Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CHARADES: 6, by CHARLES STUART CALVERLEY

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

CHARADES: 6, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Sikes, housebreaker, of houndsditch
Last Line: To witness if I lie.
Subject(s): Wit & Humor

SIKES, housebreaker, of Houndsditch,
Habitually swore;
But so surpassingly profane
He never was before,
As on a night in winter,
When -- softly as he stole
In the dim light from stair to stair,
Noiseless as boys who in her lair
Seek to surprise a fat old hare --
He barked his shinbone, unaware
Encountering my whole.

As pours the Anio plainward,
When rains have swollen the dykes,
So, with such noise, poured down my first
Stirred by the shins of Sikes.
The Butler Bibulus heard it;
And straightway ceased to snore,
And sat up, like an egg on end,
While men might count a score:
Then spake he to Tigerius,
A Buttons bold was he:
"Buttons, I think there's thieves about;
Just strike a light and tumble out;
If you can't find one go without,
And see what you may see."

But now was all the household,
Almost, upon its legs,
Each treading carefully about
As if they trod on eggs.
With robe far-streaming issued
Paterfamilias forth;
And close behind him, -- stout and true
And tender as the North, --
Came Mrs. P., supporting
On her broad arm her fourth.

Betsy the nurse, who never
From largest beetle ran,
And -- conscious p'raps of pleasing caps --
The housemaids, formed the van:
And Bibulus the butler,
His calm brows slightly arched;
(No mortal wight had ere that night
Seen him with shirt unstarched;)
And Bob the shockhaired knifeboy,
Wielding two Sheffield blades,
And James Plush of the sinewy legs,
The love of lady's maids:
And charwoman and chaplain
Stood mingled in a mass,
And "Things," thought he of Houndsditch,
"Is come to a pretty pass."

Beyond all things a baby
Is to the schoolgirl dear;
Next to herself the nursemaid loves
Her dashing grenadier;
Only with life the sailor
Parts from the British flag;
While one hope lingers, the cracksman's fingers
Drop not his hard-earned swag.

But, as hares do my second
Thro' green Calabria's copses,
As females vanish at the sight
Of short-horns and of wopses;
So, dropping forks and teaspoons,
The pride of Houndsditch fled,
Dumbfoundered by the hue and cry
He'd raised up overhead.

They gave him -- did the judges --
As much as was his due.
And, Saxon, shouldst thou e'er be led
To deem this tale untrue;
Then -- any night in winter,
When the cold north wind blows,
And bairns are told to keep out cold
By tallowing the nose:
When round the fire the elders
Are gathered in a bunch,
And the girls are doing crochet,
And the boys are reading Punch: --
Go thou and look in Leech's book;
There haply shalt thou spy
A stout man on a staircase stand,
With aspect anything but bland,
And rub his right shin with his hand,
To witness if I lie.

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