Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. I. Of Home: of Friendship
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume I. Of Home: of Friendship.  1904.
 
Poems of Home: I. About Children
The Lost Heir
Thomas Hood (1799–1845)
 
 “O where, and O where
Is my bonnie laddie gone?”
—OLD SONG.    

ONE day, as I was going by
That part of Holborn christened High,
I heard a loud and sudden cry
  That chilled my very blood;
And lo! from out a dirty alley,        5
Where pigs and Irish wont to rally,
I saw a crazy woman sally,
  Bedaubed with grease and mud.
She turned her East, she turned her West,
Staring like Pythoness possest,        10
With streaming hair and heaving breast,
  As one stark mad with grief.
This way and that she wildly ran,
Jostling with woman and with man,—
Her right hand held a frying-pan,        15
  The left a lump of beef.
At last her frenzy seemed to reach
A point just capable of speech,
And with a tone almost a screech,
  As wild as ocean bird’s,        20
Or female ranter moved to preach,
She gave her “sorrow words.”
“O Lord! O dear, my heart will break, I shall go stick stark staring wild!
Has ever a one seen anything about the streets like a crying lost-looking child?
Lawk help me, I don’t know where to look, or to run, if I only knew which way—        25
A Child as is lost about London streets, and especially Seven Dials, is a needle in a bottle of hay.
I am all in a quiver—get out of my sight, do, you wretch, you little Kitty M’Nab!
You promised to have half an eye to him, you know you did, you dirty deceitful young drab.
The last time as ever I see him, poor thing, was with my own blessed Motherly eyes,
Sitting as good as gold in the gutter, a playing at making little dirt-pies.        30
I wonder he left the court, where he was better off than all the other young boys,
With two bricks, an old shoe, nine oyster-shells, and a dead kitten by way of toys.
When his father comes home, and he always comes home as sure as ever the clock strikes one,
He ’ll be rampant, he will, at his child being lost; and the beef and the inguns not done!
La bless you, good folks, mind your own concerns, and don’t be making a mob in the street;        35
O Sergeant M’Farlane! you have not come across my poor little boy, have you, in your beat?
Do, good people, move on! don’t stand staring at me like a parcel of stupid stuck pigs;
Saints forbid! but he ’s p’r’aps been inviggled away up a court for the sake of his clothes by the priggs;
He ’d a very good jacket, for certain, for I bought it myself for a shilling one day in Rag Fair;
And his trousers considering not very much patched, and red plush, they was once his Father’s best pair.        40
His shirt, it ’s very lucky I ’d got washing in the tub, or that might have gone with the rest;
But he ’d got on a very good pinafore with only two slits and a burn on the breast.
He ’d a goodish sort of hat, if the crown was sewed in, and not quite so much jagged at the brim.
With one shoe on, and the other shoe is a boot, and not a fit, and you ’ll know by that if it ’s him.
Except being so well dressed, my mind would misgive, some old beggar woman, in want of an orphan,        45
Had borrowed the child to go a-begging with, but I ’d rather see him laid out in his coffin!
Do, good people, move on, such a rabble of boys! I ’ll break every bone of ’em I come near,
Go home—you ’re spilling the porter—go home—Tommy Jones, go along home with your beer.
This day is the sorrowfullest day of my life, ever since my name was Betty Morgan.
Them vile Savoyards! they lost him once before all along of following a monkey and an organ:        50
O my Billy—my head will turn right round—if he ’s got kiddynapped with them Italians.
They ’ll make him a plaster parish image boy, they will, the outlandish tatterdemalions.
Billy—where are you, Billy?—I ’m as hoarse as a crow, with screaming for ye, you young sorrow!
And sha’n’t have half a voice, no more I sha’n’t, for crying fresh herrings to-morrow.
O Billy, you ’re bursting my heart in two, and my life won’t be of no more vally,        55
If I ’m to see other folks’ darlin’s, and none of mine, playing like angels in our alley,
And what shall I do but cry out my eyes, when I looks at the old three-legged chair
As Billy used to make coach and horses of, and there a’n’t no Billy there!
I would run all the wide world over to find him, if I only knowed where to run.
Little Murphy, now I remember, was once lost for a month through stealing a penny bun,—        60
The Lord forbid of any child of mine! I think it would kill me raily,
To find my Bill holdin’ up his little innocent hand at the Old Bailey.
For though I say it as oughtn’t, yet I will say, you may search for miles and mileses
And not find one better brought up, and more pretty behaved, from one end to t’ other of St. Giles’s.
And if I called him a beauty, it ’s no lie, but only as a mother ought to speak;        65
You never set eyes on a more handsomer face, only it hasn’t been washed for a week;
As for hair, though it ’s red, it ’s the most nicest hair when I ’ve time to just show it the comb;
I ’ll owe ’em five pounds, and a blessing besides, as will bring him safe and sound home.
He ’s blue eyes, and not to be called a squint, though a little cast he ’s certainly got;
And his nose is still a good un, though the bridge is broke, by his falling on a pewter pint pot;        70
He ’s got the most elegant wide mouth in the world, and very large teeth for his age;
And quite as fit as Mrs. Murdockson’s child to play Cupid on the Drury Lane stage.
And then he has got such dear winning ways—but O, I never, never shall see him no more!
O dear! to think of losing him just after nussing him back from death’s door!
Only the very last month when the windfalls, hang ’em, was at twenty a penny!        75
And the threepence he ’d got by grottoing was spent in plums, and sixty for a child is too many.
And the Cholera man came and whitewashed us all, and, drat him! made a seize of our hog.—
It ’s no use to send the Crier to cry him about, he ’s such a blunderin’ drunken old dog;
The last time he was fetched to find a lost child he was guzzling with his bell at the Crown,
And went and cried a boy instead of a girl, for a distracted Mother and Father about Town.        80
Billy—where are you, Billy, I say? come, Billy, come home, to your best of Mothers!
I ’m scared when I think of them Cabroleys, they drive so, they ’d run over their own Sisters and Brothers.
Or maybe he ’s stole by some chimney-sweeping wretch, to stick fast in narrow flues and what not,
And be poked up behind with a picked pointed pole, when the soot has ketched, and the chimbley’s red hot.
O, I ’d give the whole wide world, if the world was mine, to clap my two longin’ eyes on his face.        85
For he ’s my darlin’ of darlin’s, and if he don’t soon come back, you ’ll see me drop stone dead on the place.
I only wish I ’d got him safe in these two Motherly arms, and wouldn’t I hug him and kiss him!
Lawk! I never knew what a precious he was—but a child don’t not feel like a child till you miss him.
Why, there he is! Punch and Judy hunting, the young wretch, it ’s that Billy as sartin as sin!
But let me get him home, with a good grip of his hair, and I ’m blest if he shall have a whole bone in his skin!”        90
 
 
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