Modern Street Ballads


Some folks may talk of sense, egad!
Vot holds a lofty station;
But, tho’ a dustman, I have had
A liberal hedication.
And tho’ I never vent to school,
Like many of my betters,
A turnpike man, vot varnt no fool,
He larnt me all my letters.

They calls me Adam Bell, ’tis clear,
As Adam vos the fust man,
And by a co-in-side-ance queer,
Vy! I’m the fust of Dustmen!

At sartin schools they makes boys write,
Their Alphabets on sand, Sirs,
So I thought dust vould do as vell,
And larnt it out of hand, Sirs,
Took in the Penny Magazine,*
And Johnson’s Dictionary,
And all the Pe-ri-odi-cals,
To make me literary.

My dawning genus fust did peep,
Near Battle Bridge** ’tis plain, Sirs,
You recollect the cinder heap,
Vot stood in Gray’s Inn Lane, Sirs?***
’Twas there I studied pic-turesque,
Vile I my bread vos yearnin’,
And there inhalin’ the fresh breeze,****
I sifted out my larnin.

Then Mrs. Bell, ’twixt you and I,
Vould melt a heart of stone, Sirs,
To hear her, pussy’s wittals cry,
In such a barrow tone, Sirs.
My darters all take arter her,
In grace and figure easy,
They larns to sing, and as they’re fat,
I has ’em taught by Grizi.

Ve dines at four, and arter that,
I smokes a mild Awanna,
Or gives a lesson to the lad,
Upon the grand pianna:
Or vith the gals valk a quod-rille,
Or takes a cup of corf-fee,
Or, if I feels fatig’d or ill,
I lounges on the sophy.

Or arter dinner reads a page,
Of Valter Scott, or Byron,
Or Mr. Shikspar on the stage,
Subjects none can tire on;
At night ve toddles to the play,
But not to gallery attic,
Drury Lane’s the time o’ day,
And quite aristocratic.

I means to buy my oldest son
A commission in the Lancers,
And make my darters, every one,
Accomplished Hopra dancers.
Great sculptors all conwarse with me,
And call my taste diwine, Sirs,
King George’s statty at King’s Cross,*****
Vos built from my design, Sirs.

And, ven I’m made a Member on,
For that I means to try, Sirs,
Mr. Gully fought his way,******
And verefore shouldn’t I, Sirs.
Yes, ven I sits in Parliment,
In old Sir Steven’s College,
I means to take, ’tis my intent,
The taxes off of knowledge.

They call me Adam Bell, ’tis true,
’Cause Adam was the fust man,
I’m sure it’s very plain to you,
I’m a litterary dustman.

* The Penny Magazine was first published on March 31, 1832, and its success was such, that the Chap books vanished as if by magic, and a new and purer popular literature sprung up.
** This was the supposed site of a bloody battle between the ancient Britons and the Romans.
*** This was a small mountain of refuse, dust, and ashes, which, although unsightly, was as profitable as were the heaps of Mr. Boffin in Charles Dickens’s “Our Mutual Friend.” This mound, so it is said, once had a curious clearance. It was bought, in its entirety, and sent over to Russia, to help make bricks to rebuild Moscow; and the ground on which it stood was sold to a company for £15,000.
**** Breeze is the technical term for the sifted ashes mixed with the clay to make inferior bricks, which are “clamp” burnt, i.e. in large stacks.
***** In George IV.’s reign a statue was erected to him at Battle Bridge, and the neighbourhood renamed King’s Cross. It surmounted a Camera obscura, and this was atop of a building, which in its turn, was alternately a police station and a public-house. It was a miserable affair, only made of brick and cement, and, after cumbering the ground for a few years, it was pulled down.
****** Gully was a prize-fighter—was made one of the Royal pages at the coronation of George IV., took to the turf and kept racehorses, and was M.P. for Pontefract.

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