Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Jolly Jack

     When fierce political debate
       Throughout the isle was storming,
     And Rads attacked the throne and state,
       And Tories the reforming,
     To calm the furious rage of each,
       And right the land demented,
     Heaven sent us Jolly Jack, to teach
      The way to be contented.

     Jack's bed was straw, 'twas warm and soft,
       His chair, a three-legged stool;
     His broken jug was emptied oft,
       Yet, somehow, always full.
     His mistress' portrait decked the wall,
       His mirror had a crack;
     Yet, gay and glad, though this was all
       His wealth, lived Jolly Jack.

     To give advice to avarice,
       Teach pride its mean condition,
     And preach good sense to dull pretence,
       Was honest Jack's high mission.
     Our simple statesman found his rule
       Of moral in the flagon,
     And held his philosophic school
       Beneath the “George and Dragon.”

     When village Solons cursed the Lords,
       And called the malt-tax sinful,
     Jack heeded not their angry words,
       But smiled and drank his skinful.
     And when men wasted health and life,
       In search of rank and riches,
     Jack marked, aloof, the paltry strife,
       And wore his threadbare breeches.

     “I enter not the church,” he said,
       “But I'll not seek to rob it;”
      So worthy Jack Joe Miller read,
       While others studied Cobbett.
     His talk it was of feast and fun;
       His guide the Almanack;
     From youth to age thus gayly run
       The life of Jolly Jack.

     And when Jack prayed, as oft he would,
       He humbly thanked his Maker;
     “I am,” said he, “O Father good!
       Nor Catholic nor Quaker:
     Give each his creed, let each proclaim
       His catalogue of curses;
     I trust in Thee, and not in them,
       In Thee, and in Thy mercies!

     “Forgive me if, midst all Thy works,
       No hint I see of damning;
     And think there's faith among the Turks,
       And hope for e'en the Brahmin.
     Harmless my mind is, and my mirth,
       And kindly is my laughter:
     I cannot see the smiling earth,
       And think there's hell hereafter.”

     Jack died; he left no legacy,
       Save that his story teaches:—
     Content to peevish poverty;
       Humility to riches.
     Ye scornful great, ye envious small,
       Come follow in his track;
     We all were happier, if we all
       Would copy JOLLY JACK.

Credit


This poem is in the public domain. 

About this Poem


From Ballads and Songs (London: Cassell and Company, 1896).

 

Author


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/jolly-jack