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The Pirates of Botany Bay

by Rydia

A/N: Apologies for the layout issues. This poem would normally be displayed in columns with scholarly notes to the left. To view in its original format, please click the links below.

Part One

Part Two

The Pirates of Botany Bay*

*Sections of the epic are lost or badly obscured, but historians believe this to be the true account of the former Prime Minister Ferret Foster. 


At Botany Bay, in a ship as she lay,

asleep in the Indigo Blue

were pirates of merit, Bill, Roger and Ferret

and the rest of the braggarty crew.  

They pulled anchor at dawn and raised crossbones to warn

other sailors to stay out their way.

They went looking for treasure and killing for pleasure,

those pirates of Botany Bay.


Said one to another, 'I flag-poled* your mother.'

'Oh yeah, well I've flag-poled her too.'

A third was confused, but not liking to lose

he pushed them both into the Blue.

*This pirating tradition dates back to the 17th Century when Captain Fleetfloot was the first to hoist a woman on his flag pole. 

The weather got colder, the pirates got bolder,

'Hey captain what's all the to-do?

Where's all our pleasure and mountains of treasure?'

'-And the wenches you promised us too.'


Bill erected the plank and Sir rapidly sank,

a motion met with much acclaim.

They were ruled by their sabres and democracy labours

when all know the captain's to blame.*

*It is difficult to make out but it appears that the ship subsequently struck an iceberg and most of the crew drowned. Bill, Roger and Ferret were, it seems, preserved in the ice and drifted ashore on the tide where they eventually thawed out. 


'Home at last boys, but blast, what's that noise?'

'This doesn't look like home to me.'

Oh the journey was long, but their bearings weren't wrong;

they'd spent hundreds of years out at sea.

As the day passed to noon, they tried their fortune

and waylaid a man on the road.


'Hey what's the idea, and what's with the gear?

Are you planning a night on the town?

I can't say I'm impressed with your pirated dress,

tell your agents they're letting you down.'

He was clothed in fine ruffs and he gave them stern looks

as the pirates shrank back from his girth.

'You boys could do better, so let's drop the vendetta

and I'll teach you the ways of the Earth.'

He talked of the stage and the minimum wage*

*These wise words have sadly been lost in the translation and reduced to a string of incoherent stanzas about 'socks' and 'stares'.

Said Roger to Bill, 'I've a mind, I've a will.

I'm going to win a degree.'

Well Bill gave this some thought and he realised he ought

to be more than an absentee.*


*Very little is known of Bill's later life but the record indicates he left in pursuit of a woman.

So Roger enrolled, on a course* as foretold,

and eventually he figured it out.

But not to be beat, Ferret could compete

and he said, 'I'll get a job, no doubt.'


*Roger studied History at Hull University and after obtaining his degree, went on to teach the subject. He specialised in 18th Century pirating.

But sometimes they meet and the cold days retreat,

leaving them young, in their way.

And they'll drink and they'll steal, they're keeping it real,

those pirates of Botany Bay.

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212 Reviews

Points: 13620
Reviews: 212

Thu Feb 28, 2013 5:04 am
birk says...

Not too big on poems, but this was really great. Great writing Rydia ;)

Rydia says...

Thanks Birkhoff! :)

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1318 Reviews

Points: 23911
Reviews: 1318

Wed Jan 30, 2013 4:56 pm
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Hannah wrote a review...

Yo, girlie. I'm stealing your idea, 'cept this actually is my tenth review, so there, and I hope it will be helpful.

First, there were no meter or rhyme errors that stuck out at me. What I liked best was that the little historical notes and the broken stanzas will missing lines actually refreshed me out of the rhyming, which I might have gotten tired of if it hadn't been for the saviors. It is cool that the ballad fits with pirate themes, so well, too. It feels to me like bobbing back and forth on a ship -- that's the rhythm the rhyme scheme had for me, anyway.

For the most part, the stanzas seem as slowly paced as most of the stuff I read in English class. There's just one real action per section, and that works fine. I'm okay with that pace. Except that it starts getting weird when you try to move forward too fast through time. It makes the stanzas about getting degrees and jobs, and the loss of one of the pirates, and everything toward the ending seem silly and caricatured. Out of place.

Which I am especially disappointed with because the idea of these pirates getting frozen, preserved, and then adapting so well, and sometimes meeting makes me smile. I like it a lot, and it has this more-serious undertone that I can appreciate while still liking the lightness, buoyancy, and humor, too. So I'm not ready to let those stanzas get off so cheaply and just chalk it up to humor. I see below you had a word count, and this was probably a victim of that, so when you edit, take a look at pacing that out a bit better. I don't need to see every moment of their adaptation, but it seems far more interesting than the slow introduction of their piracy.

I especially want to know what happened to Bill between wanting to not be an absentee and leaving with a woman. haha

Let me know if you have questions or comments about my review, please! Good luck with this. (:

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376 Reviews

Points: 16552
Reviews: 376

Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:52 pm
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Trident wrote a review...

Okay I looked at this before and needed a little time to think about it before posting. And then I started a review and accidentally deleted it so here we go again!:

-I usually comment more on content, but I think that's pretty solid here, so we'll get into nit-picky form. The meter is terrific and works well with the content. At places it's off and hopefully I'll address those places.

- The first two stanzas are perfect, I think, the way they are. In the third, I was infinitely fascinated by the concept of "flag-poling". Who knew?! And it does a great job of characterizing that pirate scum.

The weather got colder, the pirates got bolder

When I saw "pirates" I thought of all of them, but I think you're not including the captain in that, so I would maybe say "the men all got bolder".

Bill erected the plank and Sir rapidly sank,

a motion met with much acclaim.

They were ruled by their sabres and democracy labours

when all know the captain's to blame.

I'm think that "Sir" refers to a miscreant in the crew, though maybe it's the ship. This stanza is the most unclear you have, which is completely inconsistent with your approach so far. "Democracy" is odd, though I think I know what you're getting at.

As the day passed to noon, they tried their fortune

and waylaid a man on the road.

Okay you have a series of quatrains, and then this odd couplet. And "noon" and "fortune" doesn't work, even as a half-rhyme. This was just a weak part of the poem. I understand that the trio needs to meet this guy on the road, but I got lost here and the next couple stanzas. I think you need to make these three stanzas more clear on what's going on.

He talked of the stage and the minimum wage*

Why not expand this to another quatrain?

to be more than an absentee.

Meter is forced here...

But not to be beat, Ferret could compete

...and here.

And they'll drink and they'll steal, they're keeping it real,

those pirates of Botany Bay.

Haha wonderful modern ending here. It sort of reminds us that we're looking back at these guys. I think you might need a semicolon in there.

Nice work! Was this for a course?

Rydia says...

It was for my poetry structures class, while I was still testing my tutor's sense of humour before I concluded he was a very solid guy. Even if he didn't like free verse. This was what I came up with after my first attempt to learn the ballad structure fell flat on its face.

It's also the reason some stanzas are half finished as I had to fit to a word count so my tutor had the clever idea that sections could be missing, like with the re-write of the albatross. I do actually have a few more lines in the earlier drafts that I always meant to put back in for another version!

Thank you very much for the review - you need to post something recent of yours so I can return the favour! If not, I might just have to pick on something old ;)

I'll try to do a fix up of those sections soon.

Trident says...

Haha, oh no! Except for a few choice pieces, my work back then was a little embarrassing. I may have to post something just so you don't go searching haha.

"Death is cheap, and so is life, but a reputation is not easily recovered."
— SirenCymbaline the Kiwi