Thomas Hood: 'Poetical Works' (7)

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THE LADY'S DREAM.


THE lady lay in her bed,
    Her couch so warm and soft,
But her sleep was restless and broken still;
    For turning often and oft
From side to side, she mutter'd and moan'd,
    And toss'd her arms aloft.

At last she startled up,
    And gazed on the vacant air,
With a look of awe, as if she saw
    Some dreadful phantom there—
And then in the pillow she buried her face
    From visions ill to bear.

The very curtain shook,
    Her terror was so extreme;
And the light that fell on the broider'd quilt
    Kept a tremulous gleam;
And her voice was hollow, and shook as she
            cried:—
    "Oh me! that awful dream!

"That weary, weary walk,
    In the churchyard's dismal ground!
And those horrible things, with shady wings,
    That came and flitted round,—
Death, death, and nothing but death,
    In every sight and sound!

"And oh! those maidens young,
    Who wrought in that dreary room,
With figures drooping and spectres thin,
    And cheeks without a bloom;—
And the Voice that cried, 'For the pomp of pride,
    We haste to an early tomb!

"'For the pomp and pleasure of Pride,
    We toil like Afric slaves,
And only to earn a home at last,
    Where yonder cypress waves;'—
And then they pointed—I never saw
    A ground so full of graves!

"And still the coffins came,
    With their sorrowful trains and slow;
Coffin after coffin still,
    A sad and sickening show;
From grief exempt, I never had dreamt
    Of such a World of Woe!

"Of the hearts that daily break,
    Of the tears that hourly fall,
Of the many, many troubles of life,
    That grieve this earthly ball—
Disease and Hunger, and Pain, and Want,
    But now I dreamt of them all!

"For the blind and the cripple were there,
    And the babe that pined for bread,
And the houseless man, and the widow poor
    Who begged—to bury the dead;
The naked, alas, that I might have clad,
    The famish'd I might have fed!

"The sorrow I might have sooth'd,
    And the unregarded tears;
For many a thronging shape was there,
    From long-forgotten years,
Ay, even the poor rejected Moor,
    Who raised my childish fears!

"Each pleading look, that long ago
    I scann'd with a heedless eye,
Each face was gazing as plainly there,
    As when I pass'd it by:
Woe, woe for me if the past should be
    Thus present when I die!

"No need of sulphurous lake,
    No need of fiery coal,
But only that crowd of human kind
    Who wanted pity and dole—
In everlasting retrospect—
    Will wring my sinful soul!

"Alas!  I have walk'd through life
    Too heedless where I trod;
Nay, helping to trample my fellow-worm,
    And fill the burial sod—
Forgetting that even the sparrow falls
    Not unmark'd of God!

"I drank the richest draughts;
    And ate whatever is good—
Fish, and flesh, and fowl, and fruit,
    Supplied my hungry mood;
But I never remember'd the wretched ones
    That starve for want of food!

"I dress'd as the noble dress,
    In cloth of silver and gold,
With silk, and satin, and costly furs,
    In many an ample fold;
But I never remember'd the naked limbs
    That froze with winter's cold.

"The wounds I might have heal'd!
    The human sorrow and smart!
And yet it never was in my soul
    To play so ill a part:
But evil is wrought by want of Thought,
    As well as want of Heart!"

She clasp'd her fervent hands,
    And the tears began to stream;
Large, and bitter, and fast they fell,
    Remorse was so extreme;
And yet, oh yet, that many a Dame
    Would dream the Lady's Dream!


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DEATH'S RAMBLE.


ONE day the dreary old King of Death
    Inclined for some sport with the carnal,
So he tied a pack of darts on his back,
    And quietly stole from his charnel.

His head was bald of flesh and of hair,
    His body was lean and lank,
His joints at each stir made a crack, and the cur
    Took a gnaw, by the way, at his shank.

And what did he do with his deadly darts,
    This goblin of grisly bone?
He dabbled and spill'd man's blood, and he kill'd
    Like a butcher that kills his own.

The first he slaughter'd, it made him laugh,
    (For the man was a coffin-maker,)
To think how the mutes, and men in black suits,
    Would mourn for an undertaker.

Death saw two Quakers sitting at church,
    Quoth he, "We shall not differ."
And he let them alone, like figures of stone,
    For he could not make them stiffer.

He saw two duellists going to fight,
    In fear they could not smother;
And he shot one through at once—for he knew
    They never would shoot each other.

He saw a watchman fast in his box,
    And he gave a snore infernal;
Said Death, "He may keep his breath, for his sleep
    Can never be more eternal."

He met a coachman driving his coach
    So slow, that his fare grew sick;
But he let him stray on his tedious way,
    For Death only wars on the quick.

Death saw a toll-man taking a toll,
    In the spirit of his fraternity;
But he knew that sort of man would extort,
    Though summon'd to all eternity.

He found an author writing his life,
    But he let him write no further;
For Death, who strikes whenever he likes,
    Is jealous of all self-murther!

Death saw a patient that pull'd out his purse,
    And a doctor that took the sum;
But he let them be—for he knew that the "fee"
    Was a prelude to "faw" and "fum."

He met a dustman ringing a bell,
    And he gave him a mortal thrust;
For himself, by law, since Adam's flaw,
    Is contractor for all our dust.

He saw a sailor mixing his grog,
    And he marked him out for slaughter;
For on water he scarcely had cared for Death,
    And never on rum-and-water.

Death saw two players playing at cards,
    But the game wasn't worth a dump,
For he quickly laid them flat with a spade,
    To wait for the final trump!


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BALLAD.


IT was not in the Winter
    Our loving lot was cast;
It was the Time of Roses,—
    We plucked them as we passed!

That churlish season never frown'd
    On early lovers yet:—
Oh, no—the world was newly crown'd
    With flowers when first we met!

'Twas twilight, and I bade you go,
    But still you held me fast;
It was the Time of Roses,—
    We pluck'd them as we pass'd.—

What else could peer thy glowing cheek,
    That tears began to stud?
And when I ask'd the like of Love,
    You snatched a damask bud;

And oped it to the dainty core,
    Still glowing to the last.—
It was the Time of Roses,—
    We plucked them as we pass'd!


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AUTUMN.


THE Autumn is old,
The sere leaves are flying;—
He hath gather'd up gold,
And now he is dying;—
Old Age, begin sighing!

The vintage is ripe,
The harvest is heaping;—
But some that have sow'd
Have no riches for reaping;—
Poor wretch, fall a-weeping!

The year's in the wane,
There is nothing adorning,
The night has no eve,
And the day has no morning;—
Cold winter gives warning.

The rivers run chill,
The red sun is sinking,
And I am grown old,
And life is fast shrinking;—
Here's enow for sad thinking!


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TO HOPE.


OH! take, young Seraph, take thy harp,
    And play to me so cheerily;
For grief is dark, and care is sharp,
    And life wears on so wearily.
        Oh! take thy harp!
Oh! sing as thou wert wont to do,
    When, all youth's sunny season long,
    I sat and listened to thy song,
And yet 'twas ever, ever new,
With magic in its heaven-tuned string—
    The future bliss thy constant theme.
Oh! then each little woe took wing
    Away, like phantoms of a dream;
        As if each sound
        That flutter'd round,
    Had floated over Lethe's stream!

By all those bright and happy hours
We spent in life's sweet eastern bow'rs,
Where thou wouldst sit and smile, and show,
Ere buds were come, where flowers would blow,
And oft anticipate the rise
Of life's warm sun that scaled the skies;
By many a story of love and glory,
And friendships promised oft to me;
By all the faith I lent to thee,—
Oh! take, young Seraph, take thy harp,
    And play to me so cheerily;
For grief is dark, and care is sharp,
    And life wears on so wearily.
        Oh! take thy harp!

Perchance the strings will sound less clear,
    That long have lain neglected by
In sorrow's misty atmosphere;
It ne'er may speak as it hath spoken
    Such joyous notes so brisk and high;
But are its golden chords all broken?
Are there not some, though weak and low,
To play a lullaby to woe?
But thou canst sing of love no more,
    For Celia show'd that dream was vain;
And many a fancied bliss is o'er,
    That comes not e'en in dreams again.
        Alas! alas!
        How pleasures pass,
And leave thee now no subject, save
The peace and bliss beyond the grave!

Then be thy flight among the skies:
    Take, then, oh! take the skylark's wing,
And leave dull earth, and heavenward rise
    O'er all its tearful clouds, and sing
        On skylark's wing!
Another life-spring there adorns
    Another youth—without the dread
Of cruel care, whose crown of thorns
    Is here for manhood's aching head.
Oh! there are realms of welcome day,
A world where tears are wiped away!
Then be thy flight among the skies:
    Take, then, oh! take the skylark's wing,
And leave dull earth, and heavenward rise
    O'er all its tearful clouds, and sing
        On skylark's wing!


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TO CELIA.


OLD fictions say that Love hath eyes
Yet sees, unhappy boy! with none;
Blind as the night! but fiction lies,
For Love doth always see with one.

To one our graces all unveil,
To one our flaws are all exposed;
But when with tenderness we hail,
He smiles, and keeps the critic closed.

But when he's scorned, abused, estranged.
He opes the eye of evil ken,
And all his angel friends are changed
To demons —and are hated then!

Yet once it happ'd that, semi-blind,
He met thee on a summer day,
And took thee for his mother kind,
And frown'd as he was push'd away.

But still he saw thee shine the same,
Though he had oped his evil eye,
And found that nothing but her shame
Was left to know his mother by!

And ever since that morning sun
He thinks of thee, and blesses Fate
That he can look with both on one
Who hath no ugliness to hate.


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THE SEA OF DEATH.

A FRAGMENT.


                             ———Methought I saw
Life swiftly treading over endless space;
And, at her foot-print, but a bygone pace,
The ocean-past, which, with increasing wave,
Swallow'd her steps like a pursuing grave.

Sad were my thoughts that anchor'd silently
On the dead waters of that passionless sea,
Unstirr'd by any touch of living breath:
Silence hung over it, and drowsy Death,
Like a gorged sea-bird, slept with folded wings
On crowded carcases—sad passive things
That wore the thin gray surface, like a veil
Over the calmness of their features pale.

And there were spring-faced cherubs that did sleep
Like water-lilies on that motionless deep,
How beautiful! with bright unruffled hair
On sleek unfretted brows, and eyes that were
Buried in marble tombs, a pale eclipse!
And smile-bedimpled cheeks, and pleasant lips,
Meekly apart, as if the soul intense
Spake out in dreams of its own innocence:
And so they lay in loveliness, and kept
The birth-night of their peace, that Life e'en wept
With very envy of their happy fronts;
For there were neighbour brows scarr'd by the brunts
Of strife and sorrowing—where Care had set
His crooked autograph, and marr'd the jet
Of glassy locks, with hollow eyes forlorn,
And lips that curl'd in bitterness and scorn—
Wretched,—as they had breathed of this world's pain,
And so bequeathed it to the world again,
Through the beholder's heart in heavy sighs.
So lay they garmented in torpid light,
Under the pall of a transparent night,
Like solemn apparitions lull'd sublime
To everlasting rest,—and with them Time
Slept, as he sleeps upon the silent face
Of a dark dial in a sunless place.


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TO AN ABSENTEE.


O'ER hill, and dale, and distant sea,
Through all the miles that stretch between,
My thought must fly to rest on thee,
And would, though worlds should intervene.

Nay, thou art now so dear, methinks
The farther we are forced apart,
Affection's firm elastic links
But bind the closer round the heart.

For now we sever each from each,
I learned what I have lost in thee;
Alas, that nothing else could teach
How great indeed my love should be!

Farewell!   I did not know thy worth;
But thou art gone, and now 'tis prized:
So angels walk'd unknown on earth,
But when they flew were recognised!


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THE DEATHBED.


WE watch'd her breathing through the night,
    Her breathing soft and low,
As in her breast the wave of life
    Kept heaving to and fro.

So silently we seem'd to speak,
    So slowly moved about,
As we had lent her half our powers
    To eke her living out.

Our very hopes belied our fears,
    Our fears our hopes belied—
We thought her dying when she slept,
    And sleeping when she died.

For when the morn came dim and sad.
    And chill with early showers.
Her quiet eyelids closed—she had
    Another morn than ours.


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TO MY WIFE.


STILL glides the gentle streamlet on,
With shifting current new and strange;
The water, that was here, is gone,
But those green shadows never change.

Serene or ruffled by the storm,
On present waves, as on the past;
The mirror'd grove retains its form,
The self-same trees their semblance cast.

The hue each fleeting globule wears,
That drop bequeaths it to the next;
One picture still the surface hears,
To illustrate the murmur'd text.

So, love, however time may flow,
Fresh hours pursuing those that flee,
One constant image still shall show
My tide of life is true to thee.


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SONG.


THERE is dew for the flow'ret
    And honey for the bee,
And bowers for the wild bird,
    And love for you and me.

There are tears for the many
    And pleasures for the few;
But let the world pass on, dear,
    There's love for me and you.

There is care that will not leave us,
    And pain that will not flee;
But on our hearth unalter'd
    Sits Love—'tween you and me.

Our love it ne'er was reckon'd,
    Yet good it is and true,
It's half the world to me, dear,
    It's all the world to you.


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I REMEMBER, I REMEMBER.


I REMEMBER, I remember,
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon,
Nor brought too long a day,
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away!

I remember, I remember,
The roses, red and white,
The violets, and the lily-cups,
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birth-day,—
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember,
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then,
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow!

I remember, I remember,
The fir trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from Heav'n
Than when I was a boy.


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THE POET'S PORTION.


WHAT is a mine—a treasury—a dower—
A magic talisman of mighty power?
A poet's wide possession of the earth.
He has th' enjoyment of a flower's birth
Before its budding—ere the first red streaks,—
And Winter cannot rob him of their cheeks.

Look—if his dawn be not as other men's!
Twenty bright flushes—ere another kens
The first of sunlight is abroad—he sees
Its golden 'lection of the topmost trees,
And opes the splendid fissures of the morn.

When do his fruits delay, when doth his corn
Linger for harvesting?   Before the leaf
Is commonly abroad, in his pil'd sheaf
The flagging poppies lose their ancient flame.

No sweet there is, no pleasure I can name,
But he will sip it first—before the lees.
'Tis his to taste rich honey,—ere the bees
Are busy with the brooms.   He may forestall
June's rosy advent for his coronal;
Before th' expectant buds upon the bough,
Twining his thoughts to bloom upon his brow.

Oh! blest to see the flower in its seed,
Before its leafy presence; for indeed
Leaves are but wings on which the summer flies,
And each thing perishable fades and dies,
Escap'd in thought; but his rich thinkings be
Like overflows of immortality:
So that what there is steep'd shall perish never,
But live and bloom, and be a joy forever.


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ODE TO THE CAMELEOPARD.


WELCOME to Freedom's birth-place—and a den!
          Great Anti-climax, hail!
So very lofty in thy front—but then,
          So dwindling at the tail!—
In truth, thou hast the most unequal legs!
Has one pair gallop'd, whilst the other trotted,
Along with other brethren; leopard-spotted,
O'er Afric sand, where ostriches lay eggs?
Sure thou wert caught in some hard uphill chase,
Those hinder heels still keeping thee in check!
          And yet thou seem'st prepared in any case,
          Tho' they had lost the race,
              To win it by a neck!

That lengthy neck—how like a crane's it looks!
Art thou the overseer of all the brutes?
Or dost thou browze on tip-top leaves or fruits—
Or go a bird-nesting amongst the rooks?
How kindly nature caters for all wants;
Thus giving unto thee a neck that stretches,
          And high food fetches—
To some a long nose, like the elephant's!

Oh! had'st thou any organ to thy bellows,
To turn thy breath to speech in human style.
          What secrets thou might'st tell us,
Where now our scientific guesses fail;
          For instance of the Nile,
Whether those Seven Mouths have any tail—
          Mayhap thy luck too,
From that high head, as from a lofty hill,
Has let thee see the marvellous Timbuctoo—
Or drink of Niger at its infant rill;
What were the travels of our Major Denham,
          Or Clapperton, to thine
          In that same line,
If thou could'st only squat thee down and pen 'em!

Strange sights, indeed, thou must have overlook'd,
With eyes held ever in such vantage-stations!
Hast seen, perchance, unhappy white folks cook'd,
And then made free of negro corporations?
Poor wretches saved from cast away three-deckers—
          By sooty wreckers—
From hungry waves to have a loss still drearier,
To far exceed the utmost aim of Park—
And find themselves, alas! beyond the mark,
In the insides of Africa's Interior!

Live on, Giraffe! genteelest of raff kind!
Admir'd by noble, and by royal tongues
          May no pernicious wind,
Or English fog, blight thy exotic lungs!
Live on in happy peace, altho' a rarity,
Nor envy thy poor cousin's more outrageous
          Parisian popularity;
Whose very leopard-rash is grown contagious,
And worn on gloves and ribbons all about,
          Alas! they'll wear him out!
So thou shalt take thy sweet diurnal feeds—
When he is stuff'd with undigested straw,
Sad food that never visited his jaw!
And staring round him with a brace of beads!


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JOHN TROT.

A BALLAD.


JOHN TROT he was as tall a lad
    As York did ever rear
As his dear Granny used to say,
    He'd make a grenadier.

A serjeant soon came down to York,
    With ribbons and a frill:
My lads, said he, let broadcast be,
    And come away to drill.

But when he wanted John to 'list,
    In war he saw no fun,
Where what is call'd a raw recruit,
    Gets often over-done.

Let others carry guns, said he,
    And go to war's alarms,
But I have got a shoulder-knot
    Impos'd upon my arms.

For John he had a footman's place
    To wait on Lady Wye—
She was a dumpy woman, tho'
    Her family was high.

Now when two years had past away,
    Her Lord took very ill,
And left her to her widowhood,
    Of course more dumpy still.

Said John, I am a proper man,
    And very tall to see;
Who knows, but now her Lord is low,
    She may look un to me?

A cunning woman told me once.
    Such fortune would turn up;
She was a kind of sorceress,
    But studied in a cup!

So he walk'd up to Lady Wye,
    And took her quite amazed,—
She thought, tho' John was tall enough,
    He wanted to be raised.

But John—for why? she was a dame
    Of such a dwarfish sort—
Had only come to bid her make
    Her mourning very short.

Said he, your Lord is dead and cold,
    You only cry in vain;
Not all the Cries of London now,
    Could call him back again!

You'll soon have many a noble beau,
    To dry your noble tears—
But just consider this, that I
    Have follow'd you for years.

And tho' you are above me far,
    What matters high degree,
When you are only four foot nine
    And I am six foot three?

For tho' you are of lofty race,
    And I'm a low-born elf;
Yet none among your friends could say,
    You matched beneath yourself.

Said she, such insolence as this
    Can be no common case;
Tho' you are in my service, sir.
    Your love is out of place.

O Lady Wye! O Lady Wye!
    Consider what you do;
How can you be so short with me,
    I am not so with you!

Then ringing for her serving men,
    They show'd him to the door;
Said they, you turn out better now,
    Why didn't you before?

They stripp'd his coat, and gave him kicks
    For all his wages due;
And off, instead of green and gold,
    He went in black and blue.

No family would take him in,
    Because of this discharge;
So he made up his mind to serve
    The country all at large.

Huzza! the Serjeant cried, and put
    The money in his hand,
And with a shilling cut him off
    From his paternal land.

For when his regiment went to fight
    At Saragossa town,
A Frenchman thought he look'd too tall
    And so he cut him down!


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THE WIDOW.


ONE widow at a grave will sob
A little while, and weep, and sigh!
If two should meet on such a job,
They'll have a gossip by and by.
If three should come together—why,
Three widows are good company!
If four should meet by any chance,
Four is a number very nice,
To have a rubber in a trice—
But five will up and have a dance!

Poor Mrs. C——— (why should I not
Declare her name?—her name was Cross)
Was one of those the "common lot"
Had left to weep "no common loss";
For she had lately buried then
A man, the "very best of men,"
A lingering truth, discovered first
Whenever men "are at the worst."
To take the measure of her woe,
It was some dozen inches deep—
I mean in crape, and hung so low,
It hid the drops she did not weep:
In fact, what human life appears,
It was a perfect "veil of tears."
Though ever since she lost "her prop
And stay"—alas! he wouldn't stay—
She never had a tear to mop,
Except one little angry drop
From Passion's eye, as Moore would say,
Because, when Mister Cross took flight,
It looked so very like a spite—
He died upon a washing-day!

Still Widow Cross went twice a week,
As if "to wet a widows' cheek,"
And soothe his grave with sorrow's gravy—
'Twas nothing but a make-believe,
She might as well have hoped to grieve
Enough of brine to float a navy;
And yet she often seemed to raise
A cambric kerchief to her eye—
A duster ought to be the phrase,
Its work was all so very dry.
The springs were locked that ought to flow—
In England or in widow-woman—
As those that watch the weather know,
Such "backward Springs" are not uncommon.

But why did Widow Cross take pains
To call upon the "dear remains"—
Remains that could not tell a jot
Whether she ever wept or not,
Or how his relict took her losses?
Oh! my black ink turns red for shame—
But still the naughty world must learn,
There was a little German came
To shed a tear in "Anna's Urn,"
At the next grave to Mr. Cross's!
For there an angel's virtues slept,
"Too soon did Heaven assert its claim!"
But still her painted face he kept,
"Encompass'd in an angel's frame."

He looked quite sad and quite deprived,
His head was nothing but a hat-band;
He looked so lone, and so unwived,
That soon the Widow Cross contrived
To fall in love with even that band;
And all at once the brackish juices
Came gushing out thro' sorrow's sluices—
Tear after tear too fast to wipe,
Tho' sopp'd, and sopp'd, and sopp'd again—
No leak in sorrow's private pipe,
But like a bursting on the main!
Whoe'er has watched the window-pane—
I mean to say in showery weather—
Has seen two little drops of rain,
Like lovers very fond and fain,
At one another creeping, creeping,
Till both, at last, embrace together:
So fared it with that couple's weeping!
The principle was quite as active—
             Tear unto tear
             Kept drawing near,
Their very blacks became attractive.
To cut a shortish story shorter,
Conceive them sitting tête à tête
Two cups—hot muffins on a plate—
With "Anna's Urn" to hold hot water!
The brazen vessel for a while
Had lectured in an easy song,
Like Abernethy,—on the bile—
The scalded herb was getting strong;
All seem'd as smooth as smooth could be,
To have a cosy cup of tea.
Alas! how often human sippers
With unexpected bitters meet,
And buds, the sweetest of the sweet,
Like sugar, only meet the nippers!

The Widow Cross, I should have told,
Had seen three husbands to the mould:
She never sought an Indian pyre,
Like Hindoo wives that lose their loves;
But, with a proper sense of fire,
Put up, instead, with "three removes."
Thus, when with any tender words
Or tears she spoke about her loss,
The dear departed Mr. Cross
Came in for nothing but his thirds;
For, as all widows love too well,
She liked upon the list to dwell,
And oft ripped up the old disasters.
She might, indeed, have been supposed
A great ship owner; for she prosed
Eternally of her Three Masters!

Thus, foolish woman! while she nursed
Her mild souchong, she talked and reckon'd
What had been left her by her first,
And by her last, and by her second.
Alas! not all her annual rents
Could then entice the little German—
Not Mr. Cross's Three Per Cents,
Or Consols, ever make him her man;
He liked her cash, he liked her houses,
But not that dismal bit of land
She always settled on her spouses.
So taking up his hat and band,
Said he, "You'll think my conduct odd—
But here my hopes no more may linger;
I thought you had a wedding-finger,
But oh!—it is a curtain-rod!"


________________

[Top of page]

"DON'T YOU SMELL FIRE?"


RUN!—run for St. Clements's engine!
    For the Pawnbroker's all in a blaze,
And the pledges are frying and singing—
    Oh! how the poor pawners will craze!
Now where can the turncock be drinking:
    Was there ever so thirsty an elf?—
But he still may tope on, for I'm thinking
    That the plugs are as dry as himself.

The engines!—I hear them come rumbling;
    There's the Phoenix! the Globe! and the Sun!
What a row there will be, and a grumbling
    When the water don't start for a run!
See! there they come racing and tearing,
    All the street with loud voices is fill'd;
Oh! it's only the firemen a-swearing
    At a man they've run over and kill'd!

How sweetly the sparks fly away now,
    And twinkle like stars in the sky;
It's a wonder the engines don't play now.
    But I never saw water so shy!
Why there isn't enough for a snipe,
    And the fire it is fiercer, alas!
Oh! instead of the New River pipe,
    They have gone—that they have—to the gas!

Only look at the poor little P——'s,
    On the roof—is there anything sadder?
My dears, keep fast hold, if you please,
    And they won't be an hour with the ladder',
But if any one's hot in their feet,
    And in very great haste to be saved,
Here's a nice easy bit in the street,
    That McAdam has lately unpaved!

There is some one—I see a dark shape
    At that window, the hottest of all,—
My good woman, why don't you escape?
    Never think of your bonnet and shawl:
If your dress isn't perfect, what is it
    For once in a way to your hurt?
When your husband is paying a visit
    There, at Number Fourteen, in his shirt!

Only see how she throws out her chaney!
    Her basons, and teapots, and all
The most brittle of her goods—or any,
    But they all break in breaking their fall:
Such things are not surely the best
    From a two-story window to throw—
She might save a good iron-bound chest,
    For there's plenty of people below!

O dear! what a beautiful flash!
    How it shone thro' the window and door;
We shall soon hear a scream and a crash,
    When the woman falls thro' with the floor!
There! there! what a volley of flame,
    And then suddenly all is obscured!—
Well—I'm glad in my heart that I came;
    But I hope the poor man is insured!


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[Top of page]

THE VOLUNTEER.

"The clashing of my armour in my ears 
   Sounds like a passing bell; my buckler puts me
   In mind of a bier; this, my broadsword, a pickaxe
   To dig my grave."

                     THE LOVER'S PROGRESS.


'TWAS in that memorable year
France threaten'd to put off in
Flat-bottom'd boats, intending each
To be a British coffin,
To make sad widows of our wives,
And every babe an orphan:—

When coats were made of scarlet cloaks,
And heads were dredg'd with flour,
I listed in the Lawyer's Corps,
Against the battle hour;
A perfect Volunteer—for why?
I brought my "will and pow'r."

One dreary day—a day of dread,
Like Cato's, over-cast—
About the hour of six, (the morn
And I were breaking fast,)
There came a loud and sudden sound,
That struck me all aghast!

A dismal sort of morning roll,
That was not to be eaten;
Although it was no skin of mine,
But parchment that was beaten,
I felt tattooed through all my flesh,
Like any Otaheitan.

My jaws with utter dread enclos'd
The morsel I was munching,
And terror lock'd them up so tight,
My very teeth went crunching
All through my bread and tongue at once,
Like sandwich made at lunching.

My hand that held the tea-pot fast,
Stiffen'd, but yet unsteady,
Kept pouring, pouring, pouring o'er
The cup in one long eddy,
Till both my hose were marked with tea,
As they were mark'd already.

I felt my visage turn from red
To white—from cold to hot;
But it was nothing wonderful
My colour changed, I wot,
For, like some variable silks,
I felt that I was shot.

And looking forth with anxious eye,
From my snug upper story,
I saw our melancholy corps,
Going to beds all gory;
The pioneers seem'd very loth
To axe their way to glory.

The captain march'd as mourners march,
The ensign too seem'd lagging,
And many more, although they were
No ensigns, took to flagging—
Like corpses in the Serpentine,
Methought they wanted dragging.

But while I watch'd, the thought of death
Came like a chilly gust,
And lo! I shut the window down,
With very little lust
To join so many marching men,
That soon might be March dust.

Quoth I, "Since Fate ordains it so,
Our foe the coast must land on";—
I felt so warm beside the fire
I cared not to abandon;
Our hearths and homes are always things
That patriots make a stand on.

"The fools that fight abroad for home,"
Thought I, "may get a wrong one;
Let those who have no homes at all
Go battle for a long one."
The mirror here confirm'd me this
Reflection, by a strong one.

For there, where I was wont to shave,
And deck me like Adonis,
There stood the leader of our foes,
With vultures for his armies—
No Corsican, but Death himself,
The Bony of all Bonies.

A horrid sight it was, and sad,
To see the grisly chap
Put on my crimson livery,
And then begin to clap
My helmet on—ah me! it felt
Like any felon's cap.

My plume seem'd borrow'd from a hearse,
An undertaker's crest;
My epaulette's like coffin-plates;
My belt so heavy press'd,
Four pipeclay cross-roads seem'd to lie
At once upon my breast.

My brazen breast-plate only lack'd
A little heap of salt,
To make me like a corpse full dress'd,
Preparing for the vault—
To set up what the Poet calls
My everlasting halt.

This funeral show inclined me quite
To peace:—and here I am!
Whilst better lions go to war,
Enjoying with the lamb
A lengthen'd life, that might have been
A martial epigram.


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[Top of page]

THE WEE MAN.

A ROMANCE.


It was a merry company,
    And they were just afloat,
When lo! a man, of dwarfish span,
    Came up and hailed the boat.

"Good morrow to ye, gentle folks,
    And will you let me in?
A slender space will serve my case,
    For I am small and thin."

They saw he was a dwarfish man,
    And very small and thin;
Not seven such would matter much,
    And so they took him in.

They laughed to see his little hat,
    With such a narrow brim;
They laughed to note his dapper coat,
    With skirts so scant and trim.

But barely had they gone a mile,
    When, gravely, one and all
At once began to think the man
    Was not so very small:

His coat had got a broader skirt,
    His hat a broader brim;
His leg grew stout, and soon plumped out
    A very proper limb.

Still on they went, and as they went,
    More rough the billows grew,—
And rose and fell, a greater swell,
    And he was swelling too!

And lo! where room had been for seven,
    For six there scarce was space!
For five!—for four!—for three!—not more
    Than two could find a place!

There was not even room for one!
    They crowded by degrees—
Ay—closer yet, till elbows met,
    And knees were jogging knees.

"Good sir, you must not sit a-stern,
    The wave will else come in!"
Without a word he gravely stirred,
    Another seat to win.

"Good sir, the boat has lost her trim,
    You must not sit a-lee!"
With smiling face and courteous grace,
    The middle seat took he.

But still, by constant quiet growth,
    His back became so wide,
Each neighbour wight, to left and right,
    Was thrust against the side.

Lord! how they chided with themselves,
    That they had let him in;
To see him grow so monstrous now,
    That came so small and thin.

On every brow a dewdrop stood,
    They grew so scared and hot,—
"I' the name of all that's great and tall,
    Who are ye, sir, and what?"

Loud laughed the Gogmagog, a laugh
    As loud as giant's roar—
"When first I came, my proper name
    Was Little—now I'm Moore!"


________________

[Top of page]

THE LAST MAN.


'TWAS in the year two thousand and one,
A pleasant morning of May,
I sat on the gallows-tree, all alone,
A-chaunting a merry lay,—
To think how the pest had spared my life,
To sing with the larks that day!

When up the heath came a jolly knave,
Like a scarecrow, all in rags:
It made me crow to see his old duds
All abroad in the wind, like flags;—
So up he came to the timber's foot
And pitch'd down his greasy bags.—

Good Lord! how blythe the old beggar was!
At pulling out his scraps,—
The very sight of his broken orts
Made a work in his wrinkled chaps:
"Come down," says he, "you Newgate-bird,
And have a taste of my snaps!"—

Then down the rope, like a tar from the mast,
I slided, and by him stood:
But I wish'd myself on the gallows again
When I smelt that beggar's food,—
A foul beef bone and a mouldy crust;—
"Oh!" quoth he, "the heavens are good!"


-5-


Then after this grace he cast him down:
Says I, "You'll get sweeter air
A pace or two off, on the windward side"—
For the felons' bones lay there—
But he only laugh'd at the empty skulls,
And offer'd them part of his fare.

"I never harm'd them, and they won't harm me:
Let the proud and the rich be cravens!"
I did not like that strange beggar man,
He look'd so up at the heavens—
Anon he shook out his empty old poke;—
"There's the crumbs," saith he, "for the ravens!"

It made me angry to see his face,
It had such a jesting look;
But while I made up my mind to speak,
A small case-bottle he took:
Quoth he, "Though I gather the green water-cress,
My drink is not of the brook!"

Full manners-like he tender'd the dram;
Oh it came of a dainty cask!
But, whenever it came to his turn to pull,
"Your leave, good sir, I must ask;
But I always wipe the brim with my sleeve,
When a hangman sups at my flask!"

And then he laugh'd so loudly and long,
The churl was quite out of breath;
I thought the very Old One was come
To mock me before my death,
And wish'd I had buried the dead men's bones
That were lying about the heath!


-10-


But the beggar gave me a jolly clap—
"Come, let us pledge each other,
For all the wide world is dead beside,
And we are brother and brother—
I've a yearning for thee in my heart,
As if we had come of one mother."

"I've a yearning for thee in my heart
That almost makes me weep,
For as I pass'd from town to town
The folks were all stone-asleep,—
But when I saw thee sitting aloft,
It made me both laugh and leap!"

Now a curse (I thought) be on his love,
And a curse upon his mirth,—
An it were not for that beggar man
I'd be the King of the earth,—
But I promis'd myself, an hour should come
To make him rue his birth!—

So down we sat and bous'd again
Till the sun was in mid-sky,
When, just as the gentle west-wind came,
We hearken'd a dismal cry:
"Up, up, on the tree," quoth the beggar man,
"Till those horrible dogs go by!"

And, lo! from the forest's far-off skirts,
They came all yelling for gore,
A hundred hounds pursuing at once,
And a panting hart before,
Till he sunk adown at the gallows' foot,
And there his haunches they tore!


-15-


His haunches they tore, without a horn
To tell when the chase was done;
And there was not a single scarlet coat
To flaunt it in the sun!—
I turn'd, and look'd at the beggar man,
And his tears dropt one by one!

And with curses sore he chid at the hounds,
Till the last dropt out of sight,
Anon saith he, "Let's down again,
And ramble for our delight,
For the world's all free, and we may choose
A right cozie barn for to-night!"

With that, he set up his staff on end,
And it fell with the point due West;
So we far'd that way to a city great,
Where the folks had died of the pest—
It was fine to enter in house and hall,
Wherever it liked me best!—

For the porters all were stiff and cold,
And could not lift their heads;
And when we came where their masters lay,
The rats leapt out of the beds:—
The grandest palaces in the land
Were as free as workhouse sheds.

But the beggar man made a mumping face,
And knocked at every gate:
It made me curse to hear how he whined,
So our fellowship turn'd to hate,
And I bade him walk the world by himself,
For I scorn'd so humble a mate!


-20-


So he turn'd right and I turn'd left,
As if we had never met;
And I chose a fair stone house for myself,
For the city was all to let;
And for three brave holydays drank my fill
Of the choicest that I could get.

And because my jerkin was coarse and worn,
I got me a properer vest;
It was purple velvet, stitch'd o'er with gold,
And a shining star at the breast!—
'Twas enough to fetch old Joan from her grave
To see me so purely drest!—

But Joan was dead and under the mould,
And every buxom lass;
In vain I watch'd, at the window pane,
For a Christian soul to pass;—
But sheep and kine wander'd up the street,
And brows'd on the new-come grass.—

When lo!   I spied the old beggar man,
And lustily he did sing!—
His rags were lapp'd in a scarlet cloak,
And a crown he had like a King;
So he stept right up before my gate
And danc'd me a saucy fling!

Heaven mend us all!—but, within my mind,
I had kill'd him then and there;
To see him lording so braggart-like
That was born to his beggar's fare,
And how he had stolen the royal crown
His betters were meant to wear.


-25-


But God forbid that a thief should die
Without his share of the laws!
So I nimbly whipt my tackle out,
And soon tied up his claws,—
I was judge, myself, and jury, and all,
And solemnly tried the cause.

But the beggar man would not plead, but cried
Like a babe without its corals,
For he knew how hard it is apt to go
When the law and a thief have quarrels,—
There was not a Christian soul alive
To speak a word for his morals.

Oh, how gaily I doff'd my costly gear,
And put on my work-day clothes;
I was tired of such a long Sunday life,—
And never was one of the sloths;
But the beggar man grumbled a weary deal,
And made many crooked mouths.

So I haul'd him off to the gallows' foot.
And blinded him in his bags;
'Twas a weary job to heave him up,
For a doom'd man always lags;
But by ten of the clock he was off his legs
In the wind and airing his rags!

So there he hung, and there I stood
The LAST MAN left alive,
To have my own will of all the earth:
Quoth I, now I shall thrive!
But when was ever honey made
With one bee in a hive!


-30-


My conscience began to gnaw my heart
Before the day was done,
For other men's lives had all gone out,
Like candles in the sun!—
But it seem'd as if I had broke, at last,
A thousand necks in one!

So I went and cut his body down
To bury it decentlie;
God send there were any good soul alive
To do the like by me!
But the wild dogs came with terrible speed,
And bay'd me up the tree!

My sight was like a drunkard's sight,
And my head began to swim,
To see their jaws all white with foam,
Like the ravenous ocean-brim;—
But when the wild dogs trotted away
Their jaws were bloody and grim!

Their jaws were bloody and grim, good Lord!
But the beggar man, where was he?—
There was nought of him but some ribbons of rags
Below the gallows' tree!—
I know the Devil, when I am dead,
Will send his hounds for me!—

I've buried my babies one by one,
And dug the deep hole for Joan,
And cover'd the faces of kith and kin,
And felt the old churchyard stone
Go cold to my heart, full many a time,
But I never felt so lone!


-35-


For the lion and Adam were company,
And the tiger him beguil'd;
But the simple kine are foes to my life,
And the household brutes are wild.
If the veriest cur would lick my hand,
I could love it like a child!

And the beggar man's ghost besets my dreams,
At night to make me madder,—
And my wretched conscience, within my breast,
Is like a stinging adder;—
I sigh when I pass the gallows' foot,
And look at the rope and ladder!—

For hanging looks sweet,—but, alas! in vain,
My desperate fancy begs,—
I must turn my cup of sorrows quite up,
And drink it to the dregs,—
For there is not another man alive,
In the world, to pull my legs!


________________

[Top of page]

BACKING THE FAVOURITE.


ON a pistol, or a knife!
For I'm weary of my life,—
    My cup has nothing sweet left to flavour it;
My estate is out at nurse,
And my heart is like my purse—
    And all through backing of the Favourite!

At dear O'Neil's first start,
I sported all my heart,—
    Oh, Becher, he never marr'd a braver hit!
For he cross'd her in her race,
And made her lose her place,
    And there was an end of that Favourite!

Anon, to mend my chance,
For the Goddess of the Dance*
    I pin'd and told my enslaver it;
But she wedded in a canter,
And made me a Levanter,
    In foreign lands to sigh for the Favourite!

Then next Miss M. A. Tree
I adored, so sweetly she
    Could warble like a nightingale and quaver it;
But she left that course of life
To be Mr. Bradshaw's wife,
    And all the world lost on the Favourite!

But out of sorrow's surf
Soon I leap'd upon the turf,
    Where fortune loves to wanton it and waver it;
But standing on the pet,
"Oh my bonny, bonny Bet!"
    Black and yellow pull'd short up with the Favourite

Thus flung by all the crack,
I resolv'd to cut the pack,—
    The second-raters seem'd then a safer hit!
So I laid my little odds
Against Memnon! Oh, ye Gods!
    Am I always to he floored by the Favourite!

* The late favourite of the King's Theatre, who left the
  pas seul of life, for a perpetual [Ball]. Is not that her
  effigy now commonly borne about by the Italian image
  vendors—an ethereal form holding a wreath with
  both hands above her head—and her husband, in
  emblem, beneath her foot?


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[Top of page]

THE BALLAD OF

"SALLY BROWN, AND BEN
THE CARPENTER."

 

I have never been vainer of any verses than of my part in the following Ballad.  Dr. Watts, amongst evangelical nurses, has an enviable renown; and Campbell's Ballads enjoy a snug, genteel popularity.  "Sally Brown" has been favoured perhaps with as wide a patronage as the Moral Songs, though its circle may not have been of so select a class as the friends of "Hohenlinden."  But I do not desire to see it amongst what are called Elegant Extracts.  The lamented Emery, dressed as Tom Tug, sang it at his last mortal benefit at Covent Garden; and ever since it has been a great favourite with the watermen of Thames, who time their oars to it, as the wherrymen of Venice time theirs to the lines of Tasso.  With the watermen it went naturally to Vauxhall, and over land to Sadler's Wells.  The Guards—not the mail coach, but the Lifeguards—picked it out from a fluttering hundred of others, all going to one air, against the dead wall at Knightsbridge.  Cheap printers of Shoe Lane and Cow Cross (all pirates!) disputed about the copyrights, and published their own editions; and in the meantime the authors, to have made bread of their song (it was poor old Homer's hard ancient case!), must have sung it about the streets.  Such is the lot of Literature! the profits of "Sally Brown" were divided by the Ballad Mongers;—it has cost, but has never brought me, a halfpenny."

 

FAITHLESS SALLY BROWN.

AN OLD BALLAD.

Young Ben he was a nice young man,
    A carpenter by trade;
And he fell in love with Sally Brown,
    That was a lady's maid.

But as they fetch'd a walk one day,
    They met a press-gang crew;
And Sally she did faint away,
    Whilst Ben he was brought to.

The Boatswain swore with wicked words,
    Enough to shock a saint.
That though she did seem in a fit,
    'Twas nothing but a feint.

"Come, girl," said he, "hold up your head,
    He'll be as good as me;
For when your swain is in our boat,
    A boatswain he will be."

So when they'd made their game of her,
    And taken off her elf,
She roused, and found she only was
    A coming to herself.

"And is he gone, and is he gone?"
    She cried, and wept outright:
"Then I will to the water-side,
    And see him out of sight."

A waterman came up to her,—
    "Now, young woman," said he,
"If you weep on so, you will make
    Eye-water in the sea."

"Alas! they've taken my beau, Ben,
    To sail with old Benbow";
And her woe began to run afresh,
    As if she'd said Gee woe!

Says he, "They've only taken him
    To the Tender-ship, you see";—
"The Tender-ship," cried Sally Brown,
    What a hard-ship that must be!

"O! would I were a mermaid now,
    For then I'd follow him;
But, oh!   I'm not a fish-woman,
    And so I cannot swim.

"Alas!  I was not born beneath
    'The virgin and the scales,'
So I must curse my cruel stars,
    And walk about in Wales,"

Now Ben had sail'd to many a place
    That's underneath the world;
But in two years the ship came home,
    And all the sails were furl'd.

But when he call'd on Sally Brown,
    To see how she went on,
He found she'd got another Ben,
    Whose Christian name was John.

"O Sally Brown, O Sally Brown,
    How could you serve me so,
I've met with many a breeze before,
    But never such a blow!"

Then reading on his 'bacco box,
    He heaved a heavy sigh,
And then began to eye his pipe,
    And then to pipe his eye.

And then he tried to sing "All's Well,"
    But could not, though he tried;
His head was turn'd, and so he chew'd
    His pigtail till he died.

His death, which happen'd in his berth,
    At forty-odd befell:
They went and told the sexton, and
    The sexton toll'd the bell.


________________


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