Sunday, 8 January 2017

The ship's concert 2: "What happened on the Ark"



Noah's Ark and the animals  Aurelio Luini c. 1556, in San Maurizio, Milan

 I don't think holiday cruise ships or ocean liners have passengers'  concerts any more, though it was common decades ago, to break the monotony of long stretches at sea. (I have taken part in one myself).
As the cruise ship catalogues land on my doormat this winter, I turn to a childhood favourite, The Log of the Ark, written and illustrated by Kenneth Walker and Geoffrey Boumphrey back in 1923.

When Kenneth Grahame was asked to write a story about "Big Jungle Animals",  he passed the task back to his friend, Kenneth Walker, who had really "been inside a jungle".  Kenneth Walker was a distinguished surgeon, as well as a journalist, popular with Picture Post readers, and his colleague
Geoffrey Boumphrey, who drew the cartoon-like pictures (restored from Japhet's cave drawings in ancient Armenia), was an engineer, writer and broadcaster, now best known for his Shell guides to the countryside.


A medieval view of  the  story of the Flood

Their tongue-in-cheek children's tale of Noah and the voyage of the Ark is also an allegory of the Fall, with extinct animals like the Clidders, the Wumpetty-Dumps and the Seventy-sevenses; also on board is the insidious Loathly Scub, who converts the once vegetarian big cats into predatory carnivores.

Noah's Ark   Edward Hicks, 1846    Philadelphia Museum of Art

Edward Hicks, a Quaker preacher,  painted a whole series on this theme, entitled "The Peaceable Kingdom", showing the enlightened interaction between humans and animals.

 On a lighter note, The Log of the Ark includes a chapter on the ship's concert, organised by Ham to cheer up all the animals after weeks of rain (and only porridge to eat).  Each performer acts in character - the bat's song was particularly appreciated by all the crickets and grasshoppers, as only they could hear it.  But it is the Hippo's song, redolent of music hall favourites or old drinking songs, which sticks in the memory -- with a good roll of the R on "number".

"Num-ber-r ONE, num-ber-r ONE,
Some weighs a pound but I weighs a ton,
Chorus: (repeats after every verse)
Hip-po-potamus, What-a-lotamus
Oh, what likely lads us be!

Num-ber-r TWO, num-ber-r TWO,
Some walks round, but I busts through.

Num-ber-r THREE, num-ber-r THREE
The Lark can sing, but not like me.

Num-ber-r FOUR, num-ber-r FOUR
Some likes less, but I likes more.

Num-ber-r FIVE, num-ber-r FIVE
The tide comes up when down I dive.

Num-ber-r SIX, num-ber-r SIX
I likes bathing, but some just licks.

Num-ber-r SEVEN, num ber-r SEVEN,
You must wait till Number Eleven.

Num-ber-r EIGHT, num-ber-r EIGHT
Some likes looks, but I likes weight.

Num-ber-r NINE, num-ber-r NINE ,
Blest if I ain't forgot this line.

Num-ber-r TEN, num-ber-r TEN
I ain't sung this since I don't know when.

Num-ber-r ELEVEN, num-ber-r ELEVEN,
That's the same as Number Seven.

Num-ber-r TWELVE, num-ber-r TWELVE,
If you wants any more you can sing it yourself.
Chorus: Hi-po-potamus, What-a-lotamus;
Oh, what likely lads us be!"

The Log of the Ark  Kenneth Walker and Geoffrey Boumphrey
Dedicated to the Very Old Tortoise at the Zoo, with cave wall drawings restored in this book by Geoffrey Boumphrey with the assistance of Juliet Renny,  1923.

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