The night was stormy and dark,
The town was shut up in sleep:
Only those were abroad who were out on a lark,
Or those who'd no beds to keep.
I pass'd through the lonely street,
The wind did sing and blow;
I could hear the policeman's feet
Clapping to and fro.
There stood a potato-man
In the midst of all the wet;
He stood with his 'tato-can
In the lonely Hay-market.
Two gents of dismal mien,
And dank and greasy rags,
Came out of a shop for gin,
Swaggering over the flags:
Swaggering over the stones,
These shabby bucks did walk;
And I went and followed those seedy ones,
And listened to their talk.
Was I sober or awake?
Could I believe my ears?
Those dismal beggars spake
Of nothing but railroad shares.
I wondered more and more:
Says one—'Good friend of mine,
How many shares have you wrote for,
In the Diddlesex Junction line?'
'I wrote for twenty,' says Jim,
'But they wouldn't give me one;'
His comrade straight rebuked him
For the folly he had done:
'O Jim, you are unawares
Of the ways of this bad town;
I always write for five hundred shares,
And THEN they put me down.'
'And yet you got no shares,'
Says Jim, 'for all your boast;'
'I WOULD have wrote,' says Jack, 'but where
Was the penny to pay the post?'
'I lost, for I couldn't pay
That first instalment up;
But here's 'taters smoking hot—I say,
Let's stop, my boy, and sup.'
And at this simple feast
The while they did regale,
I drew each ragged capitalist
Down on my left thumbnail.
Their talk did me perplex,
All night I tumbled and tost,
And thought of railroad specs,
And how money was won and lost.
'Bless railroads everywhere,'
I said, 'and the world's advance;
Bless every railroad share
In Italy, Ireland, France;
For never a beggar need now despair,
And every rogue has a chance.'
More verses by William Makepeace Thackeray
- The Three Christmas Waits
- When Moonlike Ore The Hazure Seas
- My Nora
- The Mayfair Love-Song