John “Bridge” Martin, one of the great stalwarts of the Burroughs Bibliophile universe, has shared with us “John Carter, Stanton Style” an epic poem that is as vivid and engaging as anything Homer or Virgil might have produced. Here it is — enjoy! (and learn more about John at the end).
John Carter, Stanton Style
By John “Bridge” Martin
How could they ever make a film of Burroughs’ Mars sensation?
How could they put “A Princess” on the screen?
Animation? Harryhauseuen? Superdynamation?
If ’twas to be believed, it must be seen.
Then came the great computer age with magic once unknown,
And movies now could showcase any story.
Then throw in Andrew Stanton with a vision of his own,
And now you have Barsoom in all it’s glory:
The Civil War was over and John Carter was alone
So he thought he’d seek a mountain full of gold.
He heard the call, “Go West Young Man;” to do it he was prone,
And thought he’d better start ‘ere he got old.
The local Seventh Cav’lry, though, had other plans for John
They thought he’d help them fight Apaches braves;
But they didn’t ask politely and so John said, “I am gone!”
And wound up on a hillside full of caves.
Apaches chased him up the hill to run him to the ground,
But one cave’s “welcome sign” was not inviting.
And as the Indians slunk away, John Carter looked around,
And learned the cave was actually quite exciting.
From out of nowhere there appeared a Thern — with shaven head,
Who pulled a knife and started to attack;
But Carter turned and plugged the dude who tried, ere he was dead,
To use an amulet to take him back.
John Carter grabbed the amulet and held it in his hand;
Its power sent him shooting into space;
And just an instant later he alighted on the sand
Of an alien, exotic-looking place.
But when he stood and tried to walk he found, instead, he soared;
Each step sent him sprawling far and high.
But Carter caught on quick, and soon was skipping ‘long the sward,
And almost thinking, “Look, Ma. I can fly!”
He leaped along until he found some incubating eggs,
And some were hatching in that lonely lair,
About that time some Tharks rode up on beasts that had eight legs,
And they were mighty irked to see him there.
The Tharks were mean and green and tall with two legs and four arms,
Twin tusks framing each side of their head.
Tal Hajus was the meanest one, setting off alarms;
His goal became to see John Carter dead.
But now that John could jump — he did — to keep from getting killed,
And John’s leaps had them taken quite aback.
Their jeddak, one Tars Tarkas, thought the horde would be quite thrilled
To have a new recruit so skilled in “sak.”
Using gestures, Tars made clear he’d like to know John’s name
“John Carter of Virginia,” he replied.
“Ah, Vorrrginia,” Tarkas smiled, “Our thoats are very tame
“And one of them will take you for a ride.”
Tars Tarkas brought his captive home; the Tharks all gathered ’round,
To watch Vorrrginia’s jumping exhibition
Instead, he sneered with twisted lips and spat upon the ground.
Tars Tarkas said, “This borders on sedition.”
They sent Vorrrginia to their spa where he got soakin’ wet,
And had a taste of “language” in the deal.
He got a guard named Woola, or perhaps ’twas just a pet,
Who stuck to him like mussels to a keel.
Meanwhile, in Helium, the jeddak, Tardos Mors, began
To tell his daughter, “‘Tis your wedding day.”
Dejah Thoris said she’d never marry cruel Sab Than;
He told his girl, “There is no other way.”
Because the Therns had given Sab the powerful 9th ray,
With which he’d decimated Helium’s fleet,
The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Heliumites that day;
They gazed into the jaws of their defeat.
Zodanga was a predator, a city on the move,
But Dejah moved — her marriage to postpone.
She caught a flight from Helium, her chances to improve;
Sab followed in an airship of his own.
Dejah soon became aware her trip would not end well,
As she was sent a hurtling toward the flat;
John Carter took a flying leap and caught her as she fell;
The chief Thern, Matai Shang, said, “Who is that?”
John Carter sought to save the gal from something worse than death
And battled with none other than Sab Than.
Ol’ Sab was ’bout to swing his sword to cut off Carter’s breath,
When all the Tharks said, “Hey. A Fight! C’mon!”
After Sab and men had fled, Tars turned on all his charm.
“You’re ugly but you’re beautiful, you guy,”
He named John “Dotar Sojat,” which, in Thark, means “my right arm.”
But which right arm? He didn’t specify.
Now Dejah, she had seen John jump and thought her dad, the jed,
Could, for his men, this special skill acquire.
“Explain just how you do it! Name your price!” the lady said.
But John said, “Sorry gal, I’m not for hire.”
John explained to Dejah that he’d really come from Earth.
She just smiled and said, “You mean Jasoom.”
She used some rocks to represent the planets of their births,
“And what you say is Mars, we call Barsoom.”
John arose and looked into the nighttime sky above,
And in the midst of many brilliant stars,
There hung two moons as close as though they really were in love.
“Good God,” remarked John Carter. “I’m on Mars.”
Dejah asked him how he ever crossed the span of space
She said that she was eager to discern.
He told her of the amulet, now held in Tars’ embrace.
“An amulet?” she said. “Then you’re a Thern!”
“I’m not a Thern, not Q, not Darth, and certainly not Ming,
“But I know you are steeped in Martian lore.
“So maybe you can help me learn just how to work that thing.
“And I’ll go back to where I was before.”
They got the amulet from Tars and took off down the Iss,
To find the key to make that magic sound.
But Therns are everywhere, it seems, and they would be remiss,
If they didn’t try to cut John Carter down.
John Carter fought Warhoons that day with Woola at his side
But soon their numbers had him pounded down.
But just about right then, a Martian flyer in did glide,
And carted Carter off to Sab Than’s town.
John sat among Zodangan guards, then entered Kantos Kan,
Who bluffed his way to bust John Carter free.
“Now show me how you jump, or do you fly like Peter Pan?
“In either case, whate’er you do, take me!”
So John grabbed Kantos Kan and took a flying leap above;
They landed in the tow’r where Dejah stood.
“You’d better bow, John Carter,” said the one who sought his love.
He did his best and Dejah called it good.
Dejah, in the wedding dress for nuptials to Sab Than,
Told John Carter how to get to Earth.
By then the guards were pounding on the door to beat the band.
“I love you, John,” she said, “for what it’s worth.”
The guards came pouring in the room, displaying all their clout,
And asked, ‘O Princess Dejah, has he flown?’
“What do you mean,” she said, “And who’s this ‘he’ you’re talking ’bout?
“There’s no one here but me. I am alone.”
The fact that John had actually gone was hard for her to bear,
But Dejah grabbed Sab Than and said, “Let’s go,
“I guess it’s nearly time for me to step into your lair.
“So let’s get on with this big wedding show.”
John, of course, was hiding there as rang the wedding bell,
And when they left he said a word like “dang.”
Then springing out to lasso him with just a magic spell,
Was Mister Trouble, known as Matai Shang.
He led John Carter through the streets and happily told the plan:
How Dejah soon would be a murdered bride;
For after she and Sab were made a Martian wife and man,
Her hubby dear would make sure that she died.
The Thern, like villains everywhere, goofed up his master plan
By keeping John alive to hear him brag.
“You’ve no dog in this fight,” he said, forgetting that the man
Did have a calot (but, no doggy bag).
For after John and Woola stood and fought the Warhoon horde,
Ol’ Woola had remained upon his trail.
And now the beast came running like he’d gone out of his gourd,
And crumpled Matai Shang upon his tail.
The spell was broken; John was free; and on the hangar deck,
He learned to be a pilot in a jif;
Then off he shot to find the Tharks to give ol’ Sab Than heck,
But would he be in time? A great big “if.”
To his shock he found that Tars no longer was the boss.
Tal Hajus now was jeddak! (Carter cussed!)
The one-tusked green man bared his teeth (and, no, he didn’t floss)
And said, “Our Issus truly loves the just!”
They threw John Carter in a cell with Tarkas, amid taunts,
Then put them in a super bowl on Mars;
Where does a big gorilla sleep? Anywhere it wants?
“Looks like we’ll both find out,” he said to Tars.
A huge white ape came roaring out to tear them both to bits;
John Carter had been chained unto a rock.
And then a second ape was loosed to rumble from the pits;
John Carter said, “It’s way past time for talk.”
With earthen muscles mightier in Barsoom’s gravity,
John Carter swung the boulder by his chain;
He quickly gave one ape a brand new cranial cavity;
His sword became the other monster’s bane.
“I claim the right of challenge,” Carter shouted out to Tal,
“You have no right,” he countered. “You’re not Thark!”
“Oh yes he is,” Tars Tarkas said. “He’s Dotar Sojat, pal!”
That statement fanned a fire from just a spark.
The mighty nation of the Tharks then pledged a metal vow,
To help John Carter win the victory.
“Tharks sure didn’t start this but we’re going to end it now,”
Said John, “And now ya’ll just follow me!”
The raucous horde on thund’ring thoats roared off to Sab Than’s city
But found there was no wedding decor fluff.
The actual ceremony was in Helium — a pity!
Tars couldn’t help but give ol’ John a cuff.
“I’ve got a plan,” John Carter said. “We’ll commandeer their birds,
“And take ourselves to Helium by air.”
“There’s just one thing you need to know” — Tars was quick with words:
“Tharks don’t fly. So how we gettin’ there?”
“You can ride your thoats, but I’m goin’ yonder through the blue,”
John Carter hollered as he flew away.
He had to get to Helium before they said “I do,”
And break up Sab and Dejah’s wedding day.
Beneath the pair of Martian moons, the priestess did her thing,
And uttered ancient words of matrimony.
On Mars a crystal goblet took the place of wedding ring,
And once imbibed it sealed the ceremony.
Dejah said, reluctantly, “I’m yours, I’ll drink the brew.”
But in flew Carter with his long sword drawn;
“Don’t drink! It’s all a trick! They’re going to kill each one of you!”
That’s all it took to turn the battle on.
Zodanga fought with Heliumites; weapons flashed and clashed;
Martian blood was mixed with wedding wine;
Sab Than saw John Carter and toward the Earthman dashed,
Crying out, “Back off! This one is mine!”
John Carter’s long sword soon became a short sword, as Sab Than
Swung his blue ray weapon to and fro;
“It can’t end like this,” John thought. “This isn’t what I planned!
“I’ve got to find a weakness in this foe.”
Zodanga, with the power of Therns, was kicking Helium’s ass;
John Carter knew — before long — all could die.
But then the walls came tumbling down as aircraft crashed through glass;
This day on Barsoom Tharks had learned to fly.
With Tharks aligned on Helium’s side the tide began to turn
The Therns could see the writing on the wall.
So Matai Shang unleashed the ray to give Sab Than a burn,
Then Mr. Shang joined in the free-for-all.
He had to get the amulet, or at least die trying,
He changed his shape to Dejah, then to John;
He tried to fool Tars Tarkas but the green man wasn’t buying;
Tars swung his sword — but Matai Shang was gone!
“The battle’s o’er,” Tars Tarkas called; “Zondanga knows defeat;
“We’ve beat them, and our victory is here.”
“Just one more thing,” John Carter said, as Dejah came, so sweet;
The Earthman kissed his Martian Princess dear.
“Would a princess of Barsoom consider me?” he posed;
“Yes, John Carter, yes,” her highness said.
‘Twas time to do a ritual that would come off unopposed,
As Earthman and Barsoomian were wed.
The Martian moons were mingling beams as in the stadium,
Tardos Mors declared them man and wife.
Fortunes were reversed for them and all of Helium
As they started an exhilarating life.
But neither knew their time was short on this their wedding night;
Though they enjoyed a time of love and mirth.
‘Cause Matai Shang was not a gracious loser, so for spite,
He used his pow’r to send John back to Earth.
For ten long years John spent his gold and searched throughout the lands
To snatch an amulet from off a Thern.
Then finally he pulled a bluff to get one in his hands
At last! He had the power to return!
Ed Burroughs stood and listened to his Uncle Jack recite:
“Och ohem och tay wyees”…and then, “Barsoom.”
He seemed to hear a woman’s voice and saw a flash of light,
And heard a quick and far-out sonic boom.
We know for sure John Carter was translated to Barsoom;
We know he found his Princess once again;
We know that further battles with the Therns, et al, did loom;.
We know — but will we see? — and where and when?
About John “Bridge” Martin: He’s 68 and still working as a rural mail carrier at the Post Office in Centralia, Washington, his home town where he’s lived most of his life. In earlier days he was a writer and then an editor at the local newspaper, The Daily Chronicle. Today he’s a regular contributor to the Edgar Rice Burroughs Chain of Friendship mailing list, which if you’re interested in joining can be found here. I highly recommend being a member of the list, which offers a steady stream of Edgar Rice Burroughs news and discussion in your inbox every day. He is also a regular on the Edgar Rice Burroughs Amateur Press Association — ERBApa as it is known. He recounts his “reading habits here. The poem he has contributed to JCF originally appeared in ERBApa 116 –many thanks to John for sharing it with the readers of the John Carter Files!