‘The witches’ device for the equitable distribution
of the liquor consisted in the construction
of tens of thousands of stopcocks and bungs
which were fitted into the perforations of the
cauldron, and graded so nicely in calibre that
every species of fish from a sardine to a shark
might find perfect oral adjustment. To provide
against all contingencies they had, in addition,
furnished each amphibious member of the Cretan
family with a ladle so that the weaker fish,
unable to reach the taps and bung-holes, might
be supplied at the surface of the water. But
notwithstanding all their powers of divination,
the scheme came very near to being wrecked,
first, by the tremendous congregation of fish,
and secondly, by the advent of the wild hordes
from Hades. Now it was not within the counsels
of either the witches or the Devil that the test
should be prejudiced by the Shades. If they
arrived at all, their rôle would be severely
restricted to that of an audience. But the
momentum of their rush carried them up against
the sides of the cauldron with such a terrific
impact that a vertical crack, one hundred cubits
long, was made near the top. Fortunately, however,
for the experiment, the Shades were immediately
driven back to the rear by a battalion of imps,
and the crack served the purpose of allowing
sufficient liquor to trickle through into the sea
to account for the inebriation of such fish as
those whose nervous constitution could not stand
the undiluted draughts.’
Now what the devil can be hid
In whisky straight, or punch or sherbet,
To give the doldrums to that squid,
Or plant the horrors in that turbot?
I never dreamed a calamary
Could get so dead stiff on Canary.
I’ve watched the effect of many a dram
On Richmond and on Buckingham;
And with good reasons have I mourned
To see my Royal Henry corned;
And many a noble prelate losing
His benefice by one night’s boozing.
But till this hour I never knew
What alcoholic draughts could do
To change a salmon or a hake
Into a paralytic rake;
Or how a drunken sturgeon felt
When fever burned inside his pelt.
Now by my Hat and Clement’s foot,
What kind of devil must have dwelt
Inside a liquor that could put
Delirium tremens in a smelt?
What maddening impulse makes that shark,
Which ought, by its own nature, choose a
Mate of its own kind, to spark
With that gelatinous Medusa?
They say that mortals may go mad
Beneath thy beams, Divinest Luna;
But how canst thou debauch a shad,
Create an epileptic tuna?
I saw a sardine just now glut
His hunger on a halibut.
How could a thing like rye or hops stir
The turgid corpus of a lobster?
And thus induce an inflammation
Within the shell of a crustacean?
I saw a small phlegmatic mullet
Holding a dogfish by the gullet.
Such crimes as from the sea arise
Beat out the days of old Gomorrah;
Had I not seen it with my eyes
I would not have believed, begorra!