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Poem by John Townsend Trowbridge

The Vagabonds

WE are two travellers, Roger and I.
  Roger s my dog.Come here, you scamp!
Jump for the gentlemen,mind your eye!
  Over the table,look out for the lamp!
The rogue is growing a little old;        
  Five years we ve tramped through wind and weather,
And slept out-doors when nights were cold,
  And ate and drankand starvedtogether.

We ve learned what comfort is, I tell you!
  A bed on the floor, a bit of rosin,        
A fire to thaw our thumbs (poor fellow!
  The paw he holds up there s been frozen),
Plenty of catgut for my fiddle
  (This out-door business is bad for strings),
Then a few nice buckwheats hot from the griddle,        
  And Roger and I set up for kings!

No, thank ye, Sir,I never drink;
  Roger and I are exceedingly moral,
Are nt we, Roger?See him wink!
  Well, something hot, then,we wont quarrel.        
He s thirsty, too,see him nod his head?
  What a pity, Sir, that dogs cant talk!
He understands every word that s said,
  And he knows good milk from water-and-chalk.

The truth is, Sir, now I reflect,        
  I ve been so sadly given to grog,
I wonder I ve not lost the respect
  (Here s to you, Sir!) even of my dog.
But he sticks by, through thick and thin;
  And this old coat, with its empty pockets,        
And rags that smell of tobacco and gin,
  He ll follow while he has eyes in his sockets.

There is nt another creature living
  Would do it, and prove, through every disaster,
So fond, so faithful, and so forgiving,        
  To such a miserable, thankless master!
No, Sir!see him wag his tail and grin!
  By George! it makes my old eyes water!
That is, there s something in this gin
  That chokes a fellow. But no matter!        

We ll have some music, if you re willing,
  And Roger (hem! what a plague a cough is, Sir!)
Shall march a littleStart, you villain!
  Paws up! Eyes front! Salute your officer!
Bout face! Attention! Take your rifle!        
  (Some dogs have arms, you see!) Now hold your
Cap while the gentlemen give a trifle,
  To aid a poor old patriot soldier!

March! Halt! Now show how the rebel shakes
  When he stands up to hear his sentence.        
Now tell us how many drams it takes
  To honor a jolly new acquaintance.
Five yelps,that s five; he s mighty knowing!
  The nights before us, fill the glasses!
Quick, Sir! I m ill,my brain is going!        
  Some brandy,thank you,there!it passes!

Why not reform? That s easily said;
  But I ve gone through such wretched treatment,
Sometimes forgetting the taste of bread.
  And scarce remembering what meat meant,        
That my poor stomachs past reform;
  And there are times when, mad with thinking,
I d sell out heaven for something warm
  To prop a horrible inward sinking.

Is there a way to forget to think?        
  At your age, Sir, home, fortune, friends,
A dear girls love,but I took to drink,
  The same old story; you know how it ends.
If you could have seen these classic features,
  You need nt laugh, Sir; they were not then        
Such a burning libel on Gods creatures:
  I was one of your handsome men!

If you had seen her, so fair and young,
  Whose head was happy on this breast!
If you could have heard the songs I sung        
  When the wine went round, you wouldnt have guessed
That ever I, Sir, should be straying
  From door to door, with fiddle and dog,
Ragged and penniless, and playing
  To you to-night for a glass of grog!      

She s married since,a parsons wife:
  T was better for her that we should part,
Better the soberest, prosiest life
  Than a blasted home and a broken heart.
I have seen her? Once: I was weak and spent        
  On the dusty road: a carriage stopped:
But little she dreamed, as on she went,
  Who kissed the coin that her fingers dropped!

You ve set me talking, Sir; I m sorry;
  It makes me wild to think of the change!        
What do you care for a beggars story?
  Is it amusing? you find it strange?
I had a mother so proud of me!
  T was well she died before.Do you know
If the happy spirits in heaven can see        
  The ruin and wretchedness here below?

Another glass, and strong, to deaden
  This pain; then Roger and I will start.
I wonder, has he such a lumpish, leaden,
  Aching thing in place of a heart?        
He is sad sometimes, and would weep, if he could,
  No doubt remembering things that were,
A virtuous kennel, with plenty of food,
  And himself a sober, respectable cur.

I m better now; that glass was warming.        
  You rascal! limber your lazy feet!
We must be fiddling and performing
  For supper and bed, or starve in the street.
Not a very gay life to lead, you think?
  But soon we shall go where lodgings are free,        
And the sleepers need neither victuals nor drink:
  The sooner, the better for Roger and me!

John Townsend Trowbridge

John Townsend Trowbridge's other poems:
  1. The Tragedy Queen
  2. The Boy I Love
  3. Dorothy in the Garret
  4. An Idyl of Harvest Time
  5. The Old Burying-Ground

Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Bliss Carman The Vagabonds ("We are the vagabonds of time")
  • Emily Johnson The Vagabonds ("What saw you in your flight to-day")

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