On Stranger Tides — Jolly Sailor Bold

Tim Powers was kind enough to send me a note of congratulations when I entered the bosom of the Catholic Church.

In return for his favor, I would like to do him the courtesy of recommending the movie PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN ON STRANGER TIDES.

If you squint at the film just right, you will see appear momentarily his name in the credits, something like: “Inspired by an idea vaguely related indirectly to a dream I once had about a book called ON STRANGER TIDES by Tim Powers, and basically we just wanted to use a cool name for a movie based on a Disneyland ride.”

I think Tim Powers gets a nickle each time the film is shown, so rush right out, watch it twice, or better yet, go buy some of his books.

Well, I liked the movie, because, when it comes to movies, I am easy to please. (I was secretly rooting for the Spaniards, dontchyaknow).

As long as the film makers do not insult my comfortably modest intelligence, and they include a few fistfights, swords duels, gunfights and dogfights, a tapdance scene, a duel between submarines, at least one prehistorical monster, a species-creating monolith from beyond the stars, a talking llama, a robot, a gorilla, and if a startling new insight into the human condition for me to ponder is expressed in terms memorable and elegant, and the guy gets the girl at the end, I am happy.

Actually, I have never seen nor heard of a movie that had all those things in it. So never mind: I am impossible to please. What stupid standards I have. If only I eliminated the requirement for a tapdance and a space monolith, and the talking llama, my taste would be broader.

My new standard is that any movie with pirates, mermaids, ninja, and a mystical fountain of youth is all right by me. This one has three of the requirements. And there is a song!

In this scene some evil pirates are set out as bait by some more evil pirates in order to attract some evil mermaids, whose tears are needed by very evil pirate (being helped by a somewhat evil pirate and being hunted by a medium evil pirate) to unlock the secret of the Fountain of Youth, being sought at the same time by an evil-looking Spaniard in order to stop the ambitions of the evil Monarch of England, ruled at that time by one of the Dursleys, a muggle. Got it? The only guy clearly and unambiguously good in this film is a man of the cloth. How that one slipped by the censor, I don’t know.

As a public service, here are the words to the song:

Upon one summer’s morning, I carefully did stray,
Down by the Walls of Wapping, where I met a sailor gay,
Conversing with a bouncing lass, who seem’d to be in pain,
Saying, William, when you go, I fear you will ne’er return again.

His hair hangs in ringlets, his eyes as black as soles,
My happiness attend him wherever he goes,
From Tower Hill, down to Blackwall, I’ll wander, weep and moan,
All for my jolly sailor bold, until he does return.

My father is a merchant — the truth I will now tell,
And in great London City in opulence doth dwell,
His fortune doth exceed 300,000 gold,
And he frowns upon his daughter, ’cause she loves a sailor bold.

A fig for his riches, his merchandise, and gold,
True love has grafted my heart; give me my sailor bold:
Should he return in poverty, from o’er the ocean far,
To my tender bosom, I’ll fondly press my jolly tar.

My sailor is as smiling as the pleasant month of May,
And oft we have wandered through Ratcliffe Highway,
Where many a pretty blooming girl we did behold,
Reclining on the bosom of her jolly sailor bold.

My name it is Maria, a merchant’s daughter fair,
And I have left my parents and three thousand pounds a year,
Come all you pretty fair maids, whoever you may be
Who love a jolly sailor bold that ploughs the raging sea,

While up aloft, in storm, from me his absence mourn,
And firmly pray, arrive the day, he home will safe return.
My heart is pierced by Cupid, I disdain all glittering gold,
There is nothing that can console me but my jolly sailor bold.

How did I come by these words, when the film only has a stanza and a half? Aha! That will take some explaining.

Rumors that Tim Powers, Gene Wolfe, Mike Flynn and I are members of the same secret cell of the international and eternal conspiracy to save mankind are totally and absolutely and utterly false.

My secret cell is in Fairfax, under the Diocese of Arlington, under the Archbishop of Baltimore. Our patron saint is Saint Thomas Moore. We are working on the Apocalypse Weapon Project known only as “Locust”; Tim Powers is in the accelerated evolution department, attempting to make a creature called “New Adam.” My secret decoder ring was sent to me by Catholic blogger Mark Shea.

However, I did go to Mass once with Gene Wolfe! He was wearing his wolf-faced tee shirt. Wolfe is in the “nice” arm of the secret conspiracy, along with GK Chesterton, and a very sweet man; I am in the “nasty” arm, along with Evelyn Waugh. Mr. Wolfe is in the posthistorical research branch. But perhaps I have said too much.

Now, as those of you who are alert to conspiracy theories may know, the Beatles tried to sneak out messages in their records secretly hidden in the soundtrack, which you would only hear by plying the album backward, or, as we like to say, drawkcab.

Isaac Asimov attempted the same thing, trying to warn the science fiction community in the golden age of the attempts to resurrect a Second Roman Empire after the decline and fall of the First. He thinly disguised his allegorical warning of Rome’s horrific plans in his book FOUNDATION. Hari Seldon, if you reduce his name to cuneiform, is an acrostic for Giodano Bruno, who was burned as a heretic by the Roman Church. Need I be more obvious?

Rome retaliated against Isaac Asimov’s indiscretion by using powers both natural and supernal to deny him his richly merited Nebula Award. It was not until he joined forces with Harlan Elison that he was able to escape this dastardly anti-Award curse. So Asimov won that round, and we Romans, or, as the Trekkers call us, Romulans, had betrayed to the world our secret that we are controlling future history.

In any case, as part of the Vatican Psychohistorians Plan for this segment of the time stream, also called “The Laodicean Age,” it was decided by the Curia to have a major motion picture credited to Tim Powers: the proper commands were given to the Magisterium.

The demon lords of the Third and Eighth Circles who run Hollywood were therefore summoned up at Stonehenge at midwinter midnight by the special Black Mass squad employed by the Antipope at Avignon (who is still on speaking terms with positive matter Pope in Rome, of course) and the Magisterium invoked the Medium Deep Magic from Pretty Near the Dawn of Time. Johnny Depp was once more raised from the dead and animated into a near-similitude of life, and the voice coach from THE KING’S SPEECH was pressed into service as Captain Barbarossa.

The Magisterium has decided that mermaids are the new vampires, and long overdue we have been for the change, says I.  Vampires have been portrayed as redeemable ever since Anne Rice, another Roman Catholic Author working for another part of the Conspiracy, introduced them; but then they became sparkly, and so what can you do? Sparkly mermaids, however, are an idea not so bad.

Okay, okay, I am kidding about the conspiracy and the Psychohistorical Plan. I do honestly believe there is a secret, or, should I say, supernatural force at work in history, and a plan for salvation, but it is hardly secret. It is great good news: now if only those for whom the news is meant would heed it.

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