L'Allegro: a Parody.

Morning Chronicle (8 November 1794).


A lively parody of Milton's L'Allegro, not signed. In this poem Milton's original is given an urban turn as the poet narrates a tour of London, east and west, low-life and high life. For the castle passage at the center of Milton's poem, there is a poet's humble dwelling: "Grub-street garrets now it sees, | To the Muse open — and the breeze; | Where, perhaps, some Scribbler hungers— | The hack of neighbouring newsmongers." "Dibdin" is the elder Charles Dibdin (1745-1814); "Shuter" is the the comedian Edward Shuter (1728?-1776), who among other roles played Falstaff at Covent Garden.

Off, blubb'ring Melancholy!
Of the blue Devils and Book-learning born,
In dusty schools forlorn,
Amongst black gowns, square caps, and books unjolly,
Hunt out some College cell,
Where muzzing quizzes utter monkish schemes—
And the old Proctor dreams:
There, in thy smutty walls, o'er-run with dock,
As ragged as thy smock,
With rusty, fusty fellows ever dwell.

But come, thou baggage fat and free,
By Gentles called Festivity,
And by us, Rolling-kiddies — Fun,
Whom Mother Shipton, one by one,
With two Wapping wenches more,
To skipping Harlequin bore,
Or whether, as some deeper say,
Jack Pudding, on a holiday,
Along with Jenny Diver romping,
As he met her once a pumping,
There, on heaps of dirt, and mortar—
And cinders wash'd in cabbage-water,
Fill'd her with thee — a strapping lassie,
So spunky, brazen, bold, and saucy.

Hip! — here, Jade! and bring with thee
Jokes and snigg'ling jollity,
Christmas gambols, waggish tricks,
Winks, wry faces, licks, and kicks,
Such as fall from Moggy's knuckles,
And love to live about her buckles;
Spunk, that hobbling Watchmen boxes,
And Horse-laugh hugging both his Doxies;
Come, and kick it as you go—
On the stumping hornpipe toe;
And in thy right-hand haul with thee
The MOUNTAIN brim — French Liberty;
And, if I give thee puffing due,
Fun, admit me of thy crew—
To pig with her, and pig with thee,
In everlasting frolicks free;
To hear the Sweep begin his beat,
And, squalling, startle the dull street,
From his watchbox in the alley
'Till the Watch, at six, doth sally,
Then to go, in spite of sleep,
And at the window cry — "Sweep; sweep!"
Thro' the street-door, or the airy—
Or, in the Country, thro' the dairy;
While the Dustman, with his din,
Bawls and rings to be let in;
And, at the fore, or at the back-door,
Slowly plods his jades before,
Oft hearing the Sow-gelder's horn
Harshly rouse the snoring Morn,
From the side of some large square,
Thro' the long street grunting far.

Sometimes walking I'll be seen
By Tow'r-hill, or Moorfields green,
Right against old Bedlam-gate,
Where the mock King begins his state—
Crown'd with straw and rob'd with rags,
Cover'd o'er with jags and tags,
While the Keeper, near at hand,
Bullies those that leave their stand;
And Milkmaids' screams go thro' your ears,
And Grinders sharpen rusty sheers,
And ev'ry crier squalls his cry
Under each window he goes by.

Straight mine eye hath caught new gambols,
While round and round this town it rambles:
Sloppy streets and foggy day,
Where the bland'ring folks do stray;
Pavements, on whose greasy flags
Sweating Coachmen flog their nags;
Barbers jostled 'gainst your side,
Narrow streets and gutters wide.

Grub-street garrets now it sees,
To the Muse open — and the breeze;
Where, perhaps, some Scribbler hungers—
The hack of neighbouring newsmongers.
Hard by a Tinker's furnace smokes,
From betwixt two pastry-cooks,
Where Dingy Dick and Peggy, met,
Are at their scurvy dinner set—
Of cow-heel and such cellar messes,
Which the splay-footed Rachel dresses;
And then with haste her mate she leaves,
And, with the boy, the bellows heaves;
Or, if 'tis late, and shop be shut,
Scrubs, at the pump, her face from smut.

Sometimes, all for sights agog,
To t' other end of town I jog,
When St. James's bells ring round,
And the Royal fiddles sound;
When ev'ry Lord and Lady's bum
Jigs it in the Drawing-room,
And young and old dance down the tune,
In honour of — the fourth of June;
'Till candles fail, and eyes are sore—
Then hie we home to talk it o'er,
With stories told of many a treat—
How Lady Swab the sweetmeats eat!
She was pinch'd — and something worse,
And she was fobb'd, and lost her purse!
Tell how the drudging — sweat,
To bake his custards duly set,
When in one night, e'er clock went seven,
His 'Prentice-lad had robb'd the oven
Of more than twenty hands had put in,
Then lies him down — the little glutton!
Stretch'd slumb'ring 'fore the fire, they tell ye,
And bakes the custards in his belly;
Then, cropsick, down the stairs he flings—
Before his Master's bell yet rings.
Thus, done the tales, to bed they creep—
By hoofs and wheels soon lull'd asleep.

But the City takes me then,
And the hums of busy men,
Where throngs of trainband Captains bold,
In time of peace, fierce meetings hold,
With stores of Stock-jobbers, whose lies
Work change of Stocks and bankruptcies;
While Bulls and Bears alike contend
To get that cash they dare not spend.

Then let Aldermen appear,
In scarlet robe and chandelier,
And City feasts and gluttony,
With balls upon the Lord Mayor's day;
Sights that young 'prentices remember
Sleeping and waking all November.

Then to the Playhouses anon,
If Quick or Bannister be on,
Or drollest Parsons, child of Drury,
Bawls out his damns with comic fury.

And ever against hum-drum cares,
Sing me some of Dibdin's airs;
Married to his own queer wit,
Such as my shaking sides may split,
In notes, with many a jolly bout,
Near Beaufort's Buildings oft roar'd out,
With wagging curls and smirks so cunning,
His rig on many a booby running,
Exposing all the ways and phizzes
Of "Wags and Oddities and Quizzes;"
That Shuter's self might heave his head
From drunken snoozes, on a bed
Of pot-house benches sprawl'd, and hear,
Such laughing songs as won the ear
Of all the town, his slip to cover,
Whene'er he met 'em half seas over.

Freaks like these if thou canst give,
Fun with thee I wish to live.