Sunday, 9 December 2007

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE

What's the weather like near you? I only ask, because we've been having rather a lot of rain and a couple of folk were raising questions about the story of the Flood and Noah's Ark.

Tales about extensive - even civilization threatening - floods proliferate throughout world mythology and many of these stories have elements (if you pardon the pun) in common with the saga of Noah's voyage.

Such myths exist in many ancient cultures including Greek, Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian and Chaldean. Just about every corner of Europe boasts similar stories: from Scandinavia to Transylvania and there are accounts of floods involving boats, rafts and arks in the mythologies of countries as diverse as India, China, Africa, Alaska and Australasia.

You can read more about some of these stories on Mark Isaak's absorbing Flood Stories from Around the World page of The TalkOrigins Archive (Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy). Or for a shorter version of things (with pictures but fewer fascinating details) check out Wikipedia's entry on Deluge (Mythology) .

Meanwhile, here's a celebrated monologue written in 1932 by Marriott Edgar and famously performed by Stanley Holloway - with apologies to those for whom the Lancashire dialect and reference to pre-decimal coinage are problematical!

Three Ha'pence a Foot

I'll tell you an old-fashioned story
That Grandfather used to relate,
Of a joiner and building contractor;
'Is name, it were Sam Oglethwaite.

In a shop on the banks of the Irwell,
Old Sam used to follow 'is trade,
In a place you'll have 'eard of, called Bury;
You know, where black puddings is made.

One day, Sam were filling a knot 'ole
Wi' putty, when in thro' the door
Came an old feller fair wreathed i' whiskers;
T'ould chap said 'Good morning, I'm Noah.'

Sam asked Noah what was 'is business,
And t'old chap went on to remark,
That not liking the look of the weather,
'E were thinking of building an Ark.

'E'd gotten the wood for the bulwarks,
And all t'other shipbuilding junk,
And wanted some nice Bird's Eye Maple
To panel the side of 'is bunk.

Now Maple were Sam's Mon-o-po-ly;
That means it were all 'is to cut,
And nobody else 'adn't got none;
So 'e asked Noah three ha'pence a foot.

'A ha'pence too much,' replied Noah,
'Penny a foot's more the mark;
A penny a foot, and when rain comes,
I'll give you a ride in me Ark.'




But neither would budge in the bargain;
The whole daft thing were kind of a jam,
So Sam put 'is tongue out at Noah,
And Noah made 'long Bacon' at Sam.

In wrath and ill-feeling they parted,
Not knowing when they'd meet again,
And Sam had forgot all about it,
'Til one day it started to rain.

It rained and it rained for a fortni't,
And flooded the 'ole countryside.
It rained and it kep' on raining,
'Til the Irwell were fifty miles wide.

The 'ouses were soon under water,
And folks to the roof 'ad to climb.
They said 'twas the rottonest summer
That Bury 'ad 'ad for some time.

The rain showed no sign of abating,
And water rose hour by hour,
'Til the only dry land were at Blackpool,
And that were on top of the Tower.

So Sam started swimming to Blackpool;
It took 'im best part of a week.
'Is clothes were wet through when 'e got there,
And 'is boots were beginning to leak.

'E stood to 'is watch-chain in water,
On Tower top, just before dark,
When who should come sailing towards 'im
But old Noah, steering 'is Ark.

They stared at each other in silence,
'Til Ark were alongside, all but,
Then Noah said: 'What price yer Maple?'
Sam answered: 'Three ha'pence a foot.'

Noah said 'Nay; I'll make thee an offer,
The same as I did t'other day.
A penny a foot and a free ride.
Now, come on, lad, what does tha' say?'

'Three ha'pence a foot,' came the answer.
So Noah 'is sail 'ad to hoist,
And sailed off again in a dudgeon,
While Sam stood determined, but moist.

Noah cruised around, flying 'is pigeons,
'Til fortieth day of the wet,
And on 'is way back, passing Blackpool,
'E saw old Sam standing there yet.










'Is chin just stuck out of the water;
A comical figure 'e cut.
Noah said: 'Now what's the price of yer Maple?'
Sam answered: 'Three ha'pence a foot.'

Said Noah: 'Ye'd hest take my offer;
It's last time I'll he hereabout;
And if water comes half an inch higher,
I'll happen get Maple for nought.'

'Three ha'pence a foot it'll cost yer,
And as fer me,' Sam said, 'don't fret.
The sky's took a turn since this morning;
I think it'll brighten up yet.'

Images: 'The Deluge' by Gustav Dore; 'Three Ha'pence a Foot' by John Hassall

4 comments:

Boll Weavil said...

Thank's Mr B, for taking us back to the golden age of monologues.Its still possible to pick up collections of those stories in published form but there's nothing like hearing Our Stan reciting them.

Anonymous said...

Seem to remember from Mike Harding there being one more verse:~
"Nay lad, thou'rt wrong Noah answered, It'll rain a lot more I'll be bound. Cum on now, sell us your Maple. Bugger off, said Sam, and then drowned."

Stuart said...

Brilliant. I always remembered Hardings version including the last verse............."And then the daft bugger drowned", which is a tad different from what is posted. It was from a Mike Harding Live LP, yep them old plastic 12" records. 33's to you technical types

Snow Man said...

Brilliant. I always remembered Hardings version including the last verse............."And then the daft bugger drowned", which is a tad different from what is posted. It was from a Mike Harding Live LP, yep them old plastic 12" records. 33's to you technical types