Faithless Sally Brown

Faithless Sally Brown

Young Ben he was a nice young man,
A carpenter by trade;
And he fell in love with Sally Brown,
That was a lady’s maid.

But as they fetch’d a walk one day,
They met a press-gang crew;
And Sally she did faint away,
Whilst Ben he was brought to.

The Boatswain swore with wicked words,
Enough to shock a saint,
That though she did seem in a fit,
‘Twas nothing but a feint.

“Come, girl,” said he, “hold up your head,
He’ll be as good as me;
For when your swain is in our boat,
A boatswain he will be.”

So when they’d made their game of her,
And taken off her elf,
She roused, and found she only was
A coming to herself.

“And is he gone, and is he gone?”
She cried, and wept outright:
“Then I will to the water side,
And see him out of sight.”

A waterman came up to her,–
“Now, young woman,” said he,
“If you weep on so, you will make
Eye-water in the sea.”

“Alas! they’ve taken my beau Ben
To sail with old Benbow;”
And her woe began to run afresh,
As if she’d said Gee woe!

Says he, “They’ve only taken him
To the Tender ship, you see”;
“The Tender-ship,” cried Sally Brown
“What a hard-ship that must be!”

“O! would I were a mermaid now,
For then I’d follow him;
But Oh!–I’m not a fish-woman,
And so I cannot swim.

“Alas! I was not born beneath
The virgin and the scales,
So I must curse my cruel stars,
And walk about in Wales.”

Now Ben had sail’d to many a place
That’s underneath the world;
But in two years the ship came home,
And all her sails were furl’d.

But when he call’d on Sally Brown,
To see how she went on,
He found she’d got another Ben,
Whose Christian-name was John.

“O Sally Brown, O Sally Brown,
How could you serve me so?
I’ve met with many a breeze before,
But never such a blow”:

Then reading on his ‘bacco box
He heaved a bitter sigh,
And then began to eye his pipe,
And then to pipe his eye.

And then he tried to sing “All’s Well,”
But could not though he tried;
His head was turn’d, and so he chew’d
His pigtail till he died.

His death, which happen’d in his berth,
At forty-odd befell:
They went and told the sexton, and
The sexton toll’d the bell.

Thomas Hood

Faithless Nelli Gray

Faithless Nelly Gray

         —-     A Pathetic Ballad

Ben Battle was a soldier bold,
And used to war’s alarms;
But a cannon-ball took off his legs,
So he laid down his arms.

Now as they bore him off the field,
Said he, ‘Let others shoot;
For here I leave my second leg,
And the Forty-second Foot.’

The army-surgeons made him limbs:
Said he, ‘They’re only pegs;
But there’s as wooden members quite,
As represent my legs.’

Now Ben he loved a pretty maid, —
Her name was Nelly Gray;
So he went to pay her his devours,
When he devoured his pay.

But when he called on Nelly Gray,
She made him quite a scoff;
And when she saw his wooden legs,
Began to take them off.

‘O Nelly Gray! O Nelly Gray!’
Is this your love so warm?
The love that loves a scarlet coat
Should be a little more uniform.

Said she, ‘ I loved a soldier once,
For he was blithe and brave;
But I will never have a man
With both legs in the grave

‘Before you had those timber toes
Your love I did allow;
But then, you know, you stand upon
Another footing now.’

‘O Nelly Gray! O Nelly Gray!
For all your jeering speeches,
At duty’s call I left my legs
In Badajos’s breaches.’

‘Why, then,’ said she, ‘you’ve lost the feet
Of legs in war’s alarms,
And now you cannot wear your shoes
Upon your feats of arms!’

‘O false and fickle Nelly Gray!
I know why you refuse:
Though I’ve no feet, some other man
Is standing in my shoes.

‘I wish I ne’er had seen your face;
But, now, a long farewell!
For you will be my death’ — alas!
You will not be my Nell!’

Now when he went from Nelly Gray
His heart so heavy got,
And life was such a burden grown,
It made him take a knot.

So round his melancholy neck
A rope he did intwine,
And, for his second time in life,
Enlisted in the Line.

One end he tied around a beam,
And then removed his pegs;
And, as his legs were off — of course
He soon was off his legs.

And there he hung till he was dead
As any nail in town;
For, though distress had cut him up,
It could not cut him down.

A dozen men sat on his corpse,
To find out why he died, —
And they buried Ben in four cross-roads
With a stake in his inside.

Thomas Hood

The Thought Fox

By Ted Hughes

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.