Dec. 25, 2000

The Walloping Window-blind

by Charles E. Carryl

Broadcast date: MONDAY, 25 December 2000

Poem: "The Walloping Window-Blind," by Charles E. Carryl.

The Walloping Window-blind

A capital ship for an ocean trip
   Was "The Walloping Window-blind;"
No gale that blew dismayed her crew
   Or troubled the captain's mind.
The man at the wheel was taught to feel
   Contempt for the wildest blow,
And it often appeared, when the weather had cleared,
   That he'd been in his bunk below.

The boatswain's mate was very sedate,
   Yet fond of amusement, too;
And he played hop-scotch with the starboard watch
   While the captain tickled the crew.
And the gunner we had was apparently mad,
   For he sat on the after-rail,
And fired salutes with the captain's boots,
   In the teeth of the booming gale.

The captain sat in a commodore's hat,
   And dined, in a royal way,
On toasted pigs and pickles and figs
   And gummery bread, each day.
But the cook was Dutch, and behaved as such;
   For the food that he gave the crew
Was a number of tons of hot-cross buns,
   Chopped up with sugar and glue.

And we all felt ill as mariners will,
   On a diet that's cheap and rude;
And we shivered and shook as we dipped the cook
   In a tub of his gluesome food.
Then nautical pride we laid aside,
   And we cast the vessel ashore
On the Gulliby Isles, where the Poohpoo smiles,
   And the Anagazanders roar.

Composed of sand was that favored land,
   And trimmed with cinnamon straws;
And pink and blue was the pleasing hue
   Of the Tickletoeteaser's claws.
And we sat on the edge of the sandy ledge
   And shot at the whistling bee;
And the Binnacle-bats wore water-proof hats
   as they danced in the sounding sea.

On rubagub bark, from dawn to dark,
   We fed, till we all had grown
Uncommonly shrunk, - when a Chinese junk
   Came by from the torriby zone.
She was stubby and square, but we didn't much care,
   And we cheerily put to sea;
And we left the crew of the junk to chew
   The bark of the rubagub tree.

It's Christmas Day. There will be a partial eclipse of the sun today, reaching its greatest degree at 12:34 p.m. Eastern Time, visible from most of North America.

It's the birthday of mystical memoirist Carlos Castaneda, born in São Paulo, Brazil (1931). He's the author of The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968), which was a best-seller in the late sixties.

It's the birthday of bandleader Cab Calloway, born in Rochester, New York (1907). The son of a lawyer, he grew up in Baltimore, briefly attended law school, then turned to performing in nightclubs as a singer, emcee, and drummer. In his early twenties he began leading his own bands, and in 1929 appeared in New York in Fats Waller's revue Hot Chocolates singing "Ain't Misbehavin'." Leading his band at Harlem's Cotton Club, he first recorded his signature song "Minnie the Moocher" (1931).

It's the birthday of American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, born in North Oxford, Massachusetts (1821). She was working in the U.S. patent office in Washington during the Civil War; at the Battle of Bull Run, she made her way to the front lines to distribute medical supplies, nurse the wounded, and search for the missing.

Christmas is the most popular Christian festival, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The holiday dates from the 4th century—the first recorded celebration of Christmas took place in 336 AD, in Rome. Church fathers didn't know the date of Jesus' birth, but selected December 25 in hopes of co-opting pagan festivals at that time of the year. Gradually, customs from non-Christian festivals—decorating with lights, mistletoe, holly and ivy, and holiday trees, plus the customs of wassailing and gift-giving—were adopted by Christians.

In the Armenian Church, the date of December 25 was rejected in favor of January 6—the date that, in Western Christianity, is called Epiphany. Epiphany is thought to be the day on which the three Wise Men arrived to honor the child.

In America, the first Dutch settlers brought their image of a tall, saintly bishop, St. Nicholas, informally called "Sinterklaas" because he put cinders in the stockings of bad children. The name shifted from Sinterklaas to Santa Claus as English took over from Dutch and New Amsterdam became New York.

Santa Claus is celebrated in the famous poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," supposedly written by a wealthy Manhattan biblical scholar, Clement Clarke Moore, in 1822. Now, a Vassar English professor named Don Foster, using computer analysis of vocabulary and style, believes that the poem wasn't written by Clement Clarke Moore at all, but by a man named Henry Livingston Jr.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »