Gies at the Boat

By John and Nancy Burkoff

(With apologies to Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat”)

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for Semester at Sea that day:
The UVa faculty was not happy, with not even one Voyage underway,
And then when “love boat” claims were made, and “booze cruise” calls rang out,
A pall-like silence fell upon the C’ville campus without a doubt.

A straggling few said they would never sail in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Gies could but get himself afloat—
We’d put up even money then, with Gies at the boat.”

But Burkoff would sail with Gies, as would Nancy Burkoff, his queen,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a Dean;
So upon that stricken faculty grim melancholy was the note,
For there seemed but little chance of getting Gies to the boat.

But Burkoff turned out an okay guy, to the wonderment of all,
And Nancy, Burkoff’s prized, was quite a decent moll;
And when the dust had lifted, and folks saw what was foregone,
There was Burkoff safe on the ship and Nancy a-hugging John.

Then from five thousand throats in C’ville there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the Blue Ridge and recoiled upon the cote,
For Gies, mighty Gies, was advancing to the boat.

There was ease in Gies’s manner as he stepped onto the foredeck;
There was pride in Gies’s bearing and a smile lit Gies’s aspect.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly cleared his throat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Gies at the boat.

Ten thousand coed eyes were on him as he stepped onto the ship;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he stopped to take a little nip;
Then when the Captain approached and welcomed him to the ship,
Defiance flashed in Gies’s eye, a sneer curled Gies’s lip.

But Janna ran aboard then and came hurtling through the air,
And Gies stood a-watching her in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy boatsman Janna unheeded sped—
“Ships ain’t my style,” said Gies. “Strike one!” Janna said.

From the cabins, squished with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Chill, girl! Chill, Janna!” shouted someone on dry land;
And it’s likely they’d have yelled at her forever had not Gies raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Gies’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the ship go on;
He signaled to the Captain, and the engine thrum it grew;
But Gies still ignored it and Janna said, “Strike two!”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Gies and the undergrads were awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Gies would never leave the ship again, except to go to Spain.

The sneer was gone from Gies’s lip, his face was wreathed in joy,
Gies had decided he loved Semester at Sea after all: “Oh boy!”
And then Janna picked their cabin, and gave Semester at Sea reinforcement,
And then the UVa campus was stunned by the force of Gies’s endorsement.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The SAS ship is sailing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere folks are laughing, and somewhere (outside DC) integrity is admired,
But there is no longer joy on Semester at Sea Voyages—mighty Gies has retired.

With much love, admiration and respect, happy retirement!
John & Nancy