Modern Street Ballads


Come bustle, neighbour Sprig, clap on your hat and wig,
in our Sunday clothes so gaily, let us strut up the Old Bailey,
O the devil take the rain, we may never go again,
See the shows have begun, O rare O!
Remember, Mr. Snip, to take care of Mrs. Snip,
There’s a little boy from Flanders, and that ‘ere’s Master Glanders,
Stand aside, and we’ll have a stare, O!
      How full’s the fair, Lord Mayor,
      All is flurry, hurry, skurry,
      Girls squalling, showmen bawling,
      Cats throwing, trumpets blowing,
      Rattles springing, monkeys grinning,
      Rope dancing, horses prancing,
      Sausage frying, children crying,
      Dogs of knowledge, come from College,
      Slack wire, eating fire,
      Learned pigs of pygmy size,
      Funny clowns, ups and downs,
      Round about, all out,
      What a throng, all along,
      Politi’s show, all the go,
      Just in time, that is prime,
            To enjoy all the fun of the fair, O!

      (Spoken) Vaulk up, ladies and gentlemen, here’s the vonderful birds and beastesses, just arrived from Bengal in the Vest Indies. Vhy, look marm, at this here beautiful hanimal; no less than two hundred spots on his belly, but no two alike and every vone different; it’s out of the power of any body to describe him. Well, positively, I never saw such a beautiful creature in my life. Did you, Sir? A very fine looking animal, ‘pon my soul, mem. Master Showman, how long do you suppose he measures? Vhy! fifteen feet from the snout to the tail, and only twelve feet from the tail to the snount. He lives to the advanced age of one hundred years, grows a inch and a ‘arf every hannual year, and never comes to his full growth. Stir him up with the long pole, keeper—only hear how he growls.
      Here—here—the only booth in the fair for the greatest curiosity in all the known world,—the wonderful and surprising Hottentot Venus is here, who measures three yards and three quarters round her.

      When the fair is at the full, in gallops a mad bull,
      Puts the rabble to the rout; lets all the lions out;
      Down falls Mrs. Snip, with a monkey on her hip,
      We shall all be swallowed up, I declare, O!
            Roaring boys, gilded toys,
            Lolloypps shilling hops,
            Tumble in, just begin,
            Cups and balls, wooden walls,
            Gin and bitters, apple fritters.
            Pudding nice, penny a slice;
            Shins of beef, stop thief!
            A bang up swing, just the thing,
            A dead dog, amongst the mob,
            Lost hats, squalling brats,
            Lost shoes, kangaroos,
            O, Polly, where’s Molly?
            Bow-wow, what a row
                  Is kicked up in Bartlemy fair, O!
                        (Spoken) Here, here, show ’em up here, show ’em up here. Now’s your time, Ladies and Gentlemen—only twopence each, to see that surprising Conjuror, the emperor of all conjurors, who will forfeit the enormous sum of one hundred pounds to any one who shall perform the said wonders. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am no common sleight of hand man. The common sleight of hand man, they turn the things up their sleeves, and make you believe their fingers deceive your eyes. Now, Sir, you shall draw one card, two cards, three cards, four cards, half a dozen cards: you look on the card this side, you look on the card that side, and I say blow, by the abominable-ba-be-bo-fe-jacko-crack-oh-felth-swiftly begone-quick-presto-passo-largo-mento-high-coccolorum, the card is flown. Where is it gone to? that is the question. Be so kind, Sir, as to stop that there young woman from getting out of the crowd; I suppose she has got it under her garter. Come, come, young woman, bring it forward, bring it forward, and let me hold it up, that all the company may have a squint at it.

Now the beasts with angry tooth all attack the booth,
Away affrighted run, birds and eagles of the sun,
Down tumbled trot legg’d Molly, who tips him the hue hollow,
      Poor Card is in the mud, O, rare, O.
      (Spoken) Here, here, vaulk up, ladies and gentlemen, here’s the wonderful Kangaroo, just arrived from Bottomless Bay. Here is the wonderful large baboon, that danced a padolo, and played at leap-frog with the celebrated Master Barintar. Here is the wonderful leopard-spotted tom cat, of the male species, which can as well see in the dark as without light. Here is the wonderful little marmoza monkey, just arrived from the Isle of Lilliput: hold him up to the company, master keeper. O dear me, what a little beauty, to be sure, do let me stroke the dear little creature—la! la! how prodigious tame he is. Yes, marm, he’s always very tame to the ladies.
      Ye up, guvnor, what’s the name of that large bird there, stuck up in the corner? Vat! that there vone? Oh! that’s the wonderful Sun eagle, the hotter the sun is, the higher he flies. There’s the wonderful Cow, that can’t live on dry land, and dies in the water. Billy, Billy, my boy, go and stuff a blanket in that ere hole, or the little ones vill peep for nothing. Here, here, now’s your time, ladies and gentlemen, jest a going to begin, jest a going to begin. Stand off the steps there, you boys, and make way for that gentleman with the smock frock and carbuncled nose to come down. How did you like it, Sir? Oh, it’s all dam stuff. There, there, only hear what a good character the gentleman gives it. Vaulk up, ladies and gemmen, now’s your time to see that wonderful wooden Roscius, Mr. Punch, for the small charge of vone penny. Show your tricks Mr. Punch.

<< A Sight for a Father   Georgy Barnwell >>

The End As I Know It: A Novel of Millennial Anxiety, by proprietor Kevin Shay, is now available in paperback.

Please visit for more information.