The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 17/The Alley; an Imitation of Spencer




IN ev'ry town where Thamis rolls his tide,
A narrow pass there is, with houses low;
Where ever and anon the stream is eyed,
And many a boat soft sliding to and fro:
There oft are heard the notes of infant woe.
The short thick sob, loud scream, and shriller squall:
How can ye, mothers, vex your children so?
Some play, some eat, some cack against the wall,
And, as they crouchen low, for bread and butter call.


And on the broken pavement here and there
Doth many a stinking sprat and herring lie;
A brandy and tobacco shop is near,
And hens, and dogs, and hogs, are feeding by:
And here a sailor's jacket hangs to dry;
At every door are sunburnt matrons seen,
Mending old nets to catch the scaly fry;
Now singing shrill, and scolding oft between;
Scolds answer foulmouth'd scolds; bad neighbourhood, I ween.


The snappish cur (the passenger's annoy)
Close at my heel with yelping treble flies;
The whimpering girl and hoarser screaming boy
Join to the yelping treble shrilling cries;
The scolding quean to louder notes doth rise,
And her full pipes those shrilling cries confound;
To her full pipes the grunting hog replies;
The grunting hogs alarm the neighbours round,
And curs, girls, boys, and scolds, in the deep base are drown'd.


Hard by a sty, beneath a roof of thatch,
Dwelt Obloquy, who in her early days
Baskets of fish at Billingsgate did watch,
Cod, whiting, oyster, mackrel, sprat, or plaice:
There learn'd she speech from tongues that never cease.
Slander, beside her, like a magpie chatters,
With Envy (spitting cat) dread foe to peace;
Like a curs'd cur, Malice before her clatters,
And, vexing ev'ry wight, tears clothes and all to tatters.


Her dugs were mark'd by ev'ry collier's hand,
Her mouth was black as bulldog's at the stall:
She scratched, bit, and spar'd ne lace ne band;
And bitch and rogue her answer was to all;
Nay, e'en the parts of shame by name would call.
Whene'er she passed by a lane or nook,
Would greet the man who turn'd him to the wall,
And by his hand obscene the porter took,
Nor ever did askance like modest virgin look.


Such place hath Deptford, navy-building town;
Woolwich and Wapping, smelling strong of pitch:
Such Lambeth, envy of each band and gown;
And Twickenham such, which fairer scenes enrich,
Grots, statues, urns, and Jo—n's dog and bitch;
Ne village is without, on either side,
All up the silver Thames, or all adown;
Ne Richmond's self, from whose tall front are ey'd
Vales, spires, meandring streams, and Windsor's tow'ry pride.