Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IX. Tragedy: Humor
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IX. Tragedy: Humor.  1904.
 
Humorous Poems: III. Parodies: Imitations
The Friend of Humanity and the Knife-Grinder
George Canning (1770–1827)
 
Friend of Humanity

NEEDY 1 knife-grinder! whither are you going?
Rough is the road; your wheel is out of order.
Bleak blows the blast;—your hat has got a hole in ’t;
          So have your breeches!
 
Weary knife-grinder! little think the proud ones,        5
Who in their coaches roll along the turnpike-
Road, what hard work ’t is crying all day,
            “Knives and
          Scissors to grind O!”
 
Tell me, knife-grinder, how came you to grind knives?        10
Did some rich man tyrannically use you?
Was it the squire? or parson of the parish?
          Or the attorney?
 
Was it the squire for killing of his game? or
Covetous parson for his tithes distraining?        15
Or roguish lawyer made you lose your little
          All in a lawsuit?
 
(Have you not read the Rights of Man, by Tom Paine?)
Drops of compassion tremble on my eyelids,
Ready to fall as soon as you have told your        20
          Pitiful story.
 
Knife-Grinder

Story! God bless you! I have none to tell, sir;
Only, last night, a-drinking at the Chequers,
This poor old hat and breeches, as you see, were
          Torn in a scuffle.        25
 
Constables came up for to take me into
Custody; they took me before the justice;
Justice Oldmixon put me into the parish
          Stocks for a vagrant.
 
I should be glad to drink your honor’s health in        30
A pot of beer, if you will give me sixpence;
But for my part, I never love to meddle
          With politics, sir.
 
Friend of Humanity

I give thee sixpence! I will see thee damned first,—
Wretch! whom no sense of wrongs can rouse to vengeance,—        35
Sordid, unfeeling, reprobate, degraded,
          Spiritless outcast!

  (Kicks the knife-grinder, overturns his wheel, and exit in a transport of republican enthusiasm and universal philanthropy.)
 
Note 1. A burlesque upon the humanitarian sentiments of Southey in his younger days, as well as of the Sapphic stanzas in which he sometimes embodied them. [back]
 
 
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