Once upon a time, I performed on stage as a professional storyteller. I would get gigs at bookstores, libraries, historical re-enactments and such; where I would tell folktales to audiences big and small. Frankly, it was a lot of fun and perhaps I’ll do it again someday.
Most of my material was traditional tales that dated back hundreds of years or more. Versions of Robbin Hood, Jack and The Beanstalk ,and other such stories were my stock in trade. However, one piece I did was 100% original…a poem.
The inspiration for this little opus came at a party when the topic of Charon came up (which tells you what kind of parties I got invited to back then). Charon is the mythological boatman who carried the dead across the river Styx in Greek mythology. He would require coin for such services and had no pity for those who could not pay. As I often portrayed an Irish sailor when I did my act, friend of mine asked how such a character would solve the problem of a penniless crossing.
So here it goes, my one and only poem…
ANGUS McHUGH & THE FERRYMAN
by Clayton J. Callahan
Now Angus McHugh did sail the great blue, he knew the raging main.
A man of the sea, tradition loved he, and about it took great pain.
To Poseidon he swore and an earring he wore. For he knew when his time did come,
The Ferryman’d be there, and demand his share, the earring to be the sum.
Now Angus loved a game, and would never complain when handed a pair of dice.
One night he played and from tradition strayed, as he lost his shirt ‘bout twice.
But the very worst thing, he lost the gold ring, right out of his ear.
On a starless night, when the seas weren’t right and his charts were not clear.
His ship went down, and Angus drowned. He was in his very worst fix.
A penniless man, he was left to stand, alone by the river Styx.
“Ah, Ferryman, please, can you find with ease any pity in your bone?
Would you leave me to stand in limbo land when yonder is my home?”
But the Ferryman said as he shook his head, “All men do come my way.
You have erred it’s true, ‘tis a pity for you, but in limbo you will stay!”
So the Ferryman would come and the Ferryman would go all that sunless day.
And Angus would stay, and watch a display of the Ferryman’s shoddy ways.
“You calls that a sheepshank? How much have you drank? Is that how you hold an oar?
Oh bother it man, you’re the sloppiest hand I’ve ever seen before!
That boat would go faster, you know, if you knew how to reeve the rigging.
Now fresh trim the sail, you rusty old nail, or take up truffle digging!”
The old Ferryman was not a patient man, he took it only a day.
When he had all that he could stand he shouted, “Angus, go away!”
“And where should that be? You know as well as me, I am stranded here on the shore.
All I can do is look at you, in disgust forevermore.”
Needless to say, Angus was soon on his way to that far and shining shore.
And the Ferryman knew, he’d see Angus McHugh, truly nevermore.
So if you are drowned, and penniless found, alone by the river Styx.
Think to Angus McHugh, you’ll know what to do, for I have just gave you the fix.