Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TOM THE PORTER, by JOHN BYROM



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TOM THE PORTER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: As tom the porter went up ludgate hill
Last Line: Took up his load and trudged into the city.
Subject(s): Fights; Indifference; London; Pity; Revolutions


As Tom the porter went up Ludgate Hill,
A swinging show'r obliged him to stand still;
So, in the right-hand passage through the gate,
He pitched his burden down, just by the grate
From whence the doleful accent sounds away,
'Pity—the poor—and hungry—debtors—pray.'
To the same garrison, from Paul's Churchyard,
An half-drowned soldier ran to mount the guard.
Now Tom, it seems, the Ludgateer and he
Were old acquaintance formerly, all three;
And as the coast was clear, by cloudy weather,
They quickly fell into discourse together.
'Twas in December, when the Highland clans
Had got to Derbyshire from Prestonpans,
And struck all London with a general panic—
But mark the force of principles Britannic.

The soldier told 'em fresh the City news,
Just piping hot from stockjobbers and Jews:
Of French fleets landing, and of Dutch neutrality;
Of jealousies at Court among the quality;
Of Swarston-Bridge, that never was pulled down;
Of all the rebels in full march to town;
And of a hundred things beside, that made
Lord May'r himself and Aldermen afraid;
Painting with many an oath the case in view,
And asked the porter—what he thought to do.

'Do?' says he gravely—'What I did before;
What I have done these thirty years and more;
Carry, as I am like to do, my pack,
Glad to maintain my belly by my back;
If that but hold, I care not; for my part,
Come as come will, 't shall never break my heart;
I don't see folks that fight about their thrones
Mind either soldiers' flesh or porters' bones;
Whoe'er gets better when the battle's fought,
Thy pay nor mine will be advanced a groat.
—But to the purpose—now we are met here,
I'll join, if 't will, for one full mug of beer.'

The soldier, touched a little with surprise
To see his friend's indifference, replies:
'What you say, Tom, I own, is very good,
But—our Religion!' (and he da—ned his blood)
'What will become of our Religion?'—'True!'
Says the jail-bird—'and of our Freedom too?
If the Pretender' (rapped he out) 'comes on,
Our Liberties and Properties are gone!'
And so the soldier and the pris'ner joined
To work up Tom into a better mind;
He staring, dumb, with wonder struck and pity,
Took up his load and trudged into the City.





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