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.
About this Poem
From Ballads and Songs (London: Cassell and Company, 1896).
William Makepeace Thackeray
William Makepeace Thackeray, born July 18, 1811, was an English writer best known for his novels, particularly The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. (The Mershon Company Publishers, 1852) and Vanity Fair (Bradbury and Evans, 1848). While in school, Thackeray began writing poems, which he published in a number of magazines, chiefly Fraser and Punch. He died on December 24, 1863.
Date Published: 2018-07-12
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/speculators