Walking the Streets of London

John Gay

Through winter streets to steer your course aright,
How to walk clean by day and safe by night;
How jostling crowds with prudence to decline,
When to assert the wall and when resign,
I sing: thou, Trivia, goddess, aid my song,
Through spacious streets conduct thy bard along;
By thee transported, I securely stray
Where winding alleys lead the doubtful way;
The silent court and opening square explore,
And long perplexing lanes untrod before.
To pave thy realm, and smooth the broken ways,
Earth from her womb a flinty tribute pays:
For thee the sturdy pavior thumps the ground,
Whilst every stroke his labouring lungs resound;
For thee the scavenger bids kennels glide
Within their bounds, and heaps of dirt subside.
My youthful bosom burns with thirst of fame.
From the great theme to build a glorious name;
To tread in paths to ancient bards unknown,
And bind my temples with a civic crown:
But more my country's love demands my lays;
My country's be the profit, mine the praise!
When the black youth at chosen stands rejoice,
And "Clean your shoes!" resounds from every voice;
When late their miry sides stage-coaches show,
And their stiff horses through the town move slow;
When all the Mall in leafy ruin lies,
And damsels first renew their oyster-cries,—
Then let the prudent walker shoes provide,
Not of the Spanish or Morocco hide:
The wooden heel may raise the dancer's bound,
And with the scalloped top his step be crowned;
Let firm, well-hammered soles protect thy feet
Through freezing snows and rains and soaking sleet.
Should the big last extend the shoe too wide,
Each stone will wrench the unwary step aside;
The sudden turn may stretch the swelling vein,
Thy cracking joint unhinge or ankle sprain;
And, when too short the modish shoes are worn,
You'll judge the seasons by your shooting corn.
Nor should it prove thy less important care,
To choose a proper coat for winter's wear.
Now in thy trunk thy d'Oily habit fold,
The silken drugget ill can fence the cold;
The frieze's spongy nap is soaked with rain.
And showers soon drench the camblet's cockled grain
True Witney broadcloth, with its shag unshorn,
Unpierced is in the lasting tempest worn:
Be this the horseman's fence, for who would wear
Amid the town the spoils of Russia's bear?
"Within the roquelaure's clasp thy hands are pent,
Hands that, stretched forth, invading harms prevent.
Let the looped bavaroy the fop embrace,
Or his deep cloak bespattered o'er with lace.
That garment best the winter's rage defends.
Whose ample form without one plait depends;
By various names in various counties known,
Yet held in all the true surtout alone:
Be thine of kersey firm, though small the cost,
Then brave unwet the rain, unchilled the frost.

If the strong cane support thy walking hand,
Chairmen no longer shall the wall command:
Even sturdy carmen shall thy nod obey,
And rattling coaches stop to make thee way:
This shall direct thy cautious tread aright,
Though not one glaring lamp enliven night.
Let beaux their canes, with amber tipt, produce;
Be theirs for empty show, but thine for use.
In gilded chariots while they loll at ease,
And lazily insure a life's disease;
While softer chairs the tawdry load convey
To court, to White's assemblies, or the play,—
Rosy-complexioned Health thy steps attends,
And exercise thy lasting youth defends.
Imprudent men Heaven's choicest gifts profane;
Thus some beneath their arm support the cane;
The dirty point oft checks the careless pace,
And miry spots the clean cravat disgrace.
O, may I never such misfortune meet!
May no such vicious walkers crowd the street!
May Providence o'ershade me with her wings,
While the bold Muse experienced danger sings!