Two Inland Noodles at the Sea
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Written by Will Carleton


Those of us who live near the ocean forget it is a new experience for the land-locked. In this 1885 poem by Will Carleton, a comic farmer wrestles with the mighty sea. For readers who can handle this wave of Victorian verse, there is a lot of clever stuff here and some funny illustrations from the dawn of the age of seacoast tourism. 






The Farmer in the Ocean by Will Carleton


noodle01.jpgIn this rollicking bit of Victorian fluff, farmer Stebbins and his wife experience the sea for the first time. Writer Will Carleton (1845 – 1912) humorously captured the moment in his book City Ballads. The farmer tells his story in rhyme in a letter to his cousin John. Although his work is rarely seen today, at least in the East, Carleton was well read in his day. Raised on a Michigan farm, Carleton was best known for his rural and farm tales and his ability to depict lovable characters. The artist who penned these clever illustrations is not credit in the collection. --- JDR


We got here safe -- my worthy wife and me --
And took a tent here in the woods contigious to the sea;
We've harvested such means of grace as growed within our reach --
We've been to several meetings here, and heard the Bishop preach;
And everything went easy like until we took a whim --
My wife and I — one breezy day, to take an ocean swim.

We shouldn't have ventured on't, I thlink, if Sister Sunnyhopes
Hadn't urged us over and again, and said she knew "the ropes,"
And told how soothing it would be "in ocean rills to lave,"
And "sport within the bounding surf," and "ride the crested wave;"
And so we went along with her -- my timid wife and ime --
Two inland noodles, for our first acquaintance with the sea.

They put me in a work-day rig, as usually is done --
A warnpus and short overalls all sewed up into one.
I had to pull and tug and shrink to make the thing go 'round
(You are aware my peaceful weight will crowd three hundred pound).
They took my wig and laid it up -- to keep it dry, they said –
And strapped a straw-stack of a hat on my devoted head.


They put my wife into a frock too short by full a third;
'Twas somewhat in the Bloomer style -- I told her 'twas absurd!
You, know she's rather long and slim — somewhat my opposite —
And clothes that was not made for her is likely not to fit;
But as we was we vent'red in -- my timid wife and me
And formed our first acquaintance with the inconsistent sea.

CONTINUE with Rustic in the Ocean

Mtiss Sunnyhopes she waded out a-looking nice and sweet
(Shle'd had her dress made to the store, and trimmed from head to feet);
And I went next, and grabbed their rope just as she told me to,
And Wife came third, a-looking scared, scarce knowing what to do.
Then Sister Sunnyhopes a smile of virgin sweetness gave,
And said, "Now watch your chance, and jump -- here comes a lovely wave!"


I must have juinped, I rather think, the wrong time of the moon;
At any rate the "lovely wave" occurred to me too soon!
It took me sudden, withl a rude and unexpected shock;
I'd rather meet the stoutest pair of horns in all my flock!
And then to top the circus out, and make the scene more fine,
I tried to kick this "lovely wave," and let right go the line.

On county fairs and 'lection days, in walking through a crowd,
I'm rather firm to jostle 'gainst -- perhaps it makes me proud;
But if it does, that wave just preached how sureniess never pays,
And seemed to say, "How small is man, no odds how much he weighs!"
It kicked and cuffed me all about, in spite of right or law,
With all the qualities they give an average mother-iii-law!

And then it set nme on the bank, quite thankful for my life,
And looking 'round I give a gaze to find my faithful wife;
Eut she had kind o' cut this wave withl all the edge shle had,
And stood a-looking 'round for me, uncommon mioist and sad;
Whiile Sister Sunnyhliopes with smiiles was looking sweet and gay,
A-floating on her dainty back some several rods away!

She looked so newish pretty there -- (she knowed it, too, the elf!) -- 
The crowd was all admiring her, and so was I myself;
And while I once more grasped the line, beside my wife of truth,
My eyes would rove to Sister S. -- her beauty and her youth;
When all at once a brindle wave, uncommon broad and deep,
Came thrashing down on Wife and ine, and flopped us in a heap!


Heels over head -- all in a bunch -- my wife across of me,
And I on some misguided folks who happened there to be;
My hat untied and floated off, and left my bald head bare –
When I got out, if I'd have spoke, 'twould warmed up all the air!
We drank 'bout two-thirds of the sea -- my gasping wife and I --
While Sister S. still floated soft, a-gazing at the sky!


We voted that we'd had enough, and got right out the way
Before another wave arrived, and bid the sea good-day.
We looked as like two drownded rats as ever such was called,
With one of them a dumbed old fool and most completely bald.
But, like a woman true she says -- my shivering wife to me
"We will not mind; there's others here looks just as bad as we."

Now, Sister Sunnyhopes, by'm-by, came back into our tent,
As sleek or sleeker than before, and asked us "When we went'?"
Said I, "My dear good Sister S., please do not now pretend
You did not see our voyage through, and mark its doleful end.
If you would play the mermaid fair, why such I'd have you be;
But we're too old to take that part -- my faithful wife and me;

"Some folks may be who ocean waves are fitted to command,
But we've concluded we was built expressly for the land.
And when I want amusement for an uncompleted day,
I guess I'll go and take it in some good old-fashioned way;
And will not stand upon my head 'fore all the folks that's there,
And wildly wave my dumbed old feet in all the neighboring air!"

From CITY BALLADS by Will Carleton, Harper Brothers, 1885.
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