from That Barrikins: Pictures From Mayhew II, London 1850

John Seed


    it's not all men
    as has or
    I shouldn't have been
    waiting here on
    you but
    you has your
    choice I
    tell you
    sleep there on that
    shake-down or
    turn out &
    be damned

    The windows
    there sir are
    not to let the
    light in but
    to keep the
    cold out

    Of course
    they don't ask any couple
    to show their marriage lines
    no more than they do
    any lord & lady
    or one that ain't a lady
    if she's with a lord
    at any fash'nable hotel
    at Brighton I've
    done tidy well on
    slums about ladies in a
    Brighton hotel
    just by the Steyne
    werry tidy

    Whatever that's
    bad & wicked
    that any one can
    fancy could be
    done in such places
    among boys & girls
    that's never been taught
    or won't be taught better
    is done
    & night after night

    A rackety place sir
    one of the showfuls

    a dicky one a
    free-and-easy you can
    get a pint of beer
    & a punch of the head
    all for 2d.

    as for sleeping
    on a Saturday night there O

    no we
    never mention it

    Why in course sir
    if you is in a country town
    or village where there's only
    one lodging-house &
    that a bad one an
    old hand can always
    suit his-self in London you
    must get half-drunk or your
    money for your bed is
    wasted there's so much rest
    owing to you
    after a hard day &
    bugs & bad air'll
    prevent its being paid
    if you don't lay in some
    stock of beer or liquor of some sort
    to sleep on it's a duty
    you owes yourself but
    if you haven't the browns why
    then in course you
    can't pay it

    When a man's lost caste he
    may as well
    go the whole hog
    bristles & all

    & a low lodging-house
    is the entire pig

    Brighton is a town where
    there is a great many
    furnished cribs
    let to needys
    that are
    molled up


    Why sir I myself have
    slept in the top room
    of a house not far from
    Drury-lane & you
    could study the stars
    if you were so minded
    through the holes
    a fine summer's night

    & the openings in the roof
    were an advantage they
    admitted air I
    never went there again

    you may judge what thoughts
    went through a man's mind

    a man who had
    seen prosperous days
    as he lay in a place like that

    without being able to sleep

    watching the sky


John Seed's first Mayhew volume, Pictures From Mayhew, and his New and Collected Poems, are both published by Shearsman

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