Patrick Regan has kindly shared the material from his Robert Buchanan site with readers of the Victorian Web, who may wish to consult the original.

As thro' the Town of Vanity I trod,
I heard one calling in the name of God,
And turning I beheld a wan-eyed wight,
Clad in a garment that had once been bright,
Who, while a few pale children gathered round,
Did plant his faded Peepshow on the ground.
Trembling the children peep'd; and lingering nigh,
E'en thus I heard the ragged Showman cry: —

                                 I.

Now first your eye will here descry
    How all the world begun:
The earth green-dight, the ocean bright,
    The moon, the stars, the sun.
All yet is dark; but you will mark,
    While round this sphere is spun,
A Hand so bare moves here and there,
    Whence rays of ruby run.
I pull a string, and everything
    Is finish'd bright and new,
Tho' dim as dream all yet doth seem;
    And this, God wot, is true.

                                 II.

Now this, you see, is Eden Tree,
    In Eden's soil set deep;
Beneath it lies with closĪd eyes
    Strong Adam, fast asleep.
All round, the scene is gold and green,
    And silver rivers creep;
Him on the grass the wild beasts pass,
    As mild and tame as sheep.
My bell I ring; I pull a string;
    And on the self-same spot,
From Adam's side God takes his Bride;
    And this is true, God wot.

                                 III.

There still doth shine the Tree Divine,
    Flush'd with a purple flame,
And hand in hand our parents stand,
    Naked, but have no shame.
Now Adam goes to take repose
    While musing sits his Dame;
When, over her, the blest boughs stir,
    To show how Satan came.
A Snake so bright, with horns of light,
    Green leaves he rustles thro',
Fair Eve descries with wondering eyes;
    And this, God wot, is true.

                                 IV.

Now pray perceive, how over Eve
    The fruits forbidden grow.
With hissing sound the Snake twines round,
    His eyes like rubies glow.
'Fair Eve,' he says (in those old days
    Snakes spoke) and louteth low,
'This fruit you see upon the Tree
    Shall make you see and know. . . .'
My bell I ring; I pull a string;
    And on the self-same spot
Fair Eve doth eat the Fruit so sweet;
    And this is true, God wot.

                                 V.

A Child.

Please, why did He who made the Tree,
    Our Father in the sky,
Let it grow there, so sweet and fair,
    To tempt our Parents' eye?

Showman.

My pretty dear, it is most clear
    He wish'd their strength to try;
And therefore sent, with wise intent,
    The Serpent swift and sly.
I pull a string, and there (poor thing!)
    Stands Adam eating too!
And now, you mark, all groweth dark;
    And this, God wot, is true.

                                 VI.

Now, you discern, a voice so stern
    Cries 'Adam, where art thou?'
'Tis God the Lord, by all adored,
    Walks there; and all things bow.
But with his Bride doth Adam hide
    His guilty, burning brow;
And of fig-leaves each sinner weaves
    A guilty apron now.
My bell I ring; I pull a string;
    And from that pleasant spot
A Sword of Flame drives man and dame;
    And this is true, God wot.

                                 VII.

Now wipe the glass. And we will pass
    To quite another scene:
In a strange land two Altars stand,
    One red, the other green;
The one of blood right sweet and good,
    The other weeds, I ween!
And there, full plain, stands frowning Cain,
    And Abel spruce and clean.
I pull a string; and every thing
    Grows dark and sad anew, —
There Abel lies with dying eyes!
    And this, God wot, is true.

                                 VIII.

The wicked Cain has Abel slain
    All with a burning brand;
And now, sad sight, an Angel bright
    Doth mark him with his hand.

A Child.

What specks so red are those that spread
    Behind them as they stand?

Showman.

The sparks you see the wild eyes be,
    Countless as grains of sand,
Of all those men who have, since then,
    Shed blood in any land!
In grief and pain they look at Cain,
    Aghast on that sad spot;
And all around blood soaks the ground;
    And this is true, God wot.

                                 IX.

My bell I ring; I pull a string:
    Now, Father Noah you mark —
Sleeping he lies, with heavy eyes,
    All full of wine, and stark.
But now, behold! that good man old
    A Voice in dream doth hark;
And the Voice cries, 'O Noah, arise!
    And build thyself an Ark.'
Again I ring; and pull a string;
    And all is water blue,
Where, floating free, the Ark you see;
    And this, God wot, is true.

                                 X.

Thus God the Lord, with his great Word,
    Did bid the waters rise,
To drown and kill all things of ill
    He made beneath the skies.
The Lord saved none, but Noah alone,
    His kith and kin likewise;
Two of each beast, both great and least;
    Two of each bird that flies.
My bell I ring; I pull a string;
    And on the self-same spot,
The water sinks, the bright Bow blinks;
    And this is true, God wot.

                                 XI.

O day and night, unto your sight
    Such wonders shown might be,
But to conclude this Peepshow good,
    You Heaven and Hell shall see:
The shining things, with spangled wings,
    Who smile and sing so free;
The crew of shame, who in hell-flame
    Complain eternallie!
My bell I ring; I pull a string;
    And you them both may view —
The blest on high, the curst who cry: —
    And this, Got wot, is true.

                                 XII.

A Child.

How can they bear, who sit up there
    In shining robes so gay,
From Heaven to peer, without a tear,
    On those who scream and pray?

Showman.

Why, those who burn had, you must learn,
    As fair a chance as they —
But Adam's fall doth doom them all
    Upon God's judgment day.
I thus conclude with moral good,
    Not soon to be forgot;
And you must own what I have shown
    Is solemn sooth, Got wot.

                                 XIII.

A Litle Boy.

O look at him, that showman grim,
    A frown is on his cheek;
Come away quick, for I am sick
    Whene'er I hear him speak!

A Girl.

Along this way, last Holy Day,
    In blessĪd Whitsun' week,
There passed a wight, so sweet and bright
    He seemed an Angel meek:
He bare, also, an old Peep-show,
    But prettier far to view,
And loud cried He 'O look and see!
    For all, God wot, is true!'

                                 XIV.

Children.

And did you peep? and did you weep
    To see the pictures wild?

Girl.

Ah nay, ah nay, I laughed, full gay,
    I looked and laughed and smiled!
For I discern'd, with bright face turned
    On mine, a little Child;
And round him, bright burn'd many a light,
    And cakes and sweets were piled;
And scents most rare fill'd all the air
    All round the heavenly spot,
While loud and wide that Showman cried —
    'This is our Lord, God wot!'

                                 XV.

First Child.

'Twas Jesus Child! so good and mild!
    He grew on Mary's breast!

Girl.

Sweet were his eyes, his look was wise,
    And his red lips were blest;
I longed, I wis, those lips to kiss,
    And by his side to rest.
This man's Peepshow is strange, I know,
    But the other was the best!
Now let us go where daisies blow,
    Sweet ferns, and speedwells blue,
And Posies make for Christ His sake,
    For He is bright and true!

                                 XVI.

Showman (solus).

Folk, I'm afraid, are changed; my trade
    Grows worse each day, I know.
How they did throng when I was young,
    To see this very Show!
My rivals pass, and lad and lass
    Follow where'er they go,
While up and down, from town to town,
        I creep, most sad and slow.
I too must try some novel cry,
    Lest I be quite forgot:
These pictures old that I unfold
    Have ceased to please, God wot!

(From Miscellaneous Poems and Ballads, 1878-83.)


Victorian Web Robert Buchanan Contents

Last modified 27 September 2002