William Vaughn’s Weird White Van

William Vaughn is a man, a man with a van,
and his van is of course painted white,
but William’s white van is no ordinary van
though it looks commonplace at first sight.

In the past, William hired his van as a rule
to folk moving house here and there.
He’d help them to load it with boxes and stools,
carpets, bags, books, a table, a chair –

small things mostly, for the van wasn’t large.
Till one day an elderly woman
employed him to move her from an old barge
to a brand new apartment in Cannes.¹

William started to load his white van but soon saw
he’d never find room for all that she owned.
“A van can’t expand and break natural law,”
he told her. She’d have to postpone.

“No, no,” said the woman, “I will not delay.
Just fill it as much as you can.”
And so William Vaughn began right away
to pack all her things in his van.

Two sofas, a bed, some shelves, a black cat,
a wardrobe, three tables, an armchair, a bat,
a cauldron, a broomstick, a black pointed hat.
(William found himself wondering rather at that.)

A sideboard, a set of heavy oak chairs,
a huge grand piano, a portrait in oil,
four tires from a Volvo, a small flight of stairs,
and all of the books of Sir A. Conan Doyle.

He found room for everything, strange to relate,
though the van was so small and compact.
He filled up the van with a huge load of freight
and when he was done, it was packed.

Then he drove the white van for two days and a night
till he came at long last to south France,
where the sun blazed down and his white van shone bright.
The unpacking went like a dance.²

Ever since then, viewed from outside,
William’s white van looks quite small,
but open the doors and load up inside –
it’ll swallow IKEA and all!

Especially for Anders L. and Pia G.


1. The rhyme on ‘woman’ and ‘in Cannes’ is poor. Phonetically it looks like it ought to work since /wʊmæn/ and /ınĸæn/ both end in the same vowel, but the stress in ‘woman’ falls on the first syllable /ˈwʊmæn/ while the stress on ‘in Cannes’ falls on the second /ınˈĸæn/ .

2. ‘Went like a dance’: This is a literal translation of a Swedish idiom (‘det gick som en dans’). The best English equivalent really would be to say ‘things went smoothly’. (Google Translate suggests ‘went like clockwork’, but I think this means a timetable was kept.)

3. William Vaughn does not seem to be a typical White Van Man. Here’s a link to Wikipedia on the subject.