English poetry

PoetsBiographiesPoems by ThemesRandom Poem
The Rating of PoetsThe Rating of Poems

Poem by John Gay

Trivia, or The Art of Walking the Streets of London. Book 2

Of Walking the Streets by Day.

Thus far the Muse has trac’d in useful lays, 
The proper implements for wintry ways; 
Has taught the walker, with judicious eyes, 
To read the various warnings of the skies. 
Now venture, Muse, from home, to range the town, 
And for the public safety risqué thy own.
[The Morning.]

For ease and for dispatch the morning’s best; 
No tides of passengers the street molest. 
You’ll see a draggled damsel, here and there, 
From Billingsgate her fishy traffic bear; 
On doors the sallow milkmaid chalks her gains; 
Ah! how unlike the milkmaid of the plains! 
Before proud gates attending asses bray, 
Or arrogate with solemn pace the way; 
These grave physicians with their milky cheer 
The love-sick maid and dwindling beau repair; 
Here rows of drummers stand in martial file, 
And with their vellum thunder shake the pile, 
To greet the new-made bride. Are sounds like these 
The proper prelude to a state of peace? 
Now industry awakes her busy sons, 
Full charg’d with news the breathless hawker runs 
Shops open, coaches roll, carts shake the ground, 
And all the streets with passing cries resound.

[What Trades prejudicial to Walkers.]

If cloath’d in black you tread the busy town, 
Or if distinguish’d by the rev’rend gown, 
Three trades avoid; oft in the mingling press 
The barber’s apron soils the sable dress; 
Shun the perfumer’s touch with cautious eye, 
Nor let the baker’s step advance too nigh. 
Ye walkers too that youthful colours wear, 
Three sullying trades avoid with equal care; 
The little chimney-sweeper skulks along, 
And marks with sooty stains the heedless throng; 
When small-coal murmurs in the hoarser throat, 
From smutty dangers guard thy threaten’d coat: 
The dust-man’s cart offends thy cloaths and eyes, 
When through the street a cloud of ashes flies; 
But whether black or lighter dyes are worn, 
The chandler’s basket, on his shoulder born, 
With tallow spots thy coat; resign the way, 
To shun the surly butcher’s greasy tray, 
Butchers, whose hands are dy’d with blood’s foul stain, 
And always foremost in the hangman’s train.

[To whom to give the Wall.]

Let due civilities be strictly paid. 
The wall surrender to the hooded maid; 
Nor let thy sturdy elbow’s hasty rage 
Jostle the feeble steps of trembling age: 
And when the porter bends beneath his load, 
And pants for breath; clear thou the crouded road. 
But, above all, the groping blind direct, 
And from the pressing throng the lame protect. 
You’ll sometimes meet a fop, of nicest tread, 
Whose mantling peruke veils his empty head, 
At ev’ry step he dreads the wall to lose, 
And risques, to save a coach, his red-heel’d shoes; 
Him, like the miller, pass with caution by, 
Lest from his shoulder clouds of powder fly. 

[To whom to refuse the Wall.]

But when the bully, with assuming pace, 
Cocks his broad hat, edg’d round with tarnish’d lace, 
Yield not the way; defie his strutting pride, 
And thrust him to the muddy kennel’s side; 
He never turns again, nor dares oppose, 
But mutters coward curses as he goes.

[Of whom to enquire the Way.]

If drawn by bus’ness to a street unknown, 
Let the sworn porter point thee through the town; 
Be sure observe the signs, for signs remain, 
Like faithful land-marks to the walking train. 

Seek not from prentices to learn the way, 
Those fabling boys will turn thy steps astray; 
Ask the grave tradesman to direct thee right, 
He ne’er deceives, but when he profits by’t.

Where famed St. Giles’s ancient limits spread, 
An inrail’d column rears its lofty head, 
Here to sev’n streets sev’n dials count the day, 
And from each other catch the circling ray. 
Here oft the peasant, with enquiring face, 
Bewilder’d, trudges on from place to place; 
He dwells on ev’ry sign with stupid gaze, 
Enters the narrow alley’s doubtful maze, 
Tries ev’ry winding court and street in vain, 
And doubles o’er his weary steps again. 
Thus hardy Theseus, with intrepid feet, 
Travers’d the dang’rous labyrinth of Crete; 
But still the wandring passes forc’d his stay, 
Till Ariadne’s clue unwinds the way. 
But do not thou, like that bold chief, confide 
Thy ventrous footsteps to a female guide; 
She’ll lead thee with delusive smiles along, 
Dive in thy fob, and drop thee in the throng.

[Useful Precepts.]

When waggish boys the stunted besom ply 
To rid the slabby pavement; pass not by 
E’er thou hast held their hands; some heedless flirt 
Will over-spread thy calves with spatt’ring dirt. 
Where porters hogsheads roll from carts aslope, 
Or brewers down steep cellars stretch the rope, 
Where counted billets are by carmen tost; 
Stay thy rash step, and walk without the post.

What though the gath’ring mire thy feet besmear, 
The voice of industry is always near. 
Hark! the boy calls thee to his destin’d stand, 
And the shoe shines beneath his oily hand. 
Here let the Muse, fatigu’d amid the throng, 
Adorn her precepts with digressive song; 
Of shirtless youths the secret rise to trace, 
And show the parent of the sable race.

Like mortal man, great Jove (grown fond of change) 
Of old was wont this nether world to range 
To seek amours; the vice the monarch lov’d 
Soon through the wide ethereal court improv’d, 
And ev’n the proudest Goddess now and then 
Would lodge a night among the sons of men; 
To vulgar Deities descends the fashion, 
Each, like her betters, had her earthly passion. 
Then Cloacina (Goddess of the tide 
Whose sable streams beneath the city glide) 
Indulg’d the modish flame; the town she rov’d, 
A mortal scavenger she saw, she lov’d; 
The muddy spots that dry’d upon his face, 
Like female patches, heighten’d ev’ry grace: 
She gaz’d; she sigh’d. For love can beauties spy 
In what seems faults to every common eye.

Now had the watchman walk’d his second round; 
When Cloacina hears the rumbling sound 
Of her brown lover’s cart, for well she knows 
That pleasing thunder: swift the Goddess rose, 
And through the streets pursu’d the distant noise, 
Her bosom panting with expected joys. 
With the night-wandring harlot’s airs she past, 
Brush’d near his side, and wanton glances cast; 
In the black form of cinder-wench she came, 
When love, the hour, the place had banish’d shame; 
To the dark alley, arm in arm they move: 
O may no link-boy interrupt their love!

When the pale moon had nine times fill’d her space, 
The pregnant Goddess (cautious of disgrace) 
Descends to earth; but sought no midwife’s aid, 
Nor midst her anguish to Lucina pray’d; 
No cheerful gossip wish’d the mother joy, 
Alone, beneath a bulk, she dropt the boy.

The child through various risques in years improv’d, 
At first a beggar’s brat, compassion mov’d; 
His infant tongue soon learnt the canting art, 
Knew all the pray’rs and whines to touch the heart.

Oh happy unown’d youths, your limbs can bear 
The scorching dog-star, and the winter’s air, 
While the rich infant, nurs’d with care and pain, 
Thirsts with each heat, and coughs with ev’ry rain!

The Goddess long had mark’d the child’s distress, 
And long had sought his suff’rings to redress; 
She prays the Gods to take the fondling’s part, 
To teach his hands some beneficial art 
Practis’d in streets: the Gods her suit allow’d, 
And made him useful to the walking crowd, 
To cleanse the miry feet, and o’er the shoe 
With nimble skill the glossy black renew. 
Each Power contributes to relieve the poor: 
With the strong bristles of the mighty boar 
Diana forms his brush; the God of day 
A tripod gives, amid the crouded way 
To raise the dirty foot, and ease his toil; 
Kind Neptune fills his vase with fetid oil 
Prest from th’ enormous whale; The God of fire, 
From whose dominions smoky clouds aspire, 
Among these gen’rous presents joins his part, 
And aids with soot the new japanning art: 
Pleas’d she receives the gifts; she downward glides, 
Lights in Fleet-ditch, and shoots beneath the tides.

Now dawns the morn, the sturdy lad awakes, 
Leaps from his stall, his tangled hair he shakes, 
Then leaning o’er the rails, he musing stood, 
And view’d below the black canal of mud, 
Where common-shores a lulling murmur keep, 
Whose torrents rush from Holborn’s fatal steep: 
Pensive through idleness, tears flow’d apace, 
Which eas’d his loaded heart, and wash’d his face; 
At length he sighing cry’d; That boy was blest, 
Whose infant lips have drain’d a mother’s breast; 
But happier far are those, (if such be known) 
Whom both a father and a mother own: 
But I, alas! hard fortune’s utmost scorn, 
Who ne’er knew parent, was an orphan born! 
Some boys are rich by birth beyond all wants, 
Belov’d by uncles, and kind good old aunts; 
When time comes round, a Christmas-box they bear, 
And one day makes them rich for all the year. 
Had I the precepts of a Father learn’d, 
Perhaps I then the coach-man’s fare had earn’d, 
For lesser boys can drive; I thirsty stand 
And see the double flaggon charge their hand, 
See them puff off the froth, and gulp a main, 
While with dry tongue I lick my lips in vain.

While thus he fervent prays, the heaving tide 
In widen’d circles beats on either side; 
The Goddess rose amid the inmost round, 
With wither’d turnip tops her temples crown’d; 
Low reach’d her dripping tresses, lank, and black 
As the smooth jet, or glossy raven’s back; 
Around her waste a circling eel was twin’d, 
Which bound her robe that hung in rags behind. 
Now beck’ning to the boy; she thus begun, 
Thy prayers are granted; weep no more, my son: 
Go thrive. At some frequented corner stand, 
This brush I give thee, grasp it in thy hand, 
Temper the foot within this vase of oil, 
And let the little tripod aid thy toil; 
On this methinks I see the walking crew 
At thy request support the miry shoe, 
The foot grows black that was with dirt imbrown’d, 
And in thy pocket gingling halfpence sound. 
The Goddess plunges swift beneath the flood, 
And dashes all around her show’rs of mud: 
The youth strait chose his post; the labour ply’d 
Where branching streets from Charing-cross divide; 
His treble voice resounds along the Meuse, 
And White-hall echoes-Clean your Honour’s shoes.

[Useful Precepts (continued).]

Like the sweet ballad, this amusing lay 
Too long detains the walker on his way; 
While he attends, new dangers round him throng; 
The busy city asks instructive song.
Where elevated o’er the gaping croud, 
Clasp’d in the board the perjur’d head is bow’d, 
Betimes retreat; here, thick as hailstones pour 
Turnips, and half-hatch’d eggs, (a mingled show’r) 
Among the rabble rain: Some random throw 
May with the trickling yolk thy cheek o’erflow.

Of narrow Streets.]

Though expedition bids, yet never stray 
Where no rang’d posts defend the rugged way. 
Here laden carts with thundring waggons meet, 
Wheels clash with wheels, and bar the narrow street; 
The lashing whip resounds, the horses strain, 
And blood in anguish bursts the swelling vein. 
O barb’rous men, your cruel breasts asswage, 
Why vent ye on the gen’rous steed your rage? 
Does not his service earn your daily bread? 
Your wives, your children by his labours fed! 
If, as the Samian taught, the soul revives, 
And, shifting seats, in other bodies lives; 
Severe shall be the brutal coachman’s change, 
Doom’d in a hackney horse the town to range: 
Carmen, transform’d, the groaning load shall draw, 
Whom other tyrants with the lash shall awe.

[The most inconvenient Streets to Walkers.]

Who would of Watling-street the dangers share, 
When the broad pavement of Cheap-side is near? 
Or who that rugged street would traverse o’er, 
That stretches, O Fleet-ditch, from thy black shore 
To the Tow’r’s moated walls? Here steams ascend 
That, in mix’d fumes, the wrinkled nose offend. 
Where chandlers cauldrons boil; where fishy prey 
Hide the wet stall, long absent from the sea; 
And where the cleaver chops the heifer’s spoil, 
And where huge hogsheads sweat with trainy oil, 
Thy breathing nostril hold; but how shall I 
Pass, where in piles Cornavian cheeses lye; 
Cheese, that the table’s closing rites denies, 
And bids me with th’ unwilling chaplain rise.

[The Pell-Mell celebrated.]

O bear me to the paths of fair Pell-Mell, 
Safe are thy pavements, grateful is thy smell! 
At distance rolls along the gilded coach, 
Nor sturdy carmen on thy walks encroach; 
No lets would bar thy ways were chairs deny’d 
The soft supports of laziness and pride; 
Shops breathe perfumes, thro’ sashes ribbons glow, 
The mutual arms of ladies, and the beau. 
Yet still ev’n here, when rains the passage hide, 
Oft’ the loose stone spirts up a muddy tide 
Beneath thy careless foot; and from on high, 
Where masons mount the ladder, fragments fly; 
Mortar, and crumbled lime in show’rs descend, 
And o’er thy head destructive tiles impend.

[The Pleasure of walking through an Alley.]

But sometimes let me leave the noisie roads, 
And silent wander in the close abodes 
Where wheels ne’er shake the ground; there pensive stray, 
In studious thought, the long uncrouded way. 
Here I remark each walker’s diff’rent face, 
And in their look their various bus’ness trace. 
The broker here his spacious beaver wears, 
Upon his brow sit jealousies and cares; 
Bent on some mortgage (to avoid reproach) 
He seeks bye streets, and saves th’ expensive coach. 
Soft, at low doors, old letchers tap their cane, 
For fair recluse, who travels Drury-lane; 
Here roams uncomb’d the lavish rake, to shun 
His Fleet-street draper’s everlasting dun.

[Inconveniences that attend those who are unacquainted with the Town.]

Careful observers, studious of the town, 
Shun the misfortunes that disgrace the clown; 
Untempted, they contemn the jugler’s feats, 
Pass by the Meuse, nor try the thimble’s cheats. 
When drays bound high, they never cross behind, 
Where bubbling yest is blown by gusts of wind: 
And when up Ludgate-hill huge carts move slow, 
Far from the straining steeds securely go, 
Whose dashing hoofs behind them fling the mire, 
And mark with muddy blots the gazing ’squire. 
The Parthian thus his jav’lin backward throws, 
And as he flies infests pursuing foes.
The thoughtless wits shall frequent forfeits pay, 
Who ’gainst the centry’s box discharge their tea. 
Do thou some court, or secret corner seek, 
Nor flush with shame the passing virgin’s cheek.

[Precepts vulgarly known.]

Yet let me not descend to trivial song, 
Nor vulgar circumstance my verse prolong; 
Why should I teach the maid when torrents pour, 
Her head to shelter from the sudden show’r? 
Nature will best her ready hand inform, 
With her spread petticoat to fence the storm. 
Does not each walker know the warning sign, 
When wisps of straw depend upon the twine 
Cross the close street; that then the paver’s art 
Renews the ways, deny’d to coach and cart? 
Who knows not that the coachman lashing by, 
Oft’ with his flourish cuts the heedless eye; 
And when he takes his stand, to wait a fare, 
His horses foreheads shun the winter’s air? 
Nor will I roam when summer’s sultry rays 
Parch the dry ground, and spread with dust the ways; 
With whirling gusts the rapid atoms rise, 
Smoak o’er the pavement, and involve the skies.

[Frosty Weather.]

Winter my theme confines; whose nitry wind 
Shall crust the slabby mire, and kennels bind; 
She bids the snow descend in flaky sheets, 
And in her hoary mantle cloath the streets. 
Let not the virgin tread these slipp’ry roads, 
The gath’ring fleece the hollow patten loads; 
But if thy footsteps slide with clotted frost, 
Strike off the breaking balls against the post. 
On silent wheel the passing coaches roll; 
Oft’ look behind, and ward the threatning pole. 
In harden’d orbs the school-boy moulds the snow, 
To mark the coachman with a dext’rous throw. 
Why do ye, boys, the kennel’s surface spread, 
To tempt with faithless pass the matron’s tread? 
How can ye laugh to see the damsel spurn, 
Sink in your frauds, and her green stocking mourn? 
At White’s the harness’d chairman idly stands, 
And swings around his waste his tingling hands: 
The sempstress speeds to ’Change with red-tipt nose; 
The Belgian stove beneath her footstool glows; 
In half-whipt muslin needles useless lie, 
And shuttle-cocks across the counter fly. 
These sports warm harmless; why then will ye prove, 
Deluded maids, the dang’rous flame of love?

[The Dangers of Foot-Ball.]

Where Covent-Garden’s famous temple stands, 
That boasts the work of Jones’ immortal hands; 
Columns with plain magnificence appear, 
And graceful porches lead along the square: 
Here oft’ my course I bend, when lo! from far 
I spy the furies of the foot-ball war: 
The ’prentice quits his shop, to join the crew, 
Encreasing crouds the flying game pursue. 
Thus, as you roll the ball o’er snowy ground, 
The gath’ring globe augments with ev’ry round. 
But whither shall I run? the throng draws nigh, 
The ball now skims the street, now soars on high; 
The dext’rous glazier strong returns the bound, 
And gingling sashes on the pent-house sound.

[An Episode of the great Frost.]

O roving Muse, recal that wond’rous year, 
When winter reign’d in bleak Britannia’s air; 
When hoary Thames, with frosted oziers crown’d, 
Was three long moons in icy fetters bound. 
The waterman, forlorn along the shore, 
Pensive reclines upon his useless oar, 
Sees harness’d steeds desert the stony town, 
And wander roads unstable, not their own: 
Wheels o’er the harden’d waters smoothly glide, 
And rase with whiten’d tracks the slipp’ry tide. 
Here the fat cook piles high the blazing fire, 
And scarce the spit can turn the steer entire. 
Booths sudden hide the Thames, long streets appear, 
And num’rous games proclaim the crouded fair. 
So when a gen’ral bids the martial train 
Spread their encampment o’er the spacious plain; 
Thick-rising tents a canvas city build, 
And the loud dice resound thro’ all the field.

’Twas here the matron found a doleful fate: 
Let elegiac lay the woe relate, 
Soft as the breath of distant flutes, at hours 
When silent evening closes up the flow’rs; 
Lulling as falling water’s hollow noise; 
Indulging grief, like Philomela’s voice.

Doll ev’ry day had walk’d these treach’rous roads; 
Her neck grew warpt beneath autumnal loads 
Of various fruit; she now a basket bore, 
That head, alas! shall basket bear no more. 
Each booth she frequent past, in quest of gain, 
And boys with pleasure heard her shrilling strain. 
Ah Doll! all mortals must resign their breath, 
And industry it self submit to death! 
The cracking crystal yields, she sinks, she dyes, 
Her head, chopt off, from her lost shoulders flies; 
Pippins she cry’d, but death her voice confounds, 
And pip-pip-pip along the ice resounds. 
So when the Thracian furies Orpheus tore, 
And left his bleeding trunk deform’d with gore, 
His sever’d head floats down the silver tide, 
His yet warm tongue for his lost consort cry’d; 
Eurydice with quiv’ring voice he mourn’d, 
And Heber’s banks Eurydice return’d.

[A Thaw.]

But now the western gale the flood unbinds, 
And black’ning clouds move on with warmer winds. 
The wooden town its frail foundation leaves, 
And Thames’ full urn rolls down his plenteous waves; 
From ev’ry penthouse streams the fleeting snow, 
And with dissolving frost the pavements flow.

[How to know the Days of the Week.]

Experienc’d men, inur’d to city ways, 
Need not the Calendar to count their days. 
When through the town with slow and solemn air, 
Led by the nostril, walks the muzled bear; 
Behind him moves majestically dull, 
The pride of Hockley-hole, the surly bull; 
Learn hence the periods of the week to name, 
Mondays and Thursdays are the days of game.

When fishy stalls with double store are laid; 
The golden-belly’d carp, the broad-finn’d maid, 
Red-speckled trouts, the salmon’s silver joul, 
The joynted lobster, and unscaly soale, 
And luscious ‘scallops, to allure the tastes 
Of rigid zealots to delicious fasts; 
Wednesdays and Fridays you’ll observe from hence, 
Days, when our sires were doom’d to abstinence.

When dirty waters from balconies drop, 
And dext’rous damsels twirle the sprinkling mop, 
And cleanse the spatter’d sash, and scrub the stairs; 
Know Saturday’s conclusive morn appears.

[Remarks on the Crys of the Town.]

Successive crys the seasons’ change declare, 
And mark the monthly progress of the year. 
Hark, how the streets with treble voices ring, 
To sell the bounteous product of the spring! 
Sweet-smelling flow’rs, and elder’s early bud, 
With nettle’s tender shoots, to cleanse the blood: 
And when June’s thunder cools the sultry skies, 
Ev’n Sundays are prophan’d by mackrell cries.

Wallnuts the fruit’rer’s hand, in autumn, stain, 
Blue plumbs and juicy pears augment his gain; 
Next oranges the longing boys entice, 
To trust their copper fortunes to the dice.

[Of Christmas.]

When rosemary, and bays, the Poet’s crown, 
Are bawl’d, in frequent cries, through all the town, 
Then judge the festival of Christmas near, 
Christmas, the joyous period of the year. 
Now with bright holly all your temples strow, 
With lawrel green, and sacred misletoe. 
Now, heav’n-born Charity, thy blessings shed; 
Bid meagre Want uprear her sickly head: 
Bid shiv’ring limbs be warm; let plenty’s bowle 
In humble roofs make glad the needy soul. 
See, see, the heav’n-born maid her blessings shed; 
Lo! meagre Want uprears her sickly head; 
Cloath’d are the naked, and the needy glad, 
While selfish Avarice alone is sad.

[Precepts of Charity.]

Proud coaches pass, regardless of the moan 
Of infant orphans, and the widow’s groan; 
While Charity still moves the walker’s mind, 
His lib’ral purse relieves the lame and blind. 
Judiciously thy half-pence are bestow’d, 
Where the laborious beggar sweeps the road. 
Whate’er you give, give ever at demand, 
Nor let old-age long stretch his palsy’d hand. 
Those who give late, are importun’d each day, 
And still are teaz’d because they still delay. 
If e’er the miser durst his farthings spare, 
He thinly spreads them through the publick square, 
Where, all beside the rail, rang’d beggars lie, 
And from each other catch the doleful cry; 
With heav’n, for two-pence, cheaply wipes his score, 
Lifts up his eyes, and hasts to beggar more.

Where the brass knocker, wrapt in flannel band, 
Forbids the thunder of the footman’s hand; 
Th’ upholder, rueful harbinger of death, 
Waits with impatience for the dying breath; 
As vultures, o’er a camp, with hov’ring flight, 
Snuff up the future carnage of the fight. 
Here canst thou pass, unmindful of a pray’r, 
That heav’n in mercy may thy brother spare?

Come, F---, sincere, experienc’d friend, 
Thy briefs, thy deeds, and ev’n thy fees suspend; 
Come let us leave the Temple’s silent walls, 
Me bus’ness to my distant lodging calls: 
Through the long Strand together let us stray: 
With thee conversing, I forget the way. 
Behold that narrow street which steep descends, 
Whose building to the slimy shore extends; 
Here Arundel’s fam’d structure rear’d its frame, 
The street alone retains an empty name: 
Where Titian’s glowing paint the canvas warm’d, 
And Raphael’s fair design, with judgment, charm’d, 
Now hangs the bell’man’s song, and pasted here 
The colour’d prints of Overton appear. 
Where statues breath’d, the work of Phidias’ hands, 
A wooden pump, or lonely watch-house stands. 
There Essex’ stately pile adorn’d the shore, 
There Cecil’s, Bedford’s, Villers’, now no more. 
Yet Burlington’s fair palace still remains; 
Beauty within, without proportion reigns. 
Beneath his eye declining art revives, 
The wall with animated picture lives; 
There Hendel strikes the strings, the melting strain 
Transports the soul, and thrills through ev’ry vein; 
There oft’ I enter (but with cleaner shoes) 
For Burlington’s belov’d by ev’ry Muse.

[The Happiness of Walkers.]

O ye associate walkers, O my friends, 
Upon your state what happiness attends! 
What, though no coach to frequent visit rolls, 
Nor for your shilling chairmen sling their poles; 
Yet still your nerves rheumatic pains defye, 
Nor lazy jaundice dulls your saffron eye; 
No wasting cough discharges sounds of death, 
Nor wheezing asthma heaves in vain for breath; 
Nor from your restless couch is heard the groan 
Of burning gout, or sedentary stone. 
Let others in the jolting coach confide, 
Or in the leaky boat the Thames divide; 
Or, box’d within the chair, contemn the street, 
And trust their safety to another’s feet, 
Still let me walk; for oft’ the sudden gale 
Ruffles the tide, and shifts the dang’rous sail. 
Then shall the passenger too late deplore 
The whelming billow, and the faithless oar; 
The drunken chairman in the kennel spurns, 
The glasses shatters, and his charge o’erturns. 
Who can recount the coach’s various harms, 
The legs disjointed, and the broken arms?

I’ve seen a beau, in some ill-fated hour, 
When o’er the stones choak’d kennels swell the show’r 
In gilded chariot loll; he with disdain 
Views spatter’d passengers all drench’d in rain; 
With mud fill’d high, the rumbling cart draws near, 
Now rule thy prancing steeds, lac’d charioteer! 
The dust-man lashes on with spiteful rage, 
His pond’rous spokes thy painted wheel engage, 
Crush’d is thy pride, down falls the shrieking beau, 
The slabby pavement crystal fragments strow, 
Black floods of mire th’ embroider’d coat disgrace, 
And mud enwraps the honours of his face. 
So when dread Jove the son of Phoebus hurl’d, 
Scarr’d with dark thunder, to the nether world; 
The headstrong coursers tore the silver reins, 
And the sun’s beamy ruin gilds the plains.

If the pale walker pant with weak’ning ills, 
His sickly hand is stor’d with friendly bills: 
From hence he learns the seventh-born doctor’s fame, 
From hence he learns the cheapest tailor’s name.

Shall the large mutton smoak upon your boards? 
Such, Newgate’s copious market best affords. 
Would’st thou with mighty beef augment thy meal? 
Seek Leaden-hall; St. James’s sends thee veal. 
Thames-street gives cheeses; Covent-garden fruits; 
Moor-fields old books; and Monmouth-street old suits. 
Hence may’st thou well supply the wants of life, 
Support thy family, and cloath thy wife.

Volumes on shelter’d stalls expanded lye, 
And various science lures the learned eye; 
The bending shelves with pond’rous scholiasts groan, 
And deep divines to modern shops unknown: 
Here, like the bee, that on industrious wing 
Collects the various odours of the spring, 
Walkers, at leisure, learning’s flow’rs may spoil, 
Nor watch the wasting of the midnight oil, 
May morals snatch from Plutarch’s tatter’d page, 
A mildew’d Bacon, or Stagyra’s sage. 
Here saunt’ring prentices o’er Otway weep, 
O’er Congreve smile, or over D-- sleep; 
Pleas’d sempstresses the Lock’s fam’d Rape unfold, 
And Squirts read Garth, ‘till apozems grow cold.

O Lintot, let my labours obvious lie, 
Rang’d on thy stall, for ev’ry curious eye; 
So shall the poor these precepts gratis know, 
And to my verse their future safeties owe.

What walker shall his mean ambition fix 
On the false lustre of a coach and six? 
Let the vain virgin, lur’d by glaring show, 
Sigh for the liv’ries of th’ embroider’d beau.

See yon bright chariot on its braces swing, 
With Flanders mares, and on an arched spring; 
That wretch, to gain an equipage and place, 
Betray’d his sister to a lewd embrace. 
This coach, that with the blazon’d ‘scutcheon glows, 
Vain of his unknown race, the coxcomb shows. 
Here the brib’d lawyer, sunk in velvet, sleeps; 
The starving orphan, as he passes, weeps; 
There flames a fool, begirt with tinsell’d slaves, 
Who wastes the wealth of a whole race of knaves. 
That other, with a clustring train behind, 
Owes his new honours to a sordid mind. 
This next in court-fidelity excells, 
The publick rifles, and his country sells. 
May the proud chariot never be my fate, 
If purchas’d at so mean, so dear a rate; 
O rather give me sweet content on foot, 
Wrapt in my virtue, and a good Surtout!

John Gay

Poem Theme: London

John Gay's other poems:
  1. To a Young Lady, with Some Lampreys
  2. Sweet William's Farewell to Black-Ey'd Susan
  3. An Elegy on a Lap-dog
  4. If the Heart of a Man
  5. The Quidnunckis

Poem to print Print


Last Poems

To Russian version


English Poetry. E-mail eng-poetry.ru@yandex.ru