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Trivia; or the Art of Walking the Streets of London: Book I.



Of the Implements for Walking the Streets,
and Signs of the Weather.

Through winter streets to steer your courses aright,
How to walk clean by day, and safe by night,
How jostling crowds, with prudence to decline,
When to assert the wall, and when resign,
I sing: thou, Trivia, goddess, aid my song,
Through spacious streets conduct thy bard along;
By thee transported, I securely stray
Where winding alleys lead the doubtful way,
The silent court, and opening square explore,
And long perplexing lanes untrod before.
To pave thy realm, and smooth the broken ways,
Earth from her womb a flinty tribute pays;
For thee, the sturdy paver thumps the ground,
Whilst every stroke his labouring lungs resound;
For thee the scavenger bids kennels glide
Within their bounds, and heaps of dirt subside,
My youthful bosom burns with thirst of fame.
From the great theme to build a glorious name,
And bind my temples with a civic crown:
But more, my country's love demands the lays,
My country's be the profit, mine the praise.
When the black youth at chosen stands rejoice,
And 'clean your shoes' resounds from every voice;
When late their miry sides stage-coaches show,
And their stiff horses through the town move slow;
When all the Mall in leafy ruin lies,
And damsels first renew their oyster-cries:
Then let the prudent walker shoes provide,
Not of the Spanish or Morocco hide;
The wooden heel may raise the dancer's bound,
And with the scallop'd top his step be crown'd:
Let firm, well-hammer'd soles protect thy feet
Through freezing snows, and rains, and soaking sleet.
Should the big last extend the shoe too wide,
Each stone will wrench the unwary step aside:
The sudden turn may stretch the swelling vein,
Thy cracking joint unhinge, or ankle sprain;
And then too short the modish shoes are worn,
You'll judge the seasons by your shooting corn.
Nor should it prove thy less important care,
To choose a proper coat for winter's wear.
Now in thy trunk thy D'oily habit fold,
The silken drugget ill can fence the cold;
The frieze's spongy nap is soak'd with rain,
And showers soon drench the camlet's cockled grain,
True Witney broad-cloth with its shag unshorn,
Unpierc'd is in the lasting tempest worn;
Be this the horseman's fence; for who would wear
Amid the town the spoils of Russia's bear!
Within the Roquelaure's clasp thy hands are pent,
Hands, that stretch'd forth invading harms prevent.
Let the loop'd Bavaroy the fop embrace,
Or his deep cloak be spatter'd o'er with lace,
That garment best the winter's rage defends,
Whose ample form without one plait depends;
By various names in various counties known,
Yet held in all the true surtout alone:
Be thine of Kersey firm, though small the cost,
Then brave unwet the rain, unchill'd the frost.
If the strong cane support thy walking hand,
Chairmen no longer shall the wall command;
Even sturdy car-men shall thy nod obey,
And rattling coaches stop to make the way;
This shall direct thy cautious tread aright,
Though not one glaring lamp enliven night.

Let beaux their canes with amber tipt produce,
Be theirs for empty show but thine for use.
In gilded chariots while they loll at east,
And lazily ensure a life's disease;
While softer chairs the tawdry load convey
To court, to White's, assemblies, or the play;
Rosy-complexion'd health thy steps attends,
And exercise thy lasting youth defends.
Imprudent men heaven's choicest gifts profane,
Thus some beneath their arm support the cane;
The dirty point oft checks the careless pace,
And miry spots the clean cravat disgrace:
O! may I never such misfortune meet,
May no such vicious walkers crowd the street,
May Providence o'ershade me with her wings,
While the bold muse experienc'd dangers sings.

Not that I wander from my native home,
And (tempting perils) foreign cities roam.
Let Paris be the theme of Gallia's muse,
Where slavery treads the street in wooden shoes
Nor do I rove in Belgia's frozen clime,
And teach the clumsy boor to skate in rhyme,
Where, if the warmer clouds in rain descend,
No wiry ways industrious steps offend,
The rushing flood from sloping pavements pours,
And blackens the canals with dirty showers.
Let others Naples' smoother streets rehearse,
And with proud Roman structures grace their verse,
Where frequent murders wake the night with groans,
And blood in purple torrents dies the stones;
Nor shall the muse through narrow Venice stray,
Where gondolas their painted oars display.
O happy streets, to rumbling wheels unknown,
No
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:56 min read
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John Gay

John Gay, a cousin of the poet John Gay, was an English philosopher, biblical scholar and Church of England clergyman. more…

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