A Smugglers’ Song, by Rudyard Kipling (1906)

      Here’s a poem my mother used to read to me when I was growing up – she’ll still read it to me, actually, if I ask her nicely! In my mind, Kipling is mainly associated with India, Mowgli, and the Just So stories, so I tend to forget that it was him who wrote this vignette of very English life. It ties in so beautifully with Flame-Coloured Taffeta that I cannot resist posting it here. Its jaunty rhythm and smugglers’ cant always brings a smile to my face!

_______________

 

If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet,
Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Five-and-twenty ponies, trotting through the dark—
Brandy for the Parson, ‘baccy for the Clerk.
Laces for a lady, letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Running round the woodlump if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine;
Don’t you shout to come and look, nor use ’em for your play;
Put the brushwood back again — and they’ll be gone next day!

If you see the stable-door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside;
If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining’s wet and warm — don’t you ask no more!

If you meet King George’s men, dressed in blue and red,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you “pretty maid”, and chuck you ‘neath the chin,
Don’t you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one’s been!

Knocks and footsteps round the house — whistles after dark —
You’ve no call for running out until the house-dogs bark.
Trusty’s here, and Pincher’s here, and see how dumb they lie —
They don’t fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by!

If you do as you’ve been told, likely there’s a chance
You’ll be given a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood —
A present from the Gentlemen, along o’ being good!

Five-and-twenty ponies, trotting through the dark —
Brandy for the Parson, ‘baccy for the Clerk.
Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie —
So watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

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About Miss Darcy's Library

I love books - buying books, reading books, discussing books, and generally admiring them from all angles (except the e-book). I also love tea, roses, and my dogs, and seldom pass up an opportunity to slip them into the conversation.
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