Culture in the Slums

Culture in the Slums
By WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY: “Inscribed to an intense poet”.

I. Rondeau.


“O crikey, Bill!” she ses to me, she ses.
“Look sharp,” ses she, “with them there sossiges.
Yea! sharp with them there bags of mysteree! 1 sausages
For lo!” she ses, “for lo! old pal,” ses she, 2 friend
“I’m blooming peckish, neither more nor less.” 3 very hungry


Was it not prime—I leave you all to guess
How prime! to have a jude in love’s distress 4 girl
Come spooning round, and murmuring balmilee, 5 fondling; softly
      “O crikey, Bill!”


For in such rorty wise doth Love express 6 thus expressively
His blooming views, and asks for your address,
And makes it right, and does the gay and free.
I kissed her—I did so! And her and me
Was pals. And if that ain’t good business.
      O crikey, Bill!

II. Villanelle.


Now ain’t they utterly too—too? 7 nice
(She ses, my Missus mine, ses she),
Them flymy little bits of Blue. 8 _i.e._ china


Joe, just you kool ’em—nice and skew 9 look at
Upon our old meogginee,
Now ain’t they utterly too-too?


They’re better than a pot’n a screw,
They’re equal to a Sunday spree,
Them flymy little bits of Blue!


Suppose I put ’em up the flue, 10 pawn
And booze the profits, Joe? Not me. 11 drink
Now ain’t they utterly too-too ?


I do the ’Igh Art fake, I do.
Joe, I’m consummate; and I see
Them flymy little bits of Blue.


Which, Joe, is why I ses to you—
Æsthetic-like, and limp, and free—
Now ain’t they utterly too-too,
Them flymy little bits of Blue?

III. Ballade.


I often does a quiet read
At Booty Shelley’s poetry; 12 Botticelli(?)
I thinks that Swinburne at a screed
Is really almost too-too fly;
At Signor Vagna’s harmony 13 Wagner(?)
I likes a merry little flutter;
I’ve had at Pater many a shy;
In fact, my form’s the Bloomin’ Utter.


My mark’s a tidy little feed,
And ’Enery Irving’s gallery,
To see old ’Amlick do a bleed,
And Ellen Terry on the die,
Or Franky’s ghostes at hi-spy,
And parties carried on a shutter 14 The Corsican Brothers(?)
Them vulgar Coupeaus is my eye!
In fact, my form’s the Bloomin’ Utter.


The Grosvenor’s nuts—it is, indeed!
I goes for ’Olman ’Unt like pie.
It’s equal to a friendly lead 15 Notes
To see B. Jones’s judes go by.
Stanhope he makes me fit to cry,
Whistler he makes me melt like butter,
Strudwick he makes me flash my cly— 16 spend money
In fact, my form’s the Bloomin’ Utter.


I’m on for any Art that’s ’Igh!
I talks as quite as I can splutter;
I keeps a Dado on the sly;
In fact, my form’s the Blooming Utter!


William Ernest Henley, poet, critic, dramatist, and editor was born at Gloucester in 1849, and educated at the same city. In his early years (says Men of the Time) he suffered much from ill-health, and the first section of his Book of Verses (1888: 4th ed. 1893), In Hospital: Rhymes and Rhythms, was a record of experiences in the Old Infirmary, Edinburgh, in 1873-5. In 1875 he began writing for the London magazines, and in 1877 was one of the founders as well as the editor of London. In this journal much of his early verse appeared. He was afterwards appointed editor of The Magazine of Art, and in 1889 of The Scots, afterwards The National Observer. To these journals, as well as to The Athenaeum and Saturday Review he has contributed many critical articles, a selection of which was published in 1890 under the title of Views and Reviews. In collaboration with Robert Louis Stevenson he has published a volume of plays, one of which, Beau Austin, was produced at the Haymarket Theatre in 1892. His second volume of verses—The Song of the Sword—marks a new departure in style. He has edited a fine collection of verses, Lyra Heroica, and, with Mr. Charles Whibley, an anthology of English prose. In 1893 Mr. Henley received the honour of an L.L.D. degree of St. Andrew’s university. At the present time he is also editing The New Review, a series of Tudor Translations, a new Byron, a new Burns, and collaborating with Mr. J. S. Farmer in Slang and its Analogues; an historical dictionary of slang.

Taken from Musa Pedestris, Three Centuries of Canting Songs and Slang Rhymes [1536―1896], collected and annotated by John S. Farmer.

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. . .
The Cadger’s Ball
Dear Bill, This Stone-Jug
The Leary Man
A Hundred Stretches Hence
The Chickaleary Cove
Blooming Æsthetic
’Arry at a Political Picnic
Rum Coves that Relieve us
Villon’s Good-Night
Villon’s Straight Tip To All Cross Coves
Culture in the Slums
A Plank-Bed Ballad
The Rondeau of the Knock
The Rhyme of the Rusher
Wot Cher!
Our Little Nipper
The Coster’s Serenade