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The Bagman's Dog: Mr. Peters's Story



Stant littore Puppies! Virgil.
 
It was a litter, a litter of five,
Four are drown'd and one left alive,
He was thought worthy alone to survive;
And the Bagman resolved upon bringing him up,
To eat of his bread, and to drink of his cup,
He was such a dear little cock-tail'd pup.
 
The Bagman taught him many a trick;
He would carry and fetch, and run after a stick,
Could well understand
The word of command,
And appear to doze
With a crust on his nose,
Till the Bagman permissively waved his hand:
Then to throw up and catch it he never would fail,
As he sat up on end, on his little cock-tail.
Never was puppy so bien instruit,
Or possess'd of such natural talent as he;
And as he grew older,
Every beholder
Agreed he grew handsomer, sleeker, and bolder.
 
Time, however, his wheels we may clog,
Wends steadily still with onward jog,
And the cock-tail'd puppy's a curly-tail'd dog!
When just at the time,
He was reaching his prime,
And all thought he'd be turning out something sublime,
One unlucky day,
How, no one could say,
Whether some soft liaison induced him to stray,
Or some kidnapping vagabond coax'd him away,
He was lost to the view
Like the morning dew;
He had been, and was not that's all that they knew;
And the Bagman storm'd, and the Bagman swore,
As never a Bagman had sworn before;
But storming or swearing but little avails,
To recover lost dogs with great curly tails.
 
In a large paved court, close by Billiter Square,
Stands a mansion old, but in thorough repair,
The only strange thing, from the general air
Of its size and appearance, is, how it got there;
In front is a short semicircular stair
Of stone steps, some half score,
Then you reach the ground floor,
With a shell-pattern'd architrave over the door.
It is spacious, and seems to be built on the plan
Of a Gentleman's house in the reign of Queen Anne;
Which is odd, for although,
As we very well know,
Under Tudors and Stuarts the City could show
Many Noblemen's seats above Bridge and below,
Yet that fashion soon after induced them to go
From St. Michael Cornhill, and St. Mary le Bow,
To St. James, and St. George, and St. Anne in Soho.
Be this as it may, at the date I assign
To my tale, that's about Seventeen Sixty Nine,
This mansion, now rather upon the decline,
Had less dignified owners, belonging in fine,
To Turner, Dry, Weipersyde, Rogers, and Pyne,
A respectable House in the Manchester line.
 
There were a score
Of Bagmen and more,
Who had travell'd full oft for the firm before;
But just at this period they wanted to send
Some person on whom they could safely depend,
A trustworthy body, half agent, half friend,
On some mercantile matter as far as Ostend;
And the person they pitch'd on, was Anthony Blogg,
A grave steady man not addicted to grog,
The Bagman, in short, who had lost this great dog.
 

 
'The Sea! the Sea! the open Sea!
That is the place where we all wish to be,
Rolling about on it merrily!'
So all sing and say,
By night and by day,
In the boudoir, the street, at the concert, and play,
In a sort of coxcombical roundelay;
You may roam through the City, transversely or straight,
From Whitechapel turnpike to Cumberland gate,
And every young Lady who thrums a guitar,
Ev'ry mustachio'd Shopman who smokes a cigar,
With affected devotion,
Promulgates his notion,
Of being a 'Rover' and 'child of the Ocean'
Whate'er their age, sex, or condition may be,
They all of them long for the 'Wide, Wide Sea!'
But, however they dote,
Only set them afloat
In any craft bigger at all than a boat,
Take them down to the Nore
And you'll see that before
The 'Wessel' they 'Woyage' in has half made her way
Between Shell-Ness Point and the pier at Herne Bay,
Let the wind meet the tide in the slightest degree,
They'll be all of them heartily sick of 'the Sea'!
 

 
I've stood in Margate, on a bridge of size
Inferior far to that described by Byron,
Where 'palaces and pris'ns on each hand rise, '
That too's a stone one, this is made of iron
And little donkey-boys your steps environ,
Each proffering for your choice his tiny hack,
Vaunting its excellence; and should you hire one,
For sixpence, will he urge, with frequent thwack,
The much-enduring beast to Buenos Ayres and back.
 
And there, on many a raw and gusty day,
I've stood and turn'd my gaze upon the pier,
And seen the crews, that did embark so gay
That self-same morn, now disembark so queer;
Then to myself I've sigh'd and said, 'Oh dear!
Who would believe yon sickly looking man's a
London Jack Tar, a Cheapside Buccaneer!'
But hold my Muse! for this terrific stanza,
Is all too stiffly grand for our Extravaganza.
 

 
'So now we'll go up, up, up,
And now we'll go down, down, down,
And now we'll go backwards and forwards,
And now we'll go roun' roun' roun'.'
I hope you've sufficient discernment to see,
Gentle Reader, that here the discarding the d,
Is a fault which you must not attribute to me;
Thus my Nurse cut it off when, 'with counterfeit glee,'
She sung, as she danced me about on her knee,
In the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and three:
All I mean to say is that the Muse is now free
From the self-imposed trammels put on by her betters,
And no longer like Filch, midst the felons and debtors
At Drury Lane, dances her hornpipe in fetters.
Resuming her track,
At once she goes back,
To our hero the Bagman Alas! and Alack!
Poor Anthony Blogg
Is as sick as a dog,
Spite of sundry unwonted potations of grog,
By the time the Dutch packet is fairly at sea,
With the sands called the Goodwin's a league on her lee.
 
And now, my good friends, I've a fine opportunity
To obfuscate you all by sea terms with impunity,
And talking of 'caulking'
And 'quarter deck walking,'
'Fore and aft,'
And 'abaft'
'Hookers,' 'barkeys,' and 'craft,'
(At which Mr. Poole has so wickedly laught,)
Of binnacles, bilboes, the boom called the spanker,
The best bower cable, the jib, and sheet anchor;
Of lower-deck guns, and of broadsides and chases,
Of taffrails and topsails, and splicing main-braces,
And 'Shiver my timbers!' and other odd phrases
Employ'd by old pilots with hard-featured faces;
Of the expletives seafaring Gentlemen use,
The allusions they make to the eyes of their crews,
How the Sailors too swear,
How they cherish their hair,
And what very long pigtails a great many wear.
But, Reader, I scorn it the fact is, I fear,
To be candid, I can't make these matters so clear
As Marryat, or Cooper, or Captain Chamier,
Or Sir E. Lytton Bulwer, who brought up the rear
Of the 'Nauticals,' just at the end of last year,
With a well written preface, to make it appear
That his play, the 'Sea-Captain,' 's by no means small beer;
There!' brought up the rear' you see there's a mistake
Which not one of the authors I've mentioned would make,
I ought to have said, that he 'sail'd in their wake.'
So I'll merely observe, as the water grew rougher
The more my poor hero continued to suffer,
Till the Sailors themselves cried in pity, 'Poor Buffer!'
 
Still rougher it grew,
And still harder it blew,
And the thunder kick'd up such a halliballoo,
That even the Skipper began to look blue;
While the crew, who were few,
Look'd very queer too,
And seem'd not to know what exactly to do,
And they who'd the charge of them wrote in the logs,
'Wind N.E. blows a hurricane, rains cats and dogs.'
In short it soon grew to a tempest as rude as
That Shakspeare describes near the 'still vext Bermudas,' [see appendix]
When the winds, in their sport,
Drove aside from its port
The King's ship, with the whole Neapolitan Court,
And swamp'd it to give 'the King's Son, Ferdinand,' a
Soft moment or two with the Lady Miranda,
While her Pa met the rest, and severely rebuked 'em
For unhandsomely doing him out of his Dukedom.
You don't want me however to paint you a Storm,
As so many have done and in colours so warm;
Lord Byron, for instance, in manner facetious,
Mr. Ainsworth more gravely, see also Lucretius,
A writer who gave me no trifling vexation
When a youngster at school on Dean Colet's foundation.
Suffice it to say
That the whole of that day,
And the next, and the next, they were scudding away
Quite out of their course,
Propelled by the force
Of those flatulent folks known in Classical story as
Aquilo, Libs, Notus, Auster, and Boreas;
Driven quite at their mercy
Twixt Guernsey and Jersey,
Till at length they came bump on the rocks and the shallows,
In West longitude, one, fifty seven, near St. Maloes;
There you'll not be surprized
That the vessel capsized,
Or that Blogg, who had made, from intestine commotions,
His specifical gravity less than the Ocean's,
Should go floating away,
Midst the surges and spray,
Like a cork in a gutter, which, swoln by a shower,
Runs down Holborn hill about nine knots an hour.
 
You've seen, I've no doubt, at Bartholomew fair,
Gentle Reader, that is if you've ever been there,
With their hands tied behind them, some two or three pair
Of boys round a bucket set up on a chair,
Skipping, and dipping
Eyes, nose, chin, and lip in,
Their faces and hair with the water all dripping,
In an anxious attempt to catch hold of a pippin,
That bobs up and down in the water whenever
They touch it, as mocking the fruitless endeavour;
Exactly as Poets say, how though they can't tell us,
Old Nick's Nonpareils play at bob with poor Tantalus.
Stay I'm not clear,
But I'm rather out here;
'Twas the water itself that slipp'd from him, I fear;
Faith, I can't recollect and I haven't Lempriere.
No matter, poor Blogg went on ducking and bobbing,
Sneezing out the salt water, and gulping and sobbing,
Just as Clarence, in Shakspeare, describes all the qualms he
Experienced while dreaming they'd drown'd him in Malmsey.
 
'O Lord, he thought, what pain it was to drown!'
And saw great fishes, with great goggling eyes
Glaring, as he was bobbing up and down,
And looking as they thought him quite a prize,
When, as he sank, and all was growing dark,
A something seized him with its jaws! A Shark?
 
No such thing, Reader: most opportunely for Blogg,
T'was a very large web-footed curly-tail'd Dog!
 

 
I'm not much of a trav'ler, and really can't boast
That I know a great deal of the Brittany coast,
But I've often heard say
That, e'en to this day,
The people of Granville, St. Maloes, and thereabout
Are a class that Society doesn't much care about,
Men who gain their subsistence by contraband dealing,
And a mode of abstraction strict people call 'stealing;'
Notwithstanding all which, they are civil of speech,
Above all to a Stranger who comes within reach;
And they were so to Blogg,
When the curly-tail'd Dog
At last dragg'd him out, high and dry on the beach.
But we all have been told
By the proverb of old,
By no means to think 'all that glitters is gold;'
And, in fact, some advance
That most people in France
Join the manners and air of a Matre de Danse,
To the morals(as Johnson of Chesterfield said)
Of an elderly Lady, in Babylon bred,
Much addicted to flirting and dressing in red.
Be this as it might,
It embarrass'd Blogg quite
To find those about him so very polite.
 
A suspicious observer perhaps might have traced
The petites soins, tender'd with so much good taste,
To the sight of an old fashion'd pocket-book, placed
In a black leather belt well secured round his waist,
And a ring set with diamonds, his finger that graced,
So brilliant, no one could have guess'd they were paste.
The group on the shore
Consisted of four;
You will wonder perhaps, there were not a few more;
But the fact is they've not, in that part of the nation,
What Malthus would term, a 'too dense population,'
Indeed the sole sign there of man's habitation
Was merely a single
Rude hut, in a dingle
That led away inland direct from the shingle,
Its sides clothed with underwood, gloomy and dark,
Some two hundred yards above high-water mark;
And thither the party,
So cordial and hearty,
Viz. an old man, his wife, and two lads make a start, he,
The Bagman, proceeding,
With equal good breeding,
To express, in indifferent French, all he feels,
The great curly-tail'd Dog keeping close to his heels.
They soon reach'd the hut, which seem'd partly in ruin,
All the way bowing, chattering, shrugging, Mon-Dieuing,
Grimacing, and what Sailors call parley-vooing.
 

 
Is it Paris or Kitchener, Reader, exhorts
You, whenever your stomach's at all out of sorts,
To try, if you find richer viands wont stop in it,
A basin of good mutton broth with a chop in it?
(Such a basin and chop as I once heard a witty one
Call, at the Garrick 'a dd Committee one,'
An expression, I own, I do not think a pretty one.)
However it's clear
That, with sound table beer,
Such a mess as I speak of is very good cheer;
Especially too
When a person's wet through,
And is hungry, and tired, and don't know what to do.
Now just such a mess of delicious hot pottage
Was smoking away when they enter'd the cottage,
And casting a truly delicious perfume
Through the whole of an ugly, old, ill-furnish'd room;
'Hot, smoking hot,'
On the fire was a pot
Well replenish'd, but really I can't say with what;
For, famed as the French always are for ragouts,
No creature can tell what they put in their stews,
Whether bull-frogs, old gloves, or old wigs, or old shoes;
Notwithstanding, when offer'd I rarely refuse,
Any more than poor Blogg did, when, seeing the reeky
Repast placed before him, scarce able to speak, he
In ecstacy mutter'd 'By Jove, Cocky-leeky!'
In an instant, as soon
As they gave him a spoon,
Every feeling and faculty bent on the gruel, he
No more blamed Fortune for treating him cruelly,
But fell tooth and nail on the soup and the bouilli.
 

 
Meanwhile that old man standing by,
Subducted his long coat tails on high,
With his back to the fire, as if to dry
A part of his dress which the watery sky
Had visited rather inclemently.
Blandly he smiled, but still he look'd sly,
And a something sinister lurk'd in his eye.
Indeed had you seen him, his maritime dress in,
You'd have own'd his appearance was not prepossessing,
He'd a 'dreadnought' coat, and heavy sabots
With thick wooden soles turn'd up at the toes,
His nether man cased in a striped quelque chose,
And a hump on his back, and a great hook'd nose,
So that nine out of ten would be led to suppose
That the person before them was Punch in plain clothes.
 
Yet still, as I told you, he smiled on all present,
And did all that lay in his power to look pleasant.
The old woman too
Made a mighty ado,
Helping her guest to a deal of the stew;
She fish'd up the meat, and she help'd him to that,
She help'd him to lean, and she help'd him to fat,
And it look'd like Hare but it might have been Cat.
The little garons too strove to express,
Their sympathy towards the 'Child of distress'
With a great deal of juvenile French politesse;
But the Bagman bluff
Continued to 'stuff'
Of the fat, and the lean, and the tender and tough,
Till they thought he would never cry 'Hold, enough!'
And the old woman's tones became far less agreeable,
Sounding like peste! and sacre! and diable!
 
I've seen an old saw which is well worth repeating,
That says,
'Goode Eatynge
Deservyth goode Drynkynge.'
You'll find it so printed by Carton or Wynkyn And a very good proverb it is to my thinking.
Blogg thought so too;
As he finished his stew,
His ear caught the sound of the word 'Morbleu!'
Pronounced by the old woman under her breath.
Now, not knowing what she could mean by 'Blue Death!'
He concieved she referr'd to a delicate brewing
Which is almost synonymous, namely 'Blue Ruin.'
So he pursed up his lip to a smile, and with glee,
In his cockneyfy'd accent, responded 'Oh, Vee!'
Which made her understand he
Was asking for brandy;
So she turn'd to the cupboard, and, having some handy,
Produced, rightly deeming he would not object to it,
An orbicular bulb with a very long neck to it;
In fact you perceive her mistake, was the same as his,
Each of them 'reasoning right from wrong premises;'
And here, by the way,
Allow me to say
Kind Reader, you sometimes permit me to stray
'Tis strange the French prove, when they take to aspersing,
So inferior to us in the science of cursing:
Kick a Frenchman down stairs,
How absurdly he swears!
And how odd 'tis to hear him, when beat to a jelly,
Roar out in a passion, 'Blue Death!' and 'Blue Belly!'
 
'To return to our sheep' from this little digression:
Blogg's features assumed a complacent expression
As he emptied his glass, and she gave him a fresh one;
Too little he heeded
How fast they succeeded.
Perhaps you or I might have done, though, as he did;
For when once Madam Fortune deals out her hard raps,
It's amazing to think
How one 'cottons' to drink!
At such times, of all things in nature, perhaps,
There's not one that's half so seducing as Schnaps.
 
Mr. Blogg, beside being uncommonly dry,
Was, like most other Bagmen, remarkably shy,
'Did not like to deny'
'Felt obliged to comply'
Every time that she ask'd him to 'wet t'other eye;'
For 'twas worthy remark that she spared not the stoup,
Though before she had seem'd so to grudge him the soup.
At length the fumes rose
To his brain; and his nose
Gave hints of a strong disposition to doze,
And a yearning to seek 'horizontal repose.'
His queer-looking host,
Who, firm at his post,
During all the long meal had continued to toast
That garment 'twere rude to
Do more than allude to,
Perceived, from his breathing and nodding, the views
Of his guest were directed to 'taking a snooze:'
So he caught up a lamp in his huge dirty paw,
With (as Blogg used to tell it) 'Mounseer, swivvy maw!'
And 'marshalled' him so
'The way he should go,'
Upstairs to an attic, large, gloomy, and low,
Without table or chair,
Or a moveable there,
Save an old-fashion'd bedstead, much out of repair,
That stood at the end most removed from the stair.
With a grain and a shrug
The host points to the rug,
Just as much as to say, 'There! I think you'll be snug!'
Puts the light on the floor,
Walks to the door,
Makes a formal Salaam, and is then seen no more;
When, just as the ear lost the sound of his tread,
To the Bagman's surprise, and, at first, to his dread,
The great curly-tail'd Dog crept from under the bed!
 
It's a very nice thing when a man's in a fright,
And thinks matters all wrong, to find matters all right;
As, for instance, when going home late-ish at night
Through a Churchyard, and seeing a thing all in white,
Which, of course, one is led to consider a Sprite,
To find that the Ghost
Is merely a post,
Or a miller, or chalky-faced donkey at most;
Or, when taking a walk as the evenings begin
To close, or, as some people call it, 'draw in,'
And some undefined form, 'looming large' through the haze,
Presents itself, right in your path, to your gaze,
Inducing a dread
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

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Richard Harris Barham

Richard Harris Barham was an English cleric of the Church of England, novelist, and humorous poet. more…

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