John Gay Poems >> Trivia ; or, the Art of Walking the Streets of London : Book II.
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 risk thy own. 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 milk-maid chalks her gains; Ah! how unlike the milk-maid 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. If cloth'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 clothes 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 borne, With tallow spots thy coat; resign the way, To shun the surly butcher's greasy tray, Butcher's, whose hands are dy'd with blood's foul stain, And always foremost in the hangman's train. 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 crowded 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 risks, 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. But when the bully, with assuming pace, Cocks his broad hat, edg'd round with tarnish'd lace, Yield not the way; defy 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. 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 fam'd 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 wand'ring passes forc'd his stay, Till Ariadne's clue unwinds the way. But do not thou, like that bold chief, confide Thy vent'rous footsteps to a female guide; She'll lead thee with delusive smiles along, Dive in thy fob, and drop thee in the throng. 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 steps, and walk without the post. What though the gathering 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 e'en 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 every 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 wandering harlot's air 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 risks in years improv'd, At first a beggar's brat, compassion mov'd; His infant tongue soon learnt the canting art, Knew all the prayers 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 every rain? The goddess long had mark'd the child's distress, And long had sought his sufferings 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 crowded way To raise the dirty foot, and ease his toil; Kind Neptune fills his vase with fetid oil Prest from the enormous whale: the god of fire From whose dominions smoky clouds aspire, Among these generous presents joints 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, 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! had fortune's utmost scorn, Who ne'er knew parents, 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 coachman'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 amain, 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 soot within this vase of oil, And let the little tripod aid they toil; On this methinks I see the walking crew At thy request support the miry shoe. The foot grows black that was with dirt embrown'd, And in thy pockets jingling halfpence sound. The goddess plunges swift beneath the flood, And dashes all around her showers of mud; The youth straight chose his post; the labour plied Where branching streets from Charing-cross divide; His treble voice resounds along the Meuse, And Whitehall echoes, "Clean your honour's shoes." Like the sweet ballad, this amusing lay Too long detains the walker on his way; The busy city asks instructive song. Clasp'd in the board the perjur'd head is bow'd, Betimes retreat; here, thick as hailstones pour, Turnips, and half-hatched eggs, (a mingled shower) Among the rabble rain: some random throw May with the trickling yolk thy cheek o'erflow; Though expedition bids, yet never stray Where no rang'd posts defend the rugged way. Here laden carts with thundering 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 barbarous men, your cruel breasts assuage, Why vent ye on the generous 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: Car-men, tranform'd, the groaning load shall draw Whom other tyrants with the lash shall awe. Who would of Watling-street the dangers share, When the broad pavement of Cheapside is near? Or who that rugged street would traverse o'er, That stretches, O Fleet-ditch, from thy black shore To the tower's moated walls! here steams ascend, That, in mix'd fumes, the wrinkled nose offend. Where chandler's 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 Carnavian cheeses lie; Cheese, that the table's closing rites denies, And bids me with the unwilling chaplain rise. 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 car-men on thy walks encroach: No lets would bar thy ways, were chairs denied, The soft supports of laziness and pride; Shops breathe perfumes, through sashes ribbons glow, The mutual arms of ladies and the beau. Yet still even here, when rains the passage hide, Oft the loose stone spirits up a muddy tide, Beneath thy careless foot; and from on high, Where masons mount the ladder, fragments fly; Mortar, and crumbled lime in showers descend, And o'er thy head destructive tiles impend. But sometimes let me leave the noisy roads, And silent wander in the close abodes, Where wheels ne'er shake the ground; there pensive stray In studious thought the long uncrowded way. Here I remark each walker's different face, And in their look their various business 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 the expensive coach. Soft, at low doors, old lechers 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.
Careful observers, studious of the town, Shun the misfortunes that disgrace the clown; Untempted, they contemn the juggler's feats, Pass by the Meuse; nor try the thimbles 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 javelin backward throws, And as he flies infests pursuing foes. The thoughtless wits shall frequent forfeits pay, Who 'gainst the sentry's box discharge their tea. Do thou some court, or secret corner seek, Nor flush with shame the passing virgin's cheek. 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 shower? Nature will best her reedy 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, denied 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, Smoke o'er the pavement, and involve the skies. 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 clothe the streets. Let not the virgin tread these slippery roads, The gathering 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 threatening pole. In harden'd orbs the school-boy moulds the snow, To mark the coachman with a dexterous throw. Why do you, boys, the kennel's surface spread, To tempt with faithless pass the matron's tread? How can you 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 round his waist his tingling hands; The sempstress speeds to 'Change with red-tipp'd 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 dangerous flame of love? 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 afar, I spy the furies of the foot-ball war, The 'prentice quits his shop, to join the crew, Increasing crowds the flying game pursue. Thus, as you roll the ball o'er snowy ground, The gathering globe augments with every round. But whither shall I run? the throng draws nigh, The ball now skims the street, now soars on high; The dexterous glazier strong returns the bound, And jingling sashes on the pent-house sound.
O roving muse, recall that wondrous year, When winter reign'd in bleak Britannia's air; When hoary Thames, with frosted osiers crown'd, Was three long moons in icy fetters bound, The waterman, forlorn along the shore, Pensive reclines upon his useless oar. See harness'd steeds desert the stony town; And wander roads unstable, not their own: Wheels o'er the harden'd waters smoothly glide, And raze, with whiten'd tracks, the slippery tide. Here the fat cook plies high the blazing fire, And scarce the spit can turn the steer entire. Booths sudden hide the Thames, long streets appear, And numerous games proclaim the crowded fair. So when a general bids the martial train Spread their encampments o'er the spacious plain; Thick-rising camps a canvas city build, And the loud dice resound through all the field. 'Twas here the matron found a doleful fate: Let elegiac lay the wo relate, Soft as the breath of distant flutes, at hours When silent evening closes up the flowers; Lulling as falling water's hollow noise; Indulging grief, like Philomela's voice.
Doll every day had walk'd these treacherous roads; Her neck grew warpt beneath the 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 itself submit to death! The crackling crystal yields, she sinks, she dies, Her head, chopt off, from her lost shoulders flies; Pippins she cried, but dead 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 cried; Eurydice with quivering voice he mourn'd, And Heber's banks Eurydice return'd. But now the western gal the flood unbinds, And blackening clouds move on with warmer winds, The wooden town its frail foundation leaves, And Thames' full urn rolls down his plenteous waves; From every pent-house streams the fleeting snow, And with dissolving frost the pavements flow. 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 muzzled 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-bellied carp, the broad-finn'd maid, Red-speckl'd trouts, the salmon's silver joul, The jointed 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 dexterous damsels twirl the sprinkling mop, And cleanse the spatter'd sash, and scrub the stairs; Know Saturday's conclusive morn appears.
Successive cries 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 flowers, and elder's early bud, With nettle's tender shoots, to cleanse the blood: And when June's thunder cools the sultry skies, Even Sundays are profan'd by mackerel cries. Walnuts 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. 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 laurel green and sacred mistletoe. Now, heav'n-born Charity, thy blessings shed; Bid meagre Want uprear her sickly head: Bid shiv'ring limbs be warm; let plenty's bowl 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; Cloth'd are the naked, and the needy glad, While selfish Avarice alone is sad. 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 teas'd because they still delay. If e'er the miser durst his farthings spare, He thinly spreads them through the public 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 hastes 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 vulture, 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 e'en thy fees suspend; Come let us leave the Temple's silent walls, Me business 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, Te street alone retains the empty name: Where Titian's glowing paint the canvas warm'd, And Raphael's fair design, with judgement, 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 Handel strikes the strings, the melting strain Transports the soul, and thrills through every vein; There oft I enter, (but with cleaner shoes) For Burlington's belov'd by every muse.
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 defy, 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 dangerous sail. Then shall the passenger too late deplore Then 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 shower, In gilded chariots 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 ponderous 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 the embroider'd coat disgrace, And mud enwraps the honours of his face. So when dread Jove the son of Phoebus hurl'd, Scar'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 weakening 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 smoke upon your boards Such, Newgate's copious market best affords. Wouldst thou with mighty beef augment thy meal? Seek Leaden-hal; St. James's sends thee veal; Thames-street gives cheeses; Covent-garden fruits; Moor-field old books; and Monmouth-street old suits. Hence mayst thou well supply the wants of life Support thy family, and clothe thy wife. Volumes on shelter'd stalls expanded lie, And various science lures the learned eye; The bending shelves with ponderous 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 flowers 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 sauntering '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 every 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 liveries of the 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 clustering train behind, Owes his new honours to a sordid mind. This next in court fidelity excels, The public 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!