Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE THREE BLACK CROWS; SPOKEN AT THE FREE GRAMMAR SCHOOL IN MANCHESTER, by JOHN BYROM



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THE THREE BLACK CROWS; SPOKEN AT THE FREE GRAMMAR SCHOOL IN MANCHESTER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Tale!' that will raise the question, I suppose
Last Line: Something that was as black, sir, as a crow.'
Subject(s): Birds; Crows


"TALE!" That will raise the question, I suppose,
"What can the meaning be of three black crows?"
It is a London story, you must know,
And happen'd, as they say, some time ago.
The meaning of it custom would suppress
Till to the end we come: nevertheless,
Tho' it may vary from the use of old
To tell the moral ere the tale be told,
We'll give a hint for once, how to apply
The meaning first; then hang the tale thereby.

People full oft are put into a pother
For want of understanding one another;
And strange amusing stories creep about,
That come to nothing if you trace them out;
Lies of the day perhaps, or month, or year,
Which, having serv'd their purpose, disappear,
From which, meanwhile, disputes of every size,
That is to say, misunderstandings rise,
The springs of ill, from bick'ring up to battle,
From wars and tumults, down to tittle tattle.
Such, as for instance, (for we need not roam
Far off to find them, but come nearer home;)
Such as befal by sudden misdivining
On cuts, on coals, on boxes, and on signing,
Or on what now, in the affair of mills,
To us and you portends such serious ills.
To note how meanings that were never meant,
By eager giving them too rash assent,
Will fly about, just like so many crows
Of the same breed of which the story goes,—
It may, at least it should, correct a zeal
That hurts the public or the private weal.

Two honest tradesmen meeting in the strand,—
One took the other briskly by the hand;
'Hark ye,' said he, "tis an odd story this
'About the crows!' 'I don't know what it is,'
Replied his friend. 'No! I'm surpris'd at that,
'Where I come from it is the common chat.
'But you shall hear,—an odd affair indeed!
'And that it happen'd, they are all agreed.
'Not to detain you from a thing so strange,
'A gentleman that lives not far from Change,
'This week, in short, as all the alley knows,
'Taking a puke, has thrown up Three Black Crows!'

'Impossible!' 'Nay, but indeed 'tis true;
'I have it from good hands, and so may you;'
'From whose, I pray?'—So, having nam'd the man,
Straight to enquire his curious comrade ran.
'Sir, did you tell'—relating the affair,—
'Yes, Sir, I did; and if 'tis worth your care,
'Ask Mr. Such-a-one, he told it me;
'But, by the bye, 'twas Two black crows, not Three.'
Resolv'd to trace so wond'rous an event,
Whip to the third the virtuoso went.
'Sir'—and so forth—'Why, yes; the thing is fact;
'Tho' in regard to number not exact:
'It was not Two black crows, 'twas only One;
'The truth of that you may rely upon.
'The gentleman himself told me the case.'
'Where may I find him?' 'Why, in such a place.'

Away goes he, and having found him out,
'Sir, be so good as to resolve a doubt,'—
Then to his last informant he referr'd,
And begg'd to know if true what he had heard:
'Did you, Sir, throw up a black crow?'—'Not I!'
'Bless me! how people propagate a lie!
'Black crows have been thrown up, Three, Two, and One,
'And here, I find, all comes at last to none.
'Did you say nothing of a crow at all?'
'Crow! Crow! Perhaps I might, now I recal
'The matter over.' 'And pray, Sir, what was't?'
'Why, I was horrid sick, and at the last,
'I did throw up, and told my neighbour so,
'Something that was as black, Sir, as a crow.'





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