ROBERT ARTHUR’S EASTERN SHORE by Robert P. Arthur, twice nominated for Virginia’s Poet Laureate: The book includes 4 one-act plays, a selection of his award-winning poems, and “Hymn to the Chesapeake,” a play with music.
Robert Arthur’s poems and plays will put readers in vivid contact with his Chesapeake shores and its striking voices. He has an excellent ear for the natural cadences and stories that suffuse the air, sea and the land itself, from the mewing of gulls to “where the wind has taken drops of rain in filmy satchels to the whispering corn.” Brought up on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, he is proficient in the common speech of the place. When, in his poems, he says, “Hey lookit here,” readers are treated to a remembered cluster of old folks, sipping lemonade or tea on the porch and telling tales about their neighbors, old country people who’d “shout to everybody/ like ’em or not.”
Hymn to the Chesapeake was first performed by the Trawler Dinner Theater in Exmore, Virginia with the direction and collaboration of Judy Beck. The Lonely Onley Blues, Matins of the Sook, and The Ghost of Marina were first produced by the Generic Theater of Norfolk, Virginia, and The Bench was first produced at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Most of the poems were published in book form in Hymn to Chesapeake (Road Publishers) and Strokes (Stonehall Publishers). Many of the songs in Hymn to the Chesapeake are traditional and others are by contemporary authors and those whose identities are yet to be discovered, as well as adapted from preexisting tunes. “Shanghaied Sailor” was found in an attic. Contemporary songwriter Gordon Bok wrote “Clear Away in the Morning,” “Mrs. MacDonald’s Lament,” and “Saben, the Woodcutter”; Mary Chapin Carpenter wrote “Down in Mary’s Land.” The author has also benefited from the prose works of William Warner and Tom Horton and has sometimes directly quoted from their works. He also wishes to thank Jeff Hewitt for his technical graphics help and Lynne Rogers for her cover paintings.
From the Play
From Hymn to the Chesapeake:
SASSY: What do you think I care what the neighbors think?
BEN: I guess you’d care what the neighbors would think if it was about me here on Sunday morning sitting here on the porch with my shirt off.
SASSY: Now, you leave your shirt on. Don’t be a fool.
BEN: Guess I’ll just take my shirt off right here, since you don’t care what the neighbors think. SASSY: It ain’t what they think. It’s what I think that’s going to keep your shirt on…else you’re going to get this glass of lemonade right up against the side of your head.
LEN: Captain Turner says God’s domain ends at the shoreline and the devil’s takes up on the sea. Says God’s had enough of the sea. KATE: Every captain on the water has something to say.
LEN: Says the sea’s pure evil and that’s why he won’t ever say where he’s sailing. Says if the sea knows where he’s going there’s bound to be a big sea waiting for him when he gets there.
KATE: (Mocking captains) When a cat’s eyes are round, there’ll be fair weather. When they’re shaped like diamonds, there’s sure to be a storm.
GRANDPA: Hey, boy, what you catching there?
BOY: How you catch them fish, Grandpa? Just luck, I guess. GRANDPA: Not likely, Boy. Luck rides deep in the flick of the wrist. Miracles don’t pay the rent. Ain’t no nor’easter yet dumped no awsters on my deck
BOY: Mine neither, Grandpa. Ain’t had no luck my whole dang life.
GRANDPA: Don’t ‘spect none neither.
BOY: That so, Grandpa!
GRANDPA: Weren’t books enough ’round when I was growing. I put my whole mind on the water
KATE AND SASSY: (Song: New Oysters. Traditional English Sales Jingle)
AT THE GROANING BOARD AT THE GROANING BOARD WHERE IT HURTS TOO MUCH TO STAND
BEN: (Song) ALL THE BREAD AND WINE WE MAY EAT LET THEM KNOW THE TIME WE STARTED TO MAKE A BANQUET FOR A PRINCE NEW OYSTERS! NEW OYSTERS! NEW WALEFLEET OYSTERS!
SASSY: (Song) AT A GROAT A PECK AT A GROAT A PECK EACH OYSTER WORTH TWO PENCE
BEN: (Song) WHAT A GOOD DEAL! FETCH US BREAD AND WINE THAT WE MAY EAT LET US LOSE NO TIME WITH SUCH GOOD MEAT, A BANQUET FOR A PRINCE!
KATE: Hey, you boys, don’t you climb aboard Eenie. She’s got that hoof disease; you’ll probably kill her.
LEN: Hey, George Floyd, look at that. Old stiff collar Boggs is driving to church!
BEN: Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha
LEN: Down the middle of the two-lane road At ’bout eight miles an hour!
ALL: Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha
BEN: ‘Bout forty honking cars backed up behind him Him, in that stiff collar, not even looking around! ALL: Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha
BEN: Funniest thing I ever saw! Since last Sunday! Hey there, Ben. Ain’t that the big Walters woman gettin’ outta that truck?
BEN: Hush your mouth. Looks like she’s gonna charge, George. LEN: Oh, grab my onions!
(Everyone looks frightened, then relieved, and then sheepishly waves.)
SASSY: Oh, that’s a good bit of luck.
BEN: Sure is. I could have sworn that big old Walters woman was coming up here instead of to the store across the way.
KATE: Hey you boys, leave that horse alone! I told you. It’s got those infected hooves. Leave her alone!
LEN: Damn, fell off… right on his head.
BEN: (To boy fallen from horse) Get up, now. You fell off the horse by yourself; you can get up by yourself. What the devil’s wrong with you!
KATE: What’s wrong with him? What’s wrong with you, you mean?
BEN: Don’t you see what’s happening, Kate?
KATE: I don’t see anything happening, but that boy lying there in the grass, cussing Eenie. BEN: Well, he’s messing up the fishing. ALL: Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha
KATE: Very funny, very funny. (To Boy in yard) Get on out of that yard. Your head’s not broke. Get on in the house!
(Song: In the Sweet By and By)
THERE’S A LAND THAT IS FAIRER THAN DAY, AND BY FAITH WE CAN SEE IT AFAR; FOR THE FATHER WAITS OVER THE WAY TO PREPARE US A DWELLING PLACE THERE.
IN THE SWEET BY AND BY, WE SHALL MEET ON THAT BEAUTIFUL SHORE; IN THE SWEET BY AND BY, WE SHALL MEET ON THAT BEAUTIFUL SHORE.
TO OUR BOUNTIFUL FATHER ABOVE, WE WILL OFFER OUR TRIBUTE OF PRAISE FOR THE GLORIOUS GIFT OF HIS LOVE AND THE BLESSINGS THAT HALLOW OUR DAYS.