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Vanderbilt's Dream

Composed on the ocean after leaving Panama in 1861

Old Vanderbilt sat in his easy chair
And laughed in his sleeve as he pondered there
While round on the table was spread with care
A banquet befitting a millionaire.
Here fish, flesh and fowl in abundance were dressed
There were pungents and acids to give them a zest
With dainties and luxuries, rarest and best,
And the wines were as sparkling as ever were pressed.

The Commodore feasted and shoved from the board
As the last brimming bowl of Madeira was poured,
Then full as a tick and as drunk as the lord,
He dozed and he nodded and finally snored
And he dreamed that his vessels and steamers all told
Were freighted with passengers needy and old
Each crammed to the utmost from cabin to hold
And he chuckled and grinned as he fingered their gold.

The time was now up, still he lingered on shore
Though advertised to sail at a quarter to four,
And succeeded in shipping at least half a score
To be dovetailed spoon fashion while drumming for more
And he saw them sit down as the dinner bell rung
And he smelt e'er the fifth, on the dishes that clung
And he heard muttered curses an every man's tongue
And he growled as he rolled, let all grumblers be hung.

Then he stood near the helm and he felt in high glee
As he counted his consorts on weather and lee,
Then turning he saw something hideous to see
And he thought to himself what in h-ll could it be
'Twas human as far as he was able to trace
But starvation was stamped on his fingers and face
And toilsome and tottering and slow was its pace
For sadly it needed to splice the main brace.

It spoke and the sound echoed hollow again
Three weeks I've been cooped in this horrible den
With hundreds of women and children and men
All huddled and guzzling like pigs in a pen
It crouched and it sprung, and this skeleton wreck
Grabbed hold of old Van by the nape of the neck,
And dragged him triumphantly down to the deck
Where hundreds stood ready to run at his beck.

Go fetch in those victuals and hark ye I pray
Bring everything on as we stowed it away
We'll have quite a comical feast I dare say
For the Commodore dines with the steerage today,
And soon all the tables were lowered and spread
With beans and potatoes and hard musty bread
And green tainted beef with some chunks of "Old Ned."

Then taking old Van by the hair of the head
He stuffed in a slice of three year old boar
Rank, reeking and rusty, and tamped it with more
Till the sweat stood in beads as it oozed from each pore
And he retched and he gagged till his gullet got sore
He bawled and he bellowed and begged lake a thief
As he gulped down a chunk of carrion beef
While his ruthless tormentor stood direful and deaf
To his gapping and growling and gagging and grief

But nature rebelled at the horrid repast
And the sickening load from his stomach was cast
And his hair stood erect and his visage aghast
Till he shrieked and slid down and awakened at last.
And his Valet, alarmed at the hellish uproar
Looked in an old Van as he cursed and he swore
At his dinner and his drink now transferred to the floor
And so ended the dream of old Commodore.

Published: 26-Apr-2004