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.

              I.

The little lame tailor
       Sat stitching and snarling —
Who in the world
       Was the tailor's darling?
To none of his kind
Was he well-inclined,
       But he doted on Jack the starling.

              II.

For the bird had a tongue,
       And of words good store,
And his cage was hung
       Just over the door.
And he saw the people,
       And heard the roar, —
Folk coming and going
       Evermore, —
And he look'd at the tailor, —
       And swore.

              III.

From a country lad
       The tailor bought him, —
His training was bad,
       For tramps had taught him;
On alehouse benches
       His cage had been,
While louts and wenches
       Made jests obscene, —
But he learn'd, no doubt,
       His oaths from fellows
Who travel about
       With kettle and bellows,
And three or four,
       The roundest by far
That ever he swore,
       Were taught by a tar.
And the tailor heard —
       'We'll be friends!' said he,
'You're a clever bird,
       And our tastes agree —
We both are old,
       And esteem life base,
The whole world cold,
       Things out of place,
And we're lonely too,
       And full of care —
So what can we do
       But swear?

              IV.

'The devil take you,
       How you mutter! —
Yet there's much to make you
       Swear and flutter.
You want the fresh air
       And the sunlight, lad,
And your prison there
       Feels dreary and sad,
And here I frown
       In a prison as dreary,
Hating the town,
       And feeling weary:
We're too confined, Jack,
       And we want to fly,
And you blame mankind, Jack,
       And so do I!
And then, again,
       By chance as it were,
We learn'd from men
       How to grumble and swear;
You let your throat
       By the scamps be guided,
And swore by rote —
       All just as I did!
And without beseeching,
       Relief is brought us —
For we turn the teaching
       On those who taught us!'

              V.

A haggard and ruffled
       Old fellow was Jack,
With a grim face muffled
       In ragged black,
And his coat was rusty
       And never neat,
And his wings were dusty
       With grime of the street,
And he sidelong peer'd,
       With eyes of soot,
And scowl'd and sneer'd, —
       And was lame of a foot!
And he long'd to go
       From whence he came; —
And the tailor, you know,
       Was just the same.

              VI.

All kinds of weather
       They felt confined,
And swore together
       At all mankind;
For their mirth was done,
       And they felt like brothers,
And the swearing of one
       Meant no more than the other's;
'Twas just a way
       They had learn'd, you see, —
Each wanted to say
       Only this — 'Woe's me!
I'm a poor old fellow,
       And I'm prison'd so,
While the sun shines mellow,
And the corn waves yellow.
       And the fresh winds blow, —
And the folk don't care
       If I live or die,
But I long for air,
       And I wish to fly!'
Yet unable to utter it,
       And too wild to bear,
They could only mutter it,
       And swear.

              VII.

Many a year
       They dwelt in the city,
In their prisons drear,
       And none felt pity,
And few were sparing
       Of censure and coldness,
To hear them swearing
       With such plain boldness;
But at last, by the Lord,
       Their noise was stopt, —
For down on his board
       The tailor dropt,
And they found him dead,
       And done with snarling,
And over his head
       Still grumbled the Starling;
But when an old Jew
       Claim'd the goods of the tailor,
And with eye askew
       Eyed the feathery railer,
And, with a frown
       At the dirt and rust,
Took the old cage down,
       In a shower of dust, —
Jack, with heart aching,
       Felt life past bearing,
And shivering, quaking,
All hope forsaking,
       Died, swearing.

(From London Poems, 1866-70)


Victorian Web Robert Buchanan Contents

Last modified 26 September 2002