The night was stormy and dark, The town was shut up in sleep: Only those were abroad who were out on a lark, Or those who'd no beds to keep. I pass'd through the lonely street, The wind did sing and blow; I could hear the policeman's feet Clapping to and fro. There stood a potato-man In the midst of all the wet; He stood with his 'tato-can In the lonely Hay-market. Two gents of dismal mien, And dank and greasy rags, Came out of a shop for gin, Swaggering over the flags: Swaggering over the stones, These shabby bucks did walk; And I went and followed those seedy ones, And listened to their talk. Was I sober or awake? Could I believe my ears? Those dismal beggars spake Of nothing but railroad shares. I wondered more and more: Says one—"Good friend of mine, How many shares have you wrote for, In the Diddlesex Junction line?" "I wrote for twenty," says Jim, "But they wouldn't give me one;" His comrade straight rebuked him For the folly he had done: "O Jim, you are unawares Of the ways of this bad town; I always write for five hundred shares, And THEN they put me down." "And yet you got no shares," Says Jim, "for all your boast;" "I WOULD have wrote," says Jack, "but where Was the penny to pay the post?" "I lost, for I couldn't pay That first instalment up; But here's 'taters smoking hot—I say, Let's stop, my boy, and sup." And at this simple feast The while they did regale, I drew each ragged capitalist Down on my left thumbnail. Their talk did me perplex, All night I tumbled and tost, And thought of railroad specs, And how money was won and lost. "Bless railroads everywhere," I said, "and the world's advance; Bless every railroad share In Italy, Ireland, France; For never a beggar need now despair, And every rogue has a chance."
This poem is in the public domain.