Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOURS, by JAMES SMITH (1775-1839)



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NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOURS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: My wife and I live, comme il faut
Last Line: Their neighbours' faults and failings.
Subject(s): London; Marriage; Neighbors; Peace; Weddings; Husbands; Wives


MY wife and I live, comme il faut,
At number Six in Crosby-row:
So few our household labors,
We quickly turn from joints and pies,
To use two tongues and twice two eyes
To meliorate our neighbours.

My eye-glass, thanks to Dolland's skill,
Sweeps up the lane to Mears's Mill,
While, latticed in her chamber,
My wife peeps through her window-pane,
To note who ramble round the lane,
And who the foot-stile clamber.

This morn the zig-zag man of meat
Trotted, tray-balanced, up the street --
We saw him halt at Sydney's:
My wife asserts he left lamb there;
But I myself can all but swear
'Twas mutton-chops and kidneys.

The man who goes about with urns
Is beckoned in by Betty Burns:
The poor girl knows no better:
But Mrs. Burns should have more sense;
That broken tray is mere pretence --
He brings the girl a letter.

Whether she goes up street for milk,
Or brings home sugar, pins, or silk,
That silly wench for ever
Draws up, pretending at the stile
To rest herself, while all the while
She waits for Captain Trevor.

The Captain, when he sees me, turns,
Seems not to notice Betty Burns,
And round the pond betakes him,
Behind the stables of the Bear,
To get the back way in; but there
My wife's back window rakes him.

There go the Freaks again -- but hark!
I hear the gate-bell ring -- 'tis Bark,
The glib apothecary,
Who in his mortar pounds the fame
Of every rumor-wounded dame,
From Moll to Lady Mary.

"Well, Mr. Bark," -- "I've found her out."
"Who is she?" -- "Not his wife." -- "No doubt."
"'Twas told me by his brother."
"Which brother? Archibald?" -- "No, Fred.,
An old connexion." -- "So I said."
"The woman's --" "What?" -- "His mother."

"Who are the comers next to Blake's?"
"At number Four?" -- "Yes." -- "No great shakes:
Sad junketings and wastings.
I've seen them play in 'Days of Yore,'
He acted Hastings in Jane Shore,
And she Jane Shore in Hastings."

"Pray, Mr. Bark, what party drove
That dark-brown chariot to the Grove?"
"The Perry's, Ma'am, wet Quakers.
He married Mrs. Hartley Grant,
Whose father's uncle's mother's aunt
Lived cook at Lady Dacre's."

But Sunday is the time, of course,
When Gossip's congregated force
Pours from our central chapel:
Then hints and anecdotes increase,
And in the Mansion-house of Peace
Dark Discord drops her apple.

Ope but a casement, turn a lock,
The whole row feels the electric shock,
Springs tilt, their blinds up throwing.
And every ear and every eye
Darts to one centre, to descry
Who's coming or who's going.

Thus occupied, in Crosby-row,
We covet not the Grange or Stowe;
Pent in by walls and palings,
Their lordly tenants can't, like us,
Drop in at tea-time to discuss
Their neighbours' faults and failings.





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