Selection from Mounseer Nongtongpaw


(London: The Juvenile Library, 1808, stzs. 27-29; text: Moskal edn.)

Next day to view a vast balloon
   The folks came far and near,
To see it start JOHN hurried soon,
   for ev'ry sight was dear.

He ask'd a woman on the ground
   Who paid for the balloon,
But "Je vous n'entends pas" he found
   Was still the only tune.

Says he, "I now don't wonder, Dame,
   "To find 'tis his balloon,
"For sure this NONGTONGPAW can claim
   "All that's beneath the moon."

The tourist, here, is the practical-minded English John Bull, and the joke is a play on the French pronunciation of "Je vous n'entends pas"--which he takes to be the name of a wealthy aristocrat, "Mounseer Nongtongpaw," the imaginary owner of the "vast balloon."

Although the young Mary Godwin (later Shelley) has been traditionally credited with this song, published by her father's Juvenile Library, recent evidence establishes that it is in fact not hers (see Sunstein; and Moskal, pp. 397-99).

She seems to have produced a prose version of the original Charles Dibdin song, however, a sketch on which this verse imitation may have been based.

return to "Balloons"