December 01, 2004

Smugglers' Song

Each section of Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill begins and ends with a poem; I rather enjoyed one called "Smuggler's Song," which, as it's in the public domain, I shall now proceed to relate:

If you wake at Midnight, and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Five and twenty ponies
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson.
'Baccy for the Clerk;
Laces for a lady, letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Running round the woodlump, if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine,
Don't you shout to come and look, nor use 'em for your play.
Put the brushwood back again -- and they'll be gone next day!

Five and twenty ponies...........

If you see the stable door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside;
If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining's wet and warm - don't you ask no more!

Five and twenty ponies...........

If you meet King George's men, dressed in blue and red,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you "pretty maid", and chuck you 'neath the chin,
Don't you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one's been!

Five and twenty ponies...........

If you do as you've been told, 'likely there's a chance,
You'll be given a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of pretty lace, and a velvet hood -
A present from the Gentlemen, along o' being good!

Five and twenty ponies...........

Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie -
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Posted by Will Duquette at December 1, 2004 08:35 PM

Mark D. said:

Thanks for this, Will. I just finished reading Mary Oliver's wonderful Rules for the Dance : A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse, so this is a treat!

Will Duquette said:

Just after I posted this I discovered that I have a sung recording of it. A couple of years ago I got an album of songs recorded by an operatic tenor named Leonard Warren; it was a premium from KUSC, our local NPR classical station. He was quite well-known once upon a time, I gather, but died young. Anyway, this is an album of American folk songs, patriotic songs (his "Battle Hymn of the Republic" will lift you right out of your seat)--and Kipling songs. We've got "Gunga Din", and "Boots!" (I love "Boots!") and, as it happens, "The Smugglers' Song". It started playing on my iPod and I said, "Hey, wait a minute...."