Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, RID OF HIS ENGINE, by ALEXANDER ANDERSON

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RID OF HIS ENGINE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The way that it came about was this
Last Line: Bill had got rid of his engine at last.
Alternate Author Name(s): Surfaceman
Subject(s): Accidents; Death; Railroads; Dead, The; Railways; Trains

THE way that it came about was this—
I was stoker for over two years to Bill,
But do as we might something went amiss
With that creaking confounded engine still.

We never ran time, and were always late;
Now a throttle valve would get choked and stop,
Then an axle grow hot as a coal in the grate,
Next a tube would burst, and—into the shop.

How Bill did swear when delays took place;
He would chew till his lips were almost black,
Then say, with an oath, looking into my face—
"I wish I was rid of this engine, Jack."

But the stuck to us still, like one of the Fates,
Snorting and creaking on, until
A sort of proverb grew up with our mates,
"Six hours behind time, like Jack and Bill."

Well, one night on our way through Deepside Moss—
It was then our turn out with the midnight goods—
Bill had sworn at the engine till he was cross,
And was now into one of his quieter moods.

When, just as I lifted up my head
From the furnace-door, there right in front
(I had miss'd the signal standing red),
Was a mineral train that had stopp'd to shunt.

I shut off the steam, and I shook up Bill—
"For God's sake look out"—when with one wild roar,
And a crash that is making my ears ring still,
We pitch'd into the train, and I knew no more.

When I came to myself I was down the bank,
Half-a-yard from my head lay a waggon wheel,
With its axle twisted and bent like a crank,
But no hurt was upon me that I could feel.

Then I heard coming downward the sound of speech,
And struggling up to the top, I found
That engine and tender lay piled upon each,
With a fencework of waggons and vans around.

"What a smash!" said the guard, and I ask'd "Where's Bill?"
He turn'd, and the light of his lamp was cast
On a form at my feet, lying stiff and still:
Bill had got rid of his engine at last.

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