A Poem in Defense of Lunars

This poem was presented to me by Captain Ted Spurling Sr. of Little Cranberry Island, Maine,  the navigator who most inspires me and to whom this site is dedicated. He wrote, “This nautical poem by Mr. E. Plumstead, an ardent defender of lunar observations, was taken from a popular old English navigation book titled Wrinkles by S.T.S. Lecky, master mariner, it being the 2oth edition…This book was given to me nearly fifty years ago by a cousin, Captain Tom Kelley, of West Tremont, on Mount Desert Island, Maine.”

It is with great sorrow that I report that Captain Ted Spurling Sr., to whom this site is dedicated and without whom it would not have existed, died in 2004. It is he who gave me the poem in defense of lunars, “Wrinkles.”  Captain Spurling was the kindest and most interesting man on  the Maine island I call my second home, with many, many years of experience in celestial navigation.  I spent hours with him in his home and many more sitting on the dock or by the museum, just talking. He will be greatly, greatly missed.

 

There was a time when Parallax and dear old Mrs. Moon
Were understood by seamen, and esteemed a precious boon.
Then Wrinkles came; Edition Nine burst forth mid jubilation,
Waxed fat and kicked, and then ensued the following conversation:

“Pack up! Clear out!” said Wrinkles, “Take notice now, and mind,
Both Parallax and you to Coventry we’ve consigned.”
“Who’s We?” retorted Mrs.Moon, “I’ve never heard such fudge;
Are you the We? Have I no friends? Are you the only judge?”

“You’ve hit it off,” said Wrinkles, “I am the We, far famed:
You’ve lost your ancient following, of your conduct they’re ashamed,
Except a few ‘Old Timers,’ who from sundry dark recesses
Sing your praises in the papers, have no names, give no addresses.”

“That’s rather neat,” replied the Moon,  “But will you have the kindness
Just to state the cause of this revolt, and why this modern blindness
To the virtues that I still possess?  Explain the situation.
What has blighted all my virtues? Who has spoiled my reputation?”

“Where have you been? What have you learned?” said Wrinkles,
“Don’t you know What happened here – it must be near a century ago?
You’ve heard of Sextant, Compass, Log, Mercurial Barometer;
Tremble! a goddess has been born. We’ve christened her Chronometer.

“Behold my love, is she not fair? so strong, so plump, so pliable.”
“All Tommy Rot,” replied the Moon, “I’ll bet she’s not reliable.”
“Alas!” said Wrinkles, “I know that; for has it not been noted,
To her most eccentric conduct my best chapter’s been devoted?

In Chapter Four, not for one hour would you maintain your spirits;
Could I but show you Wrinkles your appearance would cease,
You’d for ever hide your ‘bloomin’ cheek,’ for ever hold your peace.”

“Of Wrinkles, sir,” replied the Moon, “we’ve several copies here;
But the chapter headed Lunars is the one we hold most dear.
With equal care we’ve read them both; compared our notes and reckoned.
No mortal who believed the first could understand the second.

“Tis just about twelve months ago, I said to some inquirers,
‘You had no power to banish me, I still had some admirers.’
Adieu! dear boy. I’m off. Good night. To Coventry? No!   Never!
Let ‘Wrinkles’ come, Chronometers go, but I go on for ever.”

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