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Of Walking the Streets by Night. O Trivia, goddess ! Jeave these low abodes, And traverse o'er the wide ethereal roads; Celestial queen! put on thy robes of light, Now Cynthia nam’d, fair regent of the night. At sight of thee, the villain sheathes his sword, Nor scales the wall, to steal the wealthy hoard. O may thy silver lamp from Heaven's high bower Direct my footsteps in the midnight hour !
When Night first bids the twinkling stars appear, Or with her cloudy vest enwraps the air, Then swarms the busy street; with caution tread, Where the shop-windows * falling threat thy head; Now labourers home return and join their strength To bear the tottering plank, or ladder's length; Still fix thy eyes intent upon the throng, And, as the passes open, wind along.
Where the fair columns of St. Clement stand, Whose straiten’d bounds encroach upon the Strand; Where the low penthouse bows the walker's head, And the rough pavement wounds the yielding tread; Where not a post protects the narrow space, And, strung in twines, combs dangle in thy face; Summon at once thy courage, rouse thy care, Stand firm, look back, be resolute, beware. Forth issuing from steep lanes, the collier's steeds Drag the black load ; another cart succeeds;
* A species of window now almost forgotten. N.
Team follows team, crowds heap'd on crowds appear, And wait impatient till the road grow
clear. Now all the pavement sounds with trampling feet, And the mix'd hurry barricades the street. Entangled here, the waggon's lengthen’d team Cracks the tough harness ; here a ponderous beam Lies over-turn'd'athwart; for slaughter fed, Here lowing bullocks, raise their horned head. Now oaths grow loud, with coaches coaches jar, And the smart blow provokes the sturdy war ; From the high box they whirl the thong around, And with the twining lash their shins resound : Their rage ferments, more dangerous wounds they
try, And the blood gushes down their painful eye. And now on foot the frowning warriors light, And with their ponderous fists renew the fight; Blow answers blow, their cheeks are smear'd with
Till down they fall, and grappling roll in mud.
So, when two boars, in wild Ytene* bred,
Or on Westphalia's fattening chesnuts fed,
Gnash their sharp tusks, and, rous'd with equal fire,
Dispute the reign of some luxurious mire;
In black flood they wallow o'er and o'er,
Till their arm’d jaws distil with foam and gore.
Where the mob gathers, swiftly shoot along,
Nor idly mingle in the noisy throng:
Lur'd by the silver hilt, amid the swarm,
The subtle artist will thy side disarm.
* New Forest in Hampshire, anciently so called.
Nor is the flaxen wig with safety worn;
High on the shoulder, in a basket borne,
Lurks the sly boy, whose hand, to rapine bred,
Plucks off the curling honours of thy head.
Here dives the skulking thief, with practis’d sleight,
And unfelt fingers make thy pocket light.
Where's now the watch, with all its trinkets, flown?
And thy late snuff-box is no more thy own.
But, lo! his bolder thefts some tradesman spies,
Swift from his prey the scudding lurcher flies;
Dext'rous he 'scapes the coach with nimble bounds,
stop thief !” resounds.
So speeds the wily fox, alarm’d by fear,
Who lately filch'd the turkey's callow care ;
Hounds following hounds grow louder as he flies,
And injur'd tenants join the hunter's cries.
Breathless, he stumbling falls. Ill-fated boy!
Why did not honest work thy youth employ?
Seiz’d by rough hands, he's dragg’d amid the rout,
And stretch'd beneath the pump's incessant spout:
Or, plung'd in miry ponds, he gasping lies,
Mud chokes his mouth, and plaisters o'er his eyes.
Let not the ballad singer's shrilling strain Amid the swarm thy listening ear detain : Guard well pocket; for these Syrens stand To aid the labours of the diving hand; Confederate in the cheat, they draw the throng, And cambric handkerchiefs reward the song. But soon as coach or cart drives rattling on, The rabble part, in shoals they backward run. So Jove's loud bolts the mingled war divide, And Greece and Troy retreat on either side.
If the rude throng pour on with furious pace,
And hap to break thee from a friend's embrace,
Stop short; nor struggle through the crowd in vain,
But watch with careful eye the passing train.
Yet I, (perhaps too fond,) if chance the tide
Tumultuous bear my partner from my side,
Impatient venture back; despising harm,
I force my passage where the thickest swarm.
Thus his lost bride the Trojan sought in vain
Through night, and arms, and flames, and hills of
Thus Nisus wander'd o'er the pathless grove,
To find the brave companion of his love.
The pathless grove in vain he wanders o'er :
Euryalus, alas! is now no more.
That walker who, regardless of his pace,
Turns oft to pore upon the damsel's face,
From side to side by thrusting elbows tost,
Shall strike his aching breast against a post;
Or water, dash'd from fishy stalls, shall stain
His hapless coat with spirts of scaly rain.
But, if unwarily he chance to stray
Where twirling turnstiles intercept the way,
The thwarting passenger shall force them round,
And beat the wretch half breathless to the ground.
Let constant vigilance thy footsteps guide,
And wary circumspection guard thy side;
Then shalt thou walk, unharm’d, the dangerous
Nor need th' officious linkboy's smoky light.
Thou never wilt attempt to cross the road,
Where ale-house benches rest the porter's load,
Grievous to heedless shins; no barrow's wheel,
That bruises oft the truant school-boy's heel,
Behind thee rolling, with insidious pace,
Shall mark thy stocking with a miry trace.
Let not thy venturous steps approach too nigh,
Where, gaping wide, low steepy cellars lie.
Should thy shoe wrench aside, down, down you fall,
And overturn the scolding huckster's stall ;
The scolding huckster shall not o'er thee moan,
But pence exact for nuts and pears o'erthrown.
Though you through cleanlier alleys wind by day,
To shun the hurries of the public way,
Yet ne'er to those dark paths by night retire ;
Mind only safety, and contemn the mire.
Then no impervious courts thy haste detain,
Nor sneering alewives bid thee turn again.
Where Lincoln’s-inn, wide space, is rail'd around,
Cross not with venturous step ; there oft is found
The lurking thief, who, while the day-light shone,
Made the walls echo with his begging tone :
That crutch, which late compassion mov'd, shall*
Thy bleeding head, and fell thee to the ground.
Though thou art tempted by the link-man's call,
Yet trust him not along the lonely wall ;
In the mid way he'll quench the flaming brand,
And share the booty with the pilfering band.
Still keep the public streets, where oily rays,
Shot from the crystal lamp, o'erspread the ways.
Happy Augusta ! law-defended town!
Here no dark lanterns shade the villain's frown;
No Spanish jealousies thy lanes infest,
Nor Roman vengeance stabs th' unwary breast;