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Poem by Thomas Hood

The Lost Heir

'Oh where, and oh where
Is my bonny laddie gone?'
"Old Song".

One day, as I was going by
That part of Holborn christened High,
I heard a loud and sodden cry,
That chill'd my very blood;
And lo! from out a dirty alley,
Where pigs and Irish wont to rally,
I saw a crazy woman sally,
Bedaub'd with grease and mud.
She turn'd her East, she turn'd her West,
Staring like Pythoness possest,
With streaming hair and heaving breast,
As one stark mad with grief.
This way and that she wildly ran,
Jostling with woman and with man-
Her right hand held a frying pan,
The left a lump of beef.
At last her frenzy seemed to reach
A point just capable of speech,
And with a tone almost a screech,
As wild as ocean bird's,
Or female Banter mov'd to preach,
She gave her 'sorrow-words.'

'O Lord! O dear, my heart will break, I shall
go stick stark staring wild!
Has ever a one seen anything about the streets
like a crying lost-looking child?
Lawk help me, I don't know where to look, or to
run, if I only knew which way-
A Child as is lost about London Streets, and especially
Seven Dials, is a needle in a bottle of hay.
I am all in a quiver- get out of my sight, do, you
wretch, you little Kitty M'Nab!
You promised to have half an eye to him, you
know you did, you dirty deceitful young drab.
The last time as ever I see him, poor thing;
was with my own blessed Motherly eyes,
Sitting as good as gold in the gutter,
a-playing at making little dirt pies.
I wonder he left the court where he was better off
than all the other young boys,
With two bricks, an old shoe, nine oyster-shells,
and a dead kitten by way of toys.
When his father comes home, and he always comes home
as sure as ever the clock strikes one,
He'll be rampant, he will, at his child being lost;
and the beef and the inguns not done!
La bless you, good folks, mind your own consarns,
and don't be making a mob in the street;
O Sergeant M'Farlane! you have not come across
my poor little boy, have you, in your beat?
Do, good people, move on! don't stand staring at me
like a parcel of stupid stuck pigs;
Saints forbid! but he's p'r'aps been inviggled
away up a court for the sake of his clothes
He'd a very good jacket, for certain,
for I bought it myself for a shilling one day in Rag Fair;
And his trowsers considering not very much patch'd,
and red plush, they was once his Father'
His shirt, it's very lucky I'd got washing in the tub,
or that might have gone with the rest
But he'd got on a very good pinafore
with only two slits and a burn on the breast.
He'd a goodish sort of hat, If the crown was sew'd in,
and not quite so much jagg'd at the brim,
With one shoe on, and the other shoe is a boot,
and not a fit, and, you'll know by that if it's him.
Except being so well dress'd, my mind would misgive,
some old beggar woman in want of an orphan,
Had borrow'd the child to go a begging with,
but I'd rather see him laid out in his coffin!
Do, good people, move on, such a rabble of boys!
I'll break every bone of 'em I come near,
Go home- you're spilling the porter- go home-
Tommy Jones, go along home with your beer.
This day is the sorrowfullest day of my life,
ever since my name was Betty Morgan,
Them vile Savoyards! they lost him once before
all along of following a Monkey and an Organ:
O my Billy- my head will turn right round- if
he's got kiddynapp'd with them Italians,
They'll make him a plaster parish image boy,
they will, the outlandish tatterdemallions.
Billy- where are you, Billy?- I'm as hoarse as a crow,
with screaming for ye, you young sorrow!
And shan't have half a voice, no more I shan't,
for crying fresh herrings to-morrow.
O Billy, you're bursting my heart in two, and my
life won't be of no more vally,
If I'm to see other folk's darlins, and none of
mine, playing like angels in our alley,
And what shall I do but cry out my eyes, when I
looks at the old three-legged chair,
As Billy used to make coaches and horses of, and
there ain't no Billy there!
I would run all the wide world over to find him,
if I only know'd where to run,
Little Murphy, now I remember, was once lost
for a month through stealing a penny bun,-
The Lord forbid of any child of mine!
I think it would kill me raily,
To find my Bill holdin up his little
innocent hand at the Old Bailey.
For though I say it as oughtn't, yet I will say,
you may search for miles and mileses
And not find one better brought up,
and more pretty behaved, from one end to t'other
of St. Giles's.
And if I called him a beauty, it's no lie, but only
as a Mother ought to speak;
You never set eyes on a more handsomer face,
only it hasn't been washed for a week;
As for hair, tho' it's red, it's the most nicest hair
when I've time to just show it the comb;
I'll owe 'em five pounds, and a blessing besides,
as will only bring him safe and sound home.
He's blue eyes, and not to be call'd a squint,
though a little cast he's certainly got;
And his nose is still a good un, tho' the bridge is
broke, by his falling on a pewter pint pot;
He's got the most elegant wide mouth in the
world, and very large teeth for his age;
And quite as fit as Mrs. Murdockson's child to
play Cupid on the Drury Lane Stage.
And then he has got such dear winning ways-
but O, I never never shall see him no more!
O dear! to think of losing him just after nussing
him back from death's door!
Only the very last month when the windfalls,
hang 'em, was at twenty a penny!
And the threepence he'd got by grottoing was
spent in plums, and sixty for a child is too many.
And the Cholera man came and whitewash'd us
all and, drat him, made a seize of our hog,-
It's no use to send the Crier to cry him about,
he's such a blunderin drunken old dog;
The last time he was fetched to find a lost child,
he was guzzling with his bell at the Crown,
And went and cried a boy instead of a girl, for a
distracted Mother and Father about Town.
Billy- where are you, Billy, I say? come, Billy,
come home, to your best of Mothers!
I'm scared when I think of them Cabroleys, they
drive so, they'd run over their own Sisters and Brothers.
Or may be he's stole by some chimbly sweeping
wretch, to stick fast in narrow flues and what not,
And be poked up behind with a picked pointed
pole, when the soot has ketch'd, and the chimbly's red hot.
Oh I'd give the whole wide world, if the world
was mine, to clap my two longin eyes on his face,
For he's my darlin of darlins, and if he don't soon
come back, you'll see me drop stone dead on the place.
I only wish I'd got him safe in these two Motherly
arms, and wouldn't I hug him and kiss him!
Lauk! I never knew what a precious he was-
but a child don't not feel like a child till you miss him.
Why, there he is! Punch and Judy hunting, the
young wretch, it's that Billy as sartin as sin!
But let me get him home, with a good grip of his hair,
and I'm blest if he shall have a whole bone in his skin! 

Thomas Hood

Thomas Hood's other poems:
  1. Written in Keats' УEndymionФ
  2. Ode on a Distant Prospect of Clapham Academy
  3. The Two Peacocks of Bedfont
  4. The Poet's Portion
  5. Song (The stars are with the voyager)

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