The Poetical Works of Thomas Hood, by Thomas Hood

The Sweeps Complaint.

“I like to meet a sweep — such as come forth with the dawn, or somewhat earlier, with their little professional notes, sounding like the peep, peep, of a young sparrow.”

ESSAYS OF ELIA.

——“A voice cried Sweep no more!

Macbeth hath murdered sweep.”

SHAKSPEARE.

One morning, ere my usual time

I rose, about the seventh chime,

When little stunted boys that climb

Still linger in the street;

And as I walked, I saw indeed

A sample of the sooty breed,

Though he was rather run to seed,

In height above five feet.

A mongrel tint he seemed to take,

Poetic simile to make,

DAY through his MARTIN ‘gan to break,

White overcoming jet.

From side to side he crossed oblique,

Like Frenchman who has friends to seek,

And yet no English word can speak,

He walked upon the fret:

And while he sought the dingy job

His lab’ring breast appeared to throb,

And half a hiccup half a sob

Betray’d internal woe.

To cry amain he had by rote

He yearn’d, but law forbade the note,

Like Chanticleer with roupy throat,

He gaped — but not a crow!

I watched him and the glimpse I snatched

Disclosed his sorry eyelids patch’d

With red, as if the soot had catch’d

That hung about the lid;

And soon I saw the tear-drop stray,

He did not care to brush away;

Thought I, the cause he will betray —

And thus at last he did.

Well, here’s a pretty go! here’s a Gagging Act, if ever there was a gagging!

But I’m bound the members as silenced us, in doing it had plenty of magging.

They had better send us all off, they had, to the School for the Deaf and Dumb,

To unlarn us our mother tongues, and to make signs and be regularly mum.

But they can’t undo natur — as sure as ever the morning begins to peep,

Directly I open my eyes, I can’t help calling out Sweep

As natural as the sparrows among the chimbley-pots, that say Cheep!

For my own part I find my suppressed voice very uneasy,

And comparable to nothing but having your tissue stopt when you are sneezy.

Well, it’s all up with us! tho’ I suppose we mustn’t cry all up.

Here’s a precious merry Christmas, I’m blest if I can earn either bit or sup!

If crying Sweep, of mornings, is going beyond quietness’s border,

Them as pretends to be fond of silence oughtn’t to cry hear, hear, and order, order.

I wonder Mr. Sutton, as we’ve sut-on too, don’t sympathize with us

As a Speaker what don’t speak, and that’s exactly our own cus.

God help us if we don’t not cry, how are we to pursue our callings?

I’m sure we’re not half so bad as other businesses with their bawlings.

For instance, the general postmen, that at six o’clock go about ringing,

And wake up all the babbies that their mothers have just got to sleep with singing.

Greens oughtn’t to be cried no more than blacks — to do the unpartial job,

If they bring in a Sooty Bill, they ought to have brought in a Dusty Bob.

Is a dustman’s voice more sweet than ourn, when he comes a seeking arter the cinders,

Instead of a little boy like a blackbird in spring, singing merrily under your windows?

There’s the omnibus cads as plies in Cheapside, and keeps calling out Bank and City;

Let his Worship, the Mayor, decide if our call of Sweep is not just as pretty.

I can’t see why the Jews should be let go about crying Old Close thro’ their hooky noses,

And Christian laws should be ten times more hard than the old stone laws of Moses.

Why isn’t the mouths of the muffin-men compell’d to be equally shut?

Why, because Parliament members eat muffins, but they never eat no sut.

Next year there won’t be any May-day at all, we shan’t have no heart to dance,

And Jack in the Green will go in black like mourning for our mischance;

If we live as long as May, that’s to say, through the hard winter and pinching weather,

For I don’t see how we’re to earn enough to keep body and soul together.

I only wish Mr. Wilberforce, or some of them that pities the niggers,

Would take a peep down in our cellars, and look at our miserable starving figures,

A-sitting idle on our empty sacks, and all ready to eat each other,

And a brood of little ones crying for bread to a heartbreaking Father and Mother.

They havn’t a rag of clothes to mend, if their mothers had thread and needles,

But crawl naked about the cellars, poor things, like a swarm of common black beadles.

If they’d only inquired before passing the Act, and taken a few such peeps,

I don’t think that any real gentleman would have set his face against sweeps.

Climbing’s an ancient respectable art, and if History’s of any vally,

Was recommended by Queen Elizabeth to the great Sir Walter Raleigh,

When he wrote on a pane of glass how I’d climb, if the way I only knew,

And she writ beneath, if your heart’s afeard, don’t venture up the flue.

As for me I was always loyal, and respected all powers that are higher,

But how can I now say God save the King, if I ain’t to be a Cryer?

There’s London milk, that’s one of the cries, even on Sunday the law allows,

But ought black sweeps, that are human beasts, to be worser off than black cows?

Do we go calling about, when it’s church time, like the noisy Billingsgate vermin,

And disturb the parson with “All alive O!” in the middle of a funeral sermon?

But the fish won’t keep, not the mackerel won’t, is the cry of the Parliament elves,

Everything, except the sweeps I think, is to be allowed to keep themselves!

Lord help us! what’s to become of us if we mustn’t cry no more?

We shan’t do for black mutes to go a standing at a death’s door.

And we shan’t do to emigrate, no not even to the Hottentot nations,

For as time wears on, our black will wear off, and then think of our situations!

And we should not do, in lieu of black-a-moor footmen, to serve ladies of quality nimbly,

For when we were drest in our sky-blue and silver, and large frills, all clean and neat, and white silk stockings, if they pleased to desire us to sweep the hearth, we couldn’t resist the chimbley.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hood/thomas/poetical-works/poem130.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 20:51