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Short poem

Charles Lamb (1775-1834)


              1COME, my little Robert, near -- ,
              2Fie! what filthy hands are here!
              3Who that e'er could understand
              4The rare structure of a hand,
              5With its branching fingers fine,
              6Work itself of hands divine,
              7Strong, yet delicately knit,
              8For ten thousand uses fit,
              9Overlaid with so clear skin
            10You may see the blood within,
            11And the curious palm, disposed
            12In such lines, some have supposed
            13You may read the fortunes there
            14By the figures that appear --
            15Who this hand would chuse to cover
            16With a crust of dirt all over,
            17Till it look'd in hue and shape
            18Like the fore-foot of an Ape?
            19Man or boy that works or plays
            20In the fields or the highways
            21May, without offence or hurt,
            22From the soil contract a dirt,
            23Which the next clear spring or river
            24Washes out and out for ever --
            25But to cherish stains impure,
            26Soil deliberate to endure,
            27On the skin to fix a stain
            28Till it works into the grain,
            29Argues a degenerate mind,
            30Sordid, slothful, ill inclin'd,
            31Wanting in that self-respect
            32Which does virtue best protect.

            33All-endearing Cleanliness,
            34Virtue next to Godliness,
            35Easiest, cheapest, needful'st duty,
            36To the body health and beauty;
            37Who that's human would refuse it,
            38When a little water does it?


1] Lucas attributes this poem questionably to Charles Lamb (492).

15] chuse: choose.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb, ed. E. V. Lucas, III (London: Methuen, 1903): 363-64. PR 4860 A2 1968 Robarts Library. Lucas' text made from Andrew W. Tuer's facsimiles.
First publication date: 1809
Publication date note: Poetry for Children, Entirely Original, 2 vols. (London: M. J. Godwin, 1809)
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 4:2002/2/17

Composition date: 1808 - 1809
Form: Short Couplets

Other poems by Charles Lamb