'Pirates of the Caribbean' belongs to Disney.


December 31, 1879, New York City


Acclaimed thespian Signor Brocolini, of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, was seated in a dressing room of a Fifth Avenue Theatre. The pretty English lady affixing his rakish black wig was, for once, being allowed to do so undisturbed, for the mustached actor was completely absorbed in the tome propped on his lap:

"You like the sea, Captain?"

"Yes; I love it! The sea is everything. It covers seven-tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides. The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. It is nothing but love and emotion; it is the 'Living Infinite', as one of your poets has said. In fact, Professor, Nature manifests herself in it by her three kingdoms, mineral, vegetable, and animal. The sea is the vast reservoir of Nature. The globe began with sea, so to speak; and who knows if it will not end with it? In it is supreme tranquility. The sea does not belong to despots. Upon its surface men can still exercise unjust laws, fight, tear one another to pieces, and be carried away with terrestrial horrors. But at thirty feet below its level, their reign ceases, their influence is quenched, and their power disappears. Ah! Sir, live- live in the bosom of the waters! There only is independence! There I recognize no masters! There I am free!... "

"What on earth has you so entranced, Signor?"

"Hmm?" The addressed party looked to his left. His costar, John Handford Ryley, was settling into an adjacent chair to be made up as Major General Stanley. Jack could hardly imagine better casting for that role- Ryley resembled James Norrington enough to be his direct descendant.

The darker actor turned the book to display the title. "'Tis '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea', by Jules Verne. 'Been translated into English."

Ryley frowned a bit, vexing the lad who was attempting to powder his face. "Verne? That frog who writes sensationalized children's stories?"

"That talented French scribe who spins first-class adventure yarns, mate!"

Ryley refrained from correcting his colleague's grating speech patterns; Brocolini was no doubt getting into character for his performance. He'd certainly worked closely enough with Mr. Gilbert, to get the dialog and mannerisms 'just right.'

Jack was still singing the praises of Verne's vision. "Imagine travelin' the seven seas in an underwater ship with windows. What grand sights ta be seen down theer!"

"Rocks and fishes, I would think," Ryley sniffed.

"An' gettin' inta a suit ta let ya walk outside said ship, on the very floor of the ocean!"

The taller actor looked alarmed. "Why would anybody want to do that? They'd most likely be eaten by sharks!"

Sparrow/ Signor sighed, mentally recalculating the odds of this limp-wristed sod being related to Norrington. Ryley might have similar looks and poise, but no trace of the Commodore's steel. Such staunch men seemed to be getting rarer with each passing decade. Jack regretted he hadn't tried to befriend James when he'd had the chance.

"Even you must appreciate the advantage of usin' such technology to retrieve treasure, Johnny. I meself know- that is, I've heard tell about- the locale of several wrecks that went down with tons o' shine aboard."

John Ryley appeared amused. "So it's hidden gold on your mind now? You've really immersed yourself into this role, Signor."

"I suppose I have," the older actor conceded, with an apt piratey grin.

They were interrupted by the bustling entrance of Bridget the script girl. The sturdy teenager (who'd always reminded Jack of a young heifer, in a good way) pushed aside her brick-red braids and unfolded a paper sheet.

"Mr. Sullivan wants me to go over that introductory song with you again, Mr. Brocolini. Just to make sure you know all the words."

"Blow a line once, an' they never let ya forget it," Jack grumbled. He'd already decided he wasn't going to pursue this profession for more than one lifetime- too bloody many people telling him what to do. But for now, he was still having fun. Raking in plentiful money and public adulation, just for 'playing pretend', was almost as satisfying as pulling off a successful scam. Anyway, it would be at least a minor crime to refrain from showing off what that last dip in the Fountain had done for his singing voice.

"Verra well, Bridget. From the top?" At her nod, Jack sat up straight in the chair, took a deep breath, and sang in a ringing baritone:

"Oh, better far to live and die
Under the brave black flag I fly,
Than play a sanctimonious part
With a pirate head and a pirate heart!
Away to the cheating world go you
Where pirates all are well-to-do,
But I'll be true to the song I sing,
And live and die a Pirate King!

For I am a Pirate King!
And it is, it is a glorious thing
To be a Pirate King!

When I sally forth to seek my prey
I help myself in a royal way,
I sink a few more ships, it's true,
Than a well-bred monarch ought to do!
But many a king on a first-class throne,
If he wants to call his crown his own,
Must manage somehow to get through
More dirty work than ever I do!

For I am a Pirate King!
And it is, it is a glorious thing
To be a Pirate King!"




The literary quote is from Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, originally Vingt Mille Lieues Sous Les Mers, first published in 1870 France.

The lyrics at to 'Oh, Better Far To Live And Die', from the operetta The Pirates of Penzance (music by Arthur Sullivan, libretto by W. S. Gilbert), which had it's American debut on the date and locale mentioned above.

Gilbert and Sullivan's flamboyant and libidinous Pirate King has been fingered as one of the inspirations for Captain Jack Sparrow. But it has occurred to me: if Jack actually found that fountain, it may have happened the other way around.