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Jonah and the Grampus

by Marriott Edgar (1937)
Illustrations by John Hassall

Jonah is thrown over the side
Jonah is thrown over the side

An orcinus orca is the posh name for a 'killer whale', formerly known as a 'grampus'.

The poem is clear reference to Jonah and the whale story in the Bible (Jonah 1:17) and the Qur'an (Sura 37:139-148).

It's not easy to prove what actually happened to Jonah nearly three thousand years ago, and modern opinion is divided whether God created a special sea creature capable of swallowing a man, who could emerge after three days unharmed, or whether the whole story is an allegory. Christians believe Jonah's restoration after three days inside the whale (KJV) or great fish (other versions) prefigured the resurrection of Jesus Christ after three days in the tomb.

But whatever really did happen to Jonah, it's most unlikely that he came, as this poem states, from Wigan!

I'll tell you the story of Jonah,
A really remarkable tale;
A peaceful and humdrum existence he had
Until one day he went for a sail.

The weather were grand when they started,
But later at turn of the tide
The wind started blowing, the water got rough,
And Jonah felt funny inside.

When the ship started pitching and tossing
He tried hard his feelings to smother,
At last he just lent his head over the side
And one thing seemed to bring up another.

When the sailors saw what he were doing
It gave them a bit of a jar;
They didn't mind trippers enjoying their selves,
But thought this 'ere were going too far.

Said one "Is there nowt you can think on
To stop you from feelin' so bad?"
And Jonah said "Aye, lift me over the side
And chuck me in, there's a good lad."

The sailor were not one to argue,
He said "Happen you know what's best."
Then he picked Jonah up by the seat of his pants
And chucked him in, as per request.

A Grampus came up at that moment,
And seeing the old man hard set,
It swam to his side and it opened its mouth
And said "Come in lad, out of the wet."

Its manner were kindly and pleading,
As if to say R.S.V.P.
Said Jonah "I've eaten a kipper or two,
But I never thought one would eat me."

The inside of Grampus surprised him,
'Twere the first time he'd been behind scenes;
He found 'commodation quite ample for one
But it smelled like a tin of sardines.

Jonah in mouth of Grampus
Jonah in mouth of Grampus

Then over the sea they went cruising,
And Jonah were filled with delight;
With his eye to the blow-'ole in t'Grampus's head
He watched ships that passed in the night.

"I'm tired of watching," said Jonah,
"I'll rest for a minute or so."
"I'm afraid as you wont find your bed very soft,"
Said the Grampus, "I've got a hard roe."

At that moment up came a whale boat,
Said Jonah, "What's this 'ere we've struck?"
"They're after my blubber," the Grampus replied,
"You'd better 'old tight while I duck."

The water came in through the spy-'ole
And hit Jonah's face a real slosher,
He said, "Shut your blow-'ole!" and Grampus replied
"I can't lad, it needs a new washer."

Jonah tried 'ard to bail out the water,
But found all his efforts in vain,
For as fast as he emptied the slops out through the gills
They came in through the blow 'ole again.

When at finish they came to the surface
Jonah took a look out and he saw
They were stuck on a bit of a sandbank that lay
One rod, pole or perch from the shore.

Said the Grampus, "We're in shallow water,
I've brought you as far as I may;
If you sit on the blow 'ole on top of my head
I'll spout you the rest of the way."

So Jonah obeyed these instructions,
And the Grampus his lungs did expand,
Then blew out a fountain that lifted Jo' up
And carried him safely to land.

Jonah walks back to Wigan
Jonah walks back to Wigan
Jonah waves good-bye to Grampus
Jonah waves good-bye to Grampus

There was tears in their eyes when they parted
And each blew a kiss, a real big 'un,
Then the Grampus went off with a swish of it's tail
And Jonah walked back home to Wigan.


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