The Legend of the Rocking Boat

Legend says that in circa 789 anno Domini a great Viking Boat, bearing a fierce dragon-like masthead entered an Irish seaport. Its renegade crew dressed in bright garments and elaborate headpieces looted the town and carried off as slaves a poor man, his wife and their twelve children. The six of one and a half dozen of another were ordered onto the great boat with nothing but the clothes on their backs, blue home spun and tweed, and leather booties on their feet.

The cruel Viking captain observed his motley captives, laughed aloud, ordered them to walk a plank and assigned them, one by one, to arduous seafaring labor. The children had no idea they had just been cursed. They were used to hard work and had not acquired the fear that allows for the urgency of tyranny to ruin lives. Moreover, they were used to inconveniences like waking up in a cold house and huddling together at a pot-bellied coal stove to warm up and eating a bowl full of gruel to quiet the rumbling in their bellies.

Undaunted, they skipped about the great boat singing joyful folk songs, for they believed joy to be an Irish blessing. Good will was unknown to the cruel Viking captain. He believed good conduct to be a bad-willed omen and ordered the family out of his sight and into ship bottom quarters. The man, his wife and the children, were about to proceed to the damp and filthy bowels of the vessel, when the boat suddenly began to dash about on the rough open sea.

The children began to chant loudly: Oh, what a wonderful adventure, what a wonderful adventure!

Their mother, whose face bore the glory and sorrow of dear Ireland, in fear for the very lives of her children, began to sing a strange song that they had never heard before. Yelp us, oh yelp us, we need thy very yelp. The Lord he doth know, he doth know it all. Yelp us, oh yelp us, we need thy very yelp. Oh, the Lord he doth know, he doth know it all!

The twelve children loved this surreal chant which so moved them that they joined in, singing the unusual song to its methodical cadence, a song which rose like a prayer to St. Patrick’s throne in the heavens.

Their father, stunned by their audacity, had taken on a grim, worried look, fearful as he was that their captors might be highly displeased. Furthermore, he could take no more of his wife’s chanting and the children’s racket. In a rare Gaelic tongue and a rare outburst, he yelled: Gad dammit yins kids, settle down, you’re rocking the boat!

Instantly, the children sat down and behaved, quietly.

Their captors, in trembling of such faith, such command and self mastery, thought the whole family must be touched and might bring them bad luck. They were just about to throw all six of one and half dozen of another overboard, when a raging storm blew in. Unthinkable thunder rolled, unimaginable lightning struck. Then a brilliant white wave swept up and over the vessel, hurling the captors into the deep dark sea, and they all drowned.

The waves subsided and still the great boat rocked. The family huddled together in silence as on through the night, like a huge leaping fish, it plunged and rose. They were all preparing to go mad when the storm abruptly subsided and the boat began to drift, calmly. The brilliant orange ball of sun loomed up on the horizon, lighting up the sea and the great boat that was drifting. No other vessel dared go near it, staved off by its fierce dragon-like masthead.

Centuries later, the boat was sighted nearing a distant shore. Dark jagged rocks rose up before it. The spray of breaking waves blew into the faces of the bewildered family. The mist turned to heavy rain, the water smoothed, and one last receding wave left the stern aground. A bright full moon marked a new age, stamping its official seal on the universe.

At dawn, the children, one by one stepped ashore. Over their shoulders they saw the boat beginning to drift off shore. In the mist it appeared like a dark silhouette of a prehistoric creature. Starboard they saw the silhouettes of their mother and father in blue home spun and tweed, and then they too disappeared in the mist.

Six of one and half dozen of another decided to explore dry land. There they became educated, made acquaintances and started new lives. An age passed and troubled waters stirred. A boat bearing a dragon-like masthead was sighted drifting into port with a man and woman of luminous appearance starboard and their crystal call went out over the waters.

Martha, Richy, Patty, Eileen, Larry, Huey, Anna, Skippy, Deede, Joe, Sissy, Vinny, come. Come forth in reunion, rest from your labors and find peace. Be refreshed and you will again go forth to renew the face of the earth.

Soon the twelve herein described were sighted clambering aboard the splendid and timeless vessel, along with their children. Together the family drifted from shore and out to sea and no other vessel dared to draw near it.

Legend says that in every new age since, a great boat with a fierce dragon-like masthead has been sighted drifting on boundless waters. Some say it sails into new ports, with a father and mother at the helm. Others say the children now stand at the helm and that their children and their children’s children have gone ashore. However, when troubled waters stir, a crystal call goes out, the vessels reaches port, the children come aboard and the great boat drifts, eternally.