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The Bab Ballads. Peter the Wag
Policeman Peter forth I drag From his obscure retreat: He was a merry genial wag, Who loved a mad conceit. If he were asked the time of day, By country bumpkins green, He not unfrequently would say, “A quarter past thirteen.” If ever you by word of mouth Inquired of Mister Forth The way to somewhere in the South, He always sent you North. With little boys his beat along He loved to stop and play; He loved to send old ladies wrong, And teach their feet to stray. He would in frolic moments, when Such mischief bent upon, Take Bishops up as betting men— Bid Ministers move on. Then all the worthy boys he knew He regularly licked, And always collared people who Had had their pockets picked. He was not naturally bad, Or viciously inclined, But from his early youth he had A waggish turn of mind. The Men of London grimly scowled With indignation wild; The Men of London gruffly growled, But Peter calmly smiled. Against this minion of the Crown The swelling murmurs grew— From Camberwell to Kentish Town— From Rotherhithe to Kew. Still humoured he his wagsome turn, And fed in various ways The coward rage that dared to burn, But did not dare to blaze. Still, Retribution has her day, Although her flight is slow: One day that Crusher lost his way Near Poland Street, Soho. The haughty boy, too proud to ask, To find his way resolved, And in the tangle of his task Got more and more involved. The Men of London, overjoyed, Came there to jeer their foe, And flocking crowds completely cloyed The mazes of Soho. The news on telegraphic wires Sped swiftly o’er the lea, Excursion trains from distant shires Brought myriads to see. For weeks he trod his self-made beats Through Newport- Gerrard- Bear- Greek- Rupert- Frith- Dean- Poland- Streets, And into Golden Square. But all, alas! in vain, for when He tried to learn the way Of little boys or grown-up men, They none of them would say. Their eyes would flash—their teeth would grind— Their lips would tightly curl— They’d say, “Thy way thyself must find, Thou misdirecting churl!” And, similarly, also, when He tried a foreign friend; Italians answered, “Il balen”— The French, “No comprehend.” The Russ would say with gleaming eye “Sevastopol!” and groan. The Greek said, “Τυπτω, τυπτομαι, Τυπτω, τυπτειν, τυπτων.” To wander thus for many a year That Crusher never ceased— The Men of London dropped a tear, Their anger was appeased. At length exploring gangs were sent To find poor Forth’s remains— A handsome grant by Parliament Was voted for their pains. To seek the poor policeman out Bold spirits volunteered, And when they swore they’d solve the doubt, The Men of London cheered. And in a yard, dark, dank, and drear, They found him, on the floor— It leads from Richmond Buildings—near The Royalty stage-door. With brandy cold and brandy hot They plied him, starved and wet, And made him sergeant on the spot— The Men of London’s pet!
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