The Poetical Works of Thomas Hood, by Thomas Hood

Agricultural Distress.

A Pastoral Report.

One Sunday morning — service done —

‘Mongst tombstones shining in the sun,

A knot of bumpkins stood to chat

Of that and this, and this and that;

What people said of Polly Hatch —

Which side had won the-cricket match;

And who was cotch’d, and who was bowl’d; —

How barley, beans, and ‘taters sold —

What men could swallow at a meal —

When Bumpstead Youths would ring a peal —

And who was taken off to jail —

And where they brew’d the strongest ale —

At last this question they address,

“What’s Agricultural Distress?”

Hodge.

“For my peart, it’s a thought o’ mine,

It be the fancy farming line,

Like yonder gemman — him I mean,

As took the Willa nigh the Green —

And turn’d his cattle in the wheat;

And gave his porkers hay to eat;

And sent his footman up to town,

To ax the Lonnon gentry down,

To be so kind as make his hay,

Exactly on St. Swithin’s day; —

With consequences you may guess —

That’s Hagricultural Distress.”

Dickon.

“Last Monday morning, Master Blogg

Com’d for to stick our bacon-hog;

But th’ hog he cock’d a knowing eye,

As if he twigg’d the reason why,

And dodg’d and dodg’d ’un such a dance,

He didn’t give the noose a chance;

So Master Blogg at last lays off,

And shams a rattle at the trough,

When swish! in bolts our bacon-hog

Atwixt the legs o’ Master Blogg,

And flops him down in all the muck,

As hadn’t been swept up by luck —

Now that, accordin’ to my guess,

Be Hagricultural Distress.”

Giles.

“No, that arn’t it, I tell ‘ee flat;

I’ze bring a worser case nor that!”

“Last Friday week, I takes a start

To Reading, with our horse and cart;

Well, when I’ze set the ‘taters down,

I meets a crony at the Crown;

And what betwixt the ale and Tom,

It’s dark afore I starts for home;

So whipping hard, by long and late,

At last we reaches nigh the gate,

And, sure enough, there Master stand,

A lantern flaring in his hand —

‘Why, Giles,’ says he, ‘what’s that ’un thear?

Yond’ chestnut horse bean’t my bay mear!

He bean’t not worth a leg o’ Bess!’

There’s Hagricultural Distress!”

Hob.

“That’s nothin yet, to Tom’s mishap!

A-gooing through the yard, poor chap,

Only to fetch his milking-pails,

When up he shies like head or tails;

Nor would the Bull let Tom a-be,

Till he had toss’d the best o’ three; —

And there lies Tom with broken bones,

A surgeon’s job for Doctor Jones;

Well, Doctor Jones lays down the law,

‘There’s two crackt ribs, besides a jaw —

Eat well,’ says he, ‘stuff out your case,

For that will keep the ribs in place;’

But how was Tom, poor chap, to chaw,

Seeing as how he’d broke his jaw?

That’s summut to the pint — yes, yes,

That’s Hagricultural Distress!”

Simon.

“Well, turn and turn about is fair:

Tom’s bad enough, and so’s the mare;

But nothing to my load of hay —

You see, ’twas hard on quarter-day,

And cash was wanted for the rent;

So up to Lonnon I was sent,

To sell as prime a load of hay,

As ever dried on summer’s day.

“Well, standing in Whitechapel Road,

A chap comes up to buy my load,

And looks, and looks about the cart,

Pretending to be ‘cute and smart;

But no great judge, as people say,

‘Cause why? he never smelt the hay.

Thinks I, as he’s a simple chap,

He’ll give a simple price mayhap,

Such buyers comes but now and then,

So slap I axes nine pun’ ten.

‘That’s dear,’ says he, and pretty quick

He taps his leathers with his stick.

‘Suppose,’ says he, ‘we wet our clay,

Just while we bargin ‘bout the hay.

So in we goes, my chap and me;

He drinks to I, and I to he;

At last, says I, a little gay,

‘It’s time to talk about that hay,’

‘Nine pund,’ says he, ‘and I’m your man,

Live, and let live — for that’s my plan.’

‘That’s true,’ says I, ‘but still I say,

It’s nine pun’ ten for that ’ere hay,’

And so we chaffers for a bit,

At long and last the odds we split;

And off he sets to show the way,

Where up a yard I leaves the hay.

Then, from the pocket of his coat,

He pulls a book, and picks a note.

‘That’s Ten,’ says he —‘I hope to pay

Tens upon tens for loads of hay.’

‘With all my heart, and soon,’ says I,

And feeling for the change thereby;

But all my shillings com’d to five —

Says he, ‘No matter, man alive!

There’s something in your honest phiz

I’d trust, if twice the sum it is; —

You’ll pay next time you come to town.’

‘As sure,’ says I, ‘as corn is brown.’

‘All right,’ says he. — Thinks I ‘huzza!

He’s got no bargain of the hay!’

“Well, home I goes, with empty cart,

Whipping the horses pretty smart,

And whistling ev’ry yard o’ way,

To think how well I’d sold the hay —

And just cotch’d Master at his greens

And bacon, or it might be beans,

Which didn’t taste the worse surely,

To hear his hay had gone so high.

But lord! when I laid down the note,

It stuck the victuals in his throat,

And chok’d him till his face all grew

Like pickling-cabbage, red and blue;

With such big goggle eyes, Ods nails!

They seem’d a-coming out like snails!

‘A note,’ says he, half mad with passion,

‘Why, thou dom’d fool! thou’st took a flash ’un!’

Now, wasn’t that a pretty mess?

That’s Hagricultural Distress.”

Colin.

“Phoo! phoo! You’re nothing near the thing!

You only argy in a ring;

‘Cause why? You never cares to look,

Like me, in any larned book;

But schollards know the wrong and right

Of every thing in black and white.

“Well, Farming, that’s its common name,

And Agriculture be the same:

So put your Farming first, and next

Distress, and there you have your text.

But here the question comes to press,

What farming be, and what’s distress?

Why, farming is to plough and sow,

Weed, harrow, harvest, reap, and mow,

Thrash, winnow, sell — and buy and breed

The proper stock to fat and feed.

Distress is want, and pain, and grief,

And sickness — things as wants relief;

Thirst, hunger, age, and cold severe;

In short, ax any overseer —

Well, now, the logic for to chop,

Where’s the distress about a crop?”

“There’s no distress in keeping sheep,

I likes to see ’em frisk and leap;

There’s no distress in seeing swine

Grow up to pork and bacon fine;

There’s no distress in growing wheat

And grass for men or beasts to eat;

And making of lean cattle fat,

There’s no distress, of course, in that.

Then what remains? — But one thing more,

And that’s the Farming of the Poor!”

Hodge, Dickon, Giles, Hob, and Simon.

“Yea! — aye! — surely! — for sartin! — yes! —

That’s Hagricultural Distress!”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hood/thomas/poetical-works/poem132.html

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