Friday, May 22, 2009

The Princess of Mars

A humorous poem to take you into the weekend. [via SF Signal]

The Princess of Mars by Charles R. Tanner

(Of all the stories in the land, Least liable to bore us
Is that of Captain Carter and
The lovely Dejah Thoris
It’s held its own with boys and men
Since ‘way back there in 1910.)
Captain John Carter, C.S.A., prospecting in the west,
Beheld his partner, Powell, get an arrow in the vest.
He turned his horse around and ran, pursued by painted braves;
With whoop-de-doo, they chased him through the canyons and the caves.
He hid within a cave at last, a dismal place and haunted;
The Indians came, a-searching him, but even they were daunted
By something in the cavern dim -- then Carter got a sniff
Of something old and dead and cold, and he was frozen stiff!
He lay for hours within the cave, as still and cold as ice;
He tried to wiggle, tried to squirm, he tried to move -- no dice.
At last he felt a funny click -- by every Grecian god! he Jumped up and gee!
He found that he was standing by his body!
Don’t get me wrong, no ghost was he, he still was just as stolid
And grim and stern and handsome as before, and just as solid.
He stepped outside the cave and looking up beheld the stars.
A moment’s spark of cold and dark, and Bam! He’s up on Mars!

The Martians known as Tharks were quite the strangest ever seen;
With walrus tusks and four long arms, fifteen feet high, and green.
They lived like desert Arabs, but instead of sheep and goats,
Up there on Mars there’s zitidars, calots and banths and thoats.
John Carter killed a warrior, and standing by the carcass,
He saw a Thark walk up and say, “Good work! My name’s Tars Tarkas.
“No one can have a friend on Mars, no one can have a wife,
“But keep it quiet, friend, and I will be your friend for life.”
One day, while Carter cleaned his guns and hummed a little ditty,
An airship from far Helium came sailing o’er the city.
They shot it down ’mid squeals and yells, a wild and savage chorus;
And there inside was Helium’s pride -- the lovely Dejah Thoris!
Oh “who is Sylvia, what is she, that all our swains commend her?”
An who is Trojan Helen, e’en with Venus to defend her?
And who is Shakespeare’s Juliet? These ladies all were quinces.
Not one would dare to risk compare with Captain Carter’s princess.
John Carter as a fighter was a superman for certain.
John Carter as a lover -- Let us quickly draw the curtain. .
He stuttered, stammered, stumbled -- he was in a dreadful state;
And only two clear words got through; he muttered, “Let’s escape.”
“So forth from Alexandria --” (Beg pardon, that’s a quote),
So forth from their imprisonment they rode upon a thoat.
Across the dead sea bed they fled, past many an ancient ruin,
Till, in dismay, they saw the next day the green men were pursuin’.
The green men came up fast so she fled upon a thoat.
John Carter told her, “Go, I’ll stay behind and be the goat.”
But when the Martians got up close, he saw they were no Tharks.
These savage goons were all Warhoons, a damsite worse than sharks.

They took him to their city and they put him in a cell.
He found that they had captured a red Helium man as well --
A noble friendly fellow by the name of Kantos Kan--
And it really burned him up when he had to fight the man.
The Warhoons like a battle, so they made their prisoners fight
From early in the morning until pretty late at night
And then they turned the last one loose, so Carter got a plan.
“It’s up to you to see me through,” he said to Kantos Kan.
So Kantos killed a dozen men, and Carter killed a score,
Then turned upon each other when there weren’t any more;
And Kantos faked a sudden thrust and Carter fell “defeated”,
And lay there, stark, till after dark and then got up and beat it.

Across the dead sea bottom Carter quickly made his way,
And came across a great big building, late the following day.
An old man bade him welcome, saying, “Enter without fear,
“For I’m the cheese that makes the breeze that people breathe up here.”

(You see, the planet Mars is old and hasn’t got a bit
Of natural atmosphere and so they manufacture it.
They have to keep it secret from the whole blamed Martian race,
Or pretty soon some dumb Warhoon would try to raid the place.”

The old man flattered Carter and he made him stay for lunch
And said he had to spend the night, but Carter got a hunch
That this old boy would kill him just to keep his secret tight --
So with the dawn, J.C. was gone, continuing his flight.

Across the dead sea bottom (golly! here we go again!)
Came Carter to Zodanga where he joined the ruler’s men.
And one day on the street he saw an old familiar pan.
“Well, knock me stiff,” said Carter, “if it isn’t Kantos Kan!

Said Kantos Kan, “By Issus, you’re the guy I’m glad to see.
“I’ve got a job to do and you can be a help to me.
“These fellows caught our princess fair, as from the Tharks she fled,
“And now the clown that runs the town insists that they be wed.
John Carter said, indignantly, “Well, whaddya think of that,
“I’ll wallop these Zodangans till they don’t know where they’re at.
“The nerve of them! The princess is the girl who’s won my heart.
“Them easy marks! I’ll get the Tharks and take this place apart.”

He leaped upon his thoat and rode, with Thark his journey’s end.
Tars Tarkas was their ruler now; he said, “Hello, my friend.”
Said Carter, “I’ve got a job for you,. my friend, so do you duty,
“And in the end you’ll get, my friend, a lot of loot and booty.”
To make a long tale short -- they smote Zodanga, hip and thigh;
The Tharks attacked them from the ground and Helium from the sky.
Zodanga lost its freedom and its ruler lost his life;
The Tharks got loot and wealth to boot -- and Carter got his wife.

For ten long years, ‘mid smiles and tears, he led the life of Reilly
As Dejah Thoris’ husband. He was honored very highly.
And then, one day, he heard her say what threw him for a loss:
“Your loving wife would bet her life they’ve killed the air-plant boss!”

Said John, “Now that you mention it, it is quite stuffy here.
“I guess it’s up to old J. C. to save the atmosphere.”
He quickly called a flier and set off across the plain.
And flew and few till he came to the airplant once again.

He fixed the air-plant up, all right, the best that he could do,
But he was darned short-winded by the time that he got through.
He gazed up at the sky, beheld the planet of his birth --
A moment’s spark of cold and dark, and Bam! he’s back on earth!

Oh, Edgar Burroughs antedated Joyce by several years
In writing stories that go ‘round in circles, it appears.
If I were old John Carter, I would sure be broken-hearted
To fight so much with Tharks and such, and wind up where I started.

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