourt Malcolm, inspired by time and place;
Delivered then a masterpiece of eloquence and grace.
His words expressed in brilliant phrase and fluent fantasy
The usefulness and beauty of the Tower on the Cay.

The followed Hon'ble Henry J. Anslinger, U.S.A.-
The Consul was most eloquent in what he had to say
Of brotherhood, of friendly ties, and "hands across the sea"
That find a fitting symbol in the Tower on the Cay.

A character of olden time, of most forbidding mien
A practices piratical, now burst upon the scene.
Lest he should act unseemly and further joys prohibit,
They dragged him to the battlements and hung him on the gibbet.

With music by the local band, and fireworks display,
The ceremonies ended in a most auspicious way,
With brimming glasses well supplied, to drink a lot of toasts
To Governor, distinguished guests, the Tower and the hosts.

Long life to Mr. Howard Shaw and Cyril Solomon,
The gallant ship "Lord Roberts" and to all whose work is done.
And long life to the landmark where it stands for all to see,
A thing of beauty and of grace, The Watch Tower on the Cay.
(C.T.A. - March 26, 1926.)

This should be sung serially, a half dozen stanzas each week until exhausted.

(ibid, pp.22-23)

Notes: There is no music. It is "sung" as a syncopated poem or, in goombay parlance, a "toast." The "Watch Tower" on Treasure Island was actually a functional daymark (aid to navigation) for the cut into the lagoon. It was also the architect's swan song. Howard Van Doren Shaw died 7 May 1926.

20 Mar 16 - 06:05 PM (#3780038)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Canopus
From: leeneia

Thanks, Phil.