The Poetical Works of Thomas Hood, by Thomas Hood

A Fairy Tale.

On Hounslow Heath — and close beside the road,

As western travellers may oft have seen —

A little house some years ago there stood,

A minikin abode;

And built like Mr. Birkbeck’s, all of wood:

The walls of white, the window-shutters green —

Four wheels it had at North, South, East, and West

(Though now at rest),

On which it used to wander to and fro,

Because its master ne’er maintained a rider,

Like those who trade in Paternoster Row;

But made his business travel for itself,

Till he had made his pelf,

And then retired — if one may call it so,

Of a roadsider.

Perchance, the very race and constant riot

Of stages, long and short, which thereby ran,

Made him more relish the repose and quiet

Of his now sedentary caravan;

Perchance, he loved the ground because ’twas common,

And so he might impale a strip of soil

That furnished, by his toil,

Some dusty greens, for him and his old woman; —

And five tall hollyhocks, in dingy flower:

Howbeit, the thoroughfare did no ways spoil

His peace — unless, in some unlucky hour,

A stray horse came, and gobbled up his bow’r!

But, tired of always looking at the coaches,

The same to come — when they had seen them one day!

And, used to brisker life, both man and wife

Began to suffer N U E’s approaches,

And feel retirement like a long wet Sunday —

So, having had some quarters of school breeding,

They turned themselves, like other folks, to reading;

But setting out where others nigh have done,

And being ripened in the seventh stage,

The childhood of old age,

Began, as other children have begun —

Not with the pastorals of Mr. Pope,

Or Bard of Hope,

Or Paley ethical, or learned Porson —

But spelt, on Sabbaths, in St. Mark, or John,

And then relax’d themselves with Whittington,

Or Valentine and Orson —

But chiefly fairy tales they loved to con,

And being easily melted in their dotage,

Slobber’d — and kept

Reading — and wept

Over the White Cat, in their wooden cottage.

Thus reading on — the longer

They read, of course, their childish faith grew stronger

In Gnomes, and Hags, and Elves, and Giants grim —

If talking Trees and Birds revealed to him,

She saw the flight of Fairyland’s fly-wagons,

And magic fishes swim

In puddle ponds, and took old crows for dragons —

Both were quite drunk from the enchanted flagons;

When as it fell upon a summer’s day,

As the old man sat a feeding

On the old babe-reading,

Beside his open street-and parlor door,

A hideous roar

Proclaimed a drove of beasts was coming by the way.

Long-horned, and short, of many a different breed,

Tall, tawny brutes, from famous Lincoln-levels

Or Durham feed;

With some of those unquiet black dwarf devils

From nether side of Tweed,

Or Firth of Forth;

Looking half wild with joy to leave the North —

With dusty hides, all mobbing on together —

When — whether from a fly’s malicious comment

Upon his tender flank, from which he shrank;

Or whether

Only in some enthusiastic moment —

However, one brown monster, in a frisk,

Giving his tail a perpendicular whisk,

Kicked out a passage through the beastly rabble;

And after a pas seul — or, if you will, a

Horn-pipe before the basket-maker’s villa,

Leapt o’er the tiny pale —

Backed his beefsteaks against the wooden gable,

And thrust his brawny bell-rope of a tail

Right o’er the page,

Wherein the sage

Just then was spelling some romantic fable.

The old man, half a scholar, half a dunce,

Could not peruse — who could? — two tales at once;

And being huffed

At what he knew was none of Riquet’s Tuft;

Banged-to the door,

But most unluckily enclosed a morsel

Of the intruding tail, and all the tassel:—

The monster gave a roar,

And bolting off with speed increased by pain,

The little house became a coach once more,

And, like Macheath, “took to the road” again!

Just then, by fortune’s whimsical decree,

The ancient woman stooping with her crupper

Towards sweet home, or where sweet home should be,

Was getting up some household herbs for supper;

Thoughtful of Cinderella, in the tale,

And, quaintly wondering if magic shifts

Could o’er a common pumpkin so prevail,

To turn it to a coach; — what pretty gifts

Might come of cabbages, and curly kale;

Meanwhile she never heard her old man’s wail,

Nor turned, till home had turned a corner, quite

Gone out of sight!

At last, conceive her, rising from the ground,

Weary of sitting on her russet clothing,

And looking round

Where rest was to be found,

There was no house — no villa there — no nothing!

No house!

The change was quite amazing;

It made her senses stagger for a minute,

The riddle’s explication seemed to harden;

But soon her superannuated nous

Explain’d the horrid mystery; — and raising

Her hand to heaven, with the cabbage in it,

On which she meant to sup —

“Well! this is Fairy work! I’ll bet a farden,

Little Prince Silverwings has ketch’d me up,

And set me down in some one else’s garden!”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hood/thomas/poetical-works/poem149.html

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