The "Bab" Ballads/Bob Polter
BOB POLTER was a navvy, and
His hands were coarse, and dirty too,
His homely face was rough and tanned,
His time of life was thirty-two.
He lived among a working clan
(A wife he hadn't got at all),
A decent, steady, sober man—
No saint, however—not at all.
He smoked, but in a modest way,
Because he thought he needed it;
He drank a pot of beer a day,
And sometimes he exceeded it.
At times he'd pass with other men
A loud convivial night or two,
With, very likely, now and then,
On Saturdays, a fight or two.
But still he was a sober soul,
A labour-never-shirking man,
Who paid his way—upon the whole
A decent English working-man.
One day, when at the Nelson's Head,
(For which he may be blamed of you)
A holy man appeared and said,
"Oh, Robert, I'm ashamed of you."
He laid his hand on Robert's beer
Before he could drink up any,
And on the floor, with sigh and tear,
He poured the pot of "thruppenny."
"Oh, Robert, at this very bar,
A truth you'll be discovering,
A good and evil genius are
Around your noddle hovering.
"They both are here to bid you shun
The other one's society,
For Total Abstinence is one,
The other, Inebriety."
He waved his hand—a vapour came—
A wizard, Polter reckoned him:
A bogy rose and called his name,
And with his finger beckoned him.
The monster's salient points to sum,
His heavy breath was portery;
His glowing nose suggested rum;
His eyes were gin-and-wortery.
His dress was torn—for dregs of ale
And slops of gin had rusted it;
His pimpled face was wan and pale,
Where filth had not encrusted it.
"Come, Polter," said the fiend, "begin,
And keep the bowl a-flowing on—
A working-man needs pints of gin
To keep his clockwork going on."
Bob shuddered: "Ah, you've made a miss,
If you take me for one of you—
You filthy beast, get out of this—
Bob Polter don't want none of you."
The demon gave a drunken shriek
And crept away in stealthiness,
And lo, instead, a person sleek
Who seemed to burst with healthiness.
"In me, as your adviser hints,
Of Abstinence you've got a type—
Of Mr. Tweedie's pretty prints
I am the happy prototype.
"If you abjure the social toast,
And pipes, and such frivolities,
You possibly some day may boast
My prepossessing qualities!"
Bob rubbed his eyes, and made 'em blink,
"You almost make me tremble, you!
If I abjure fermented drink,
Shall I, indeed, resemble you?
"And will my whiskers curl so tight?
My cheeks grow smug and muttony?
My face become so red and white?
My coat so blue and buttony?
"Will trousers, such as yours, array
Will chubbiness assert its sway
All over my exterior?
"In this, my unenlightened state,
To work in heavy boots I comes,
Will pumps henceforward decorate
My tiddle toddle tootsicums?
"And shall I get so plump and fresh,
And look no longer seedily?
My skin will henceforth fit my flesh
So tightly and so Tweedie-ly?"
The phantom said, "You'll have all this,
You'll know no kind of huffiness,
Your life will be one chubby bliss,
One long unruffled puffiness!"
"Be off," said irritated Bob.
"Why come you here to bother one?
You pharisaical old snob,
You're wuss almost than t'other one!
"I takes my pipe—I takes my pot,
And drunk I'm never seen to be:
I'm no teetotaller or sot,
And as I am I mean to be!"