Ort Jan Van Hunks - Poem by Gert Strydom
Many years back an old pirate
Ort Jan van Hunks lived in Cape Town
and he had gathered enough loot
to live an honest life.
Just above the company gardens
he bought some land
and he thought that trustful slaves
would do the work for him
while he would watch his vineyards grow
and it would be possible
to give attention to his weaknesses.
The loneliness caught up with van Hunks
and he got himself a wife
but in Cape Town
at that time the choices was slim
and he was married to a huge woman
that was so broad
that she could not enter a door
without turning sideways
but he thought that in the cold winter evenings
she would keep him warm.
The trouble with his wife
was that she was a strict person
who drove their slave girls
to polish everything,
she had driven him away
from his own fireplace
with a hard hitting elbow,
as she was scared
that the ash from his pipe
would fall on the beautiful yellow-wood floor.
At the trees high up against the saddle
where Devil's peak joins Table Mountain,
van Hunks found a big rock
that was flat like a settee
and there nobody would bother him
as the Citizens thought
that only a lunatic
would climb the peaks of Table Mountain.
With a barrel of rum and a heap of tobacco
that he had carried along secretary
van Hunks was dreaming
with his pipe in his mouth
while he saw the shadow
of the mountain
creeping blue over the meadow
during the late afternoon.
The silence and rest, with the sliver coloured trees,
the small white houses stretched out beneath him,
the castle holding its ground,
was like balm to his soul
and his gaze went to the harbour
with the huge sailing ships
and the deep blue ocean.
On a bright summer day
when he was drawing pleasing on his pipe
and was taking one shot of rum after the next
an irritating sharp voice said:
"Good morning old chap,
what a lovely day we have got."
Van Hunks turned his head
and saw a small fat man
dressed in a black frock-coat
with a black hat on his head
and an expensive walking-stick in his hand.
Van Hunks growled
"Who the hell are you
and what are you doing here? "
The man smiled and said:
Some people call me Nick,
but I have many other names
and at times I come up to catch some fresh air
and to smoke my pipe"
and he removed his hat from head
while he bowed over
and van Hunks
saw two small red horns
while Nick gestured into the direction
of Devil's peak.
"I know that you are van Hunks
and I have your old companion
captain Roedolf van Boons
and all of his men with me, "
which hit van Hunks hard
as they were all dead.
"You have got to meet my wife,
she is a hell of a thing, " van Hunks said
while he watched
the small fat man carefully.
"I have heard about her, "
Nick said with laughter
and he took out a good iron pipe
while van Hunks gestured towards the tobacco.
Van Hunks removed a pair of dice from his pocket
of which the weight was so
that he always was winning and he asked:
"Do you want to play? "
"It will be great, " said the small man
"let us see your money"
while he placed a bag of gold on the rock.
Out of his pockets van Hunks took
a hodgepodge of golden franks, golden guilders,
golden sovereigns and golden rings.
"I did not expect us to play
and do not have a lot of money with me
but we will see who wins.
We will really see, " van Hunks said
while he stroked his pair of dice.
I can always give you credit on your soul, "
the devil answered smiling.
Just when the game started Satan said:
"Here's Peter as well, "
and van Hunks looked up astounded.
"I have come to warn you, " Peter said
and van Hunks became angry and replied:
"Leave me alone.
I get enough warnings at home."
"Peter, you will get nowhere with him.
Do you also want to play? "
The Small man asked.
"It will be really nice, " Peter answered
while he gazed upwards.
Van Hunks took some more tobacco out
and another pipe
before he did shake the dices in his hand
and threw them.
They smoked and played
and played and smoked and cleaned their pipes
and started to smoke again
while the game went on
and van Hunks smiled at himself.
With time the air got thicker
and still thicker
while they were clouding the mountain
with so much smoke
that the rock-rabbits, lizards
and snakes fled from their holes.
Suddenly it became dark
from all of the smoke
until Peter could not see the dice clearly
and he started to slap his wings slowly
to blow the smoke away
and the more they did play,
the more they did smoke
and the harder Peter was hitting his wings
until a strong breeze was blowing.
Beneath the mountain the citizens
decided to go home
to get in their hot beds
with their wives
as it was the strongest South Easter
that had blown in many years
and down in the bay
the colour of the water changed
from blue to green and later grey
and the waves was getting bigger
causing the ships to throw out some more anchors
and the captains to return from the bars
back to their heaving ships.
Up high on the saddle of the mountain
the game went on
and the more they played,
the more they did smoke
while the cloud got bigger
and kept growing.
Later van Hunks rose tiredly
and stretched out while he said:
"Friends, I have got all of your money
and a halo and a tail as surety, "
while both Nick and Peter
looked downhearted back at him.
"The old woman is waiting
and I will have to go
or she will knock me around out of anger, "
van Hunks said
before he took the twisting road down the mountain.
"It looks as if he has cheated us
but the games was really great, "
Peter said to Nick.
"Hey there van Hunks, " the devil called.
"We want to play again at another time,
as we are now friends? "
"Hallo, " van Hunks called back
certain that they want to find out
how he had won them
but van Hunks agreed to play again
in the summer on a sunny day
as he had trouble with rheumatism.
On the next occasion
each one bragged
that he could smoke
much more than the others
and the winner
would receive a ship full of gold
and after days of smoking
the old pirate
won both the devil and Peter
Thunder suddenly erupted from Devil's peak
hitting just where van Hunks was standing
and he did disappear
and there was only a scorched place
where he had been
and on a summer day
when clouds cover Table Mountain,
the game of smoking
and gambling still continues.
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