Poet stowaway George Parrott arrives in Seattle aboard the steamship Minnesota on June 3, 1910.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 7/19/2006
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7852
On June 3, 1910, the steamship Minnesota docks in Seattle, carrying stowaway George Parrott, who speaks only in verse. Instead of being clapped in irons and handed over to the authorities, Parrott has so charmed the crew and passengers during the ocean voyage from Japan that he now has enough money to travel to New York with the promise of a good position when he arrives there.

Barred Bard

George Parrott was originally from Des Moines, Iowa, and before becoming a stowaway was a world-wanderer and a sailor aboard a windjammer. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer described him as long, lanky, with raven black locks and a vacuous expression about his eyes, and noted that he "certainly looks the part of a poet."

A water tender found Parrott hiding in the paint room of the Minnesota when the vessel was one day out from Yokohama. Parrott immediately appealed to his discoverer in free verse, which amused the water tender enough to take him to the galley for some food. While dining, a ship's officer entered and although Parrott pleaded once again in a rapid fire of limericks, the officer threw him in the brig.

Parrott was locked up for less than an hour before he managed to get a hold of pencil and paper to craft an appeal to the ship's skipper, Captain Garlic. It read as follows:

Though the day of my destiny's over
And the star of my fate has declined,
I still have a chance to recover
If you, sir, will only prove kind

When winds are at war with the ocean
And the turbulent waves toss the sea
'Tis naught, sir, beside the emotion
That's raging and tearing in me.

Be generous, do not restrain me,
Be merciful, grant me respite,
And if you're determined to jail me,
Just get me a drink and a bite.

Anapest Destiny

Upon receiving the message, Captain Garlic stormed down to the brig, thinking that a practical joke was being played upon him. Once there, Parrott peppered Garlic's questions with a rapid fire of poems and metered verse. When asked how he came to be a stowaway, Parrott responded:

Be lenient with me, captain,
Don't keep me here in jail,
I came from Halley's comet
A-sliding down its tail.
I'm sent here to discover
What the report is worth,
That's current up in Halley's
That Roosevelt owns the earth.

Captain Garlic couldn't help but be so amused by this young man who could rattle off doggerel so quickly and spontaneously, that he brought the poet up on deck and introduced him to several passengers. Parrott answered all their questions in what the Seattle Post-Intelligencer later described as "rough-and-ready poetry."

Among the passengers were Lieutenant and Mrs. W. A. Dallum, who were returning to New York, where Mrs. Dallum was to spend the summer with her mother, Mrs. Donald McClean, president of the Daughters of the American Revolution. At Mrs. Dallum's suggestion, a benefit was held aboard ship, at which Parrott recited poetry at great length.

The young rhymester netted more than $100, more than enough to pay his way to New York. Mrs. Dallum assured him that she would find him a position there where his talents could be put to better use than in the hold of a steamship.

Sources: "Poet Stowaway Talks in Verse, Wins Everybody," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 4, 1910, p. 1.

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