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Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845)

The Jackaw of Rheims


              1    The Jackdaw sat on the Cardinal's chair!
              2    Bishop, and abbot, and prior were there;
              3      Many a monk, and many a friar,
              4      Many a knight, and many a squire,
              5With a great many more of lesser degree,--
              6In sooth a goodly company;
              7And they served the Lord Primate on bended knee.
              8      Never, I ween,
              9      Was a prouder seen,
            10Read of in books, or dreamt of in dreams,
            11Than the Cardinal Lord Archbishop of Rheims!

            12      In and out
            13      Through the motley rout,
            14That little Jackdaw kept hopping about;
            15      Here and there
            16      Like a dog in a fair,
            17      Over comfits and cates,
            18      And dishes and plates,
            19Cowl and cope, and rochet and pall,
            20Mitre and crosier! he hopp'd upon all!
            21      With saucy air,
            22      He perch'd on the chair
            23Where, in state, the great Lord Cardinal sat
            24In the great Lord Cardinal's great red hat;
            25      And he peer'd in the face
            26      Of his Lordship's Grace,
            27With a satisfied look, as if he would say,
            28"We two are the greatest folks here to-day!"
            29      And the priests, with awe,
            30      As such freaks they saw,
            31Said, "The Devil must be in that little Jackdaw!"

            32  The feast was over, the board was clear'd,
            33The flawns and the custards had all disappear'd,
            34And six little Singing-boys--dear little souls!
            35In nice clean faces, and nice white stoles,
            36      Came, in order due,
            37      Two by two,
            38Marching that grand refectory through!
            39A nice little boy held a golden ewer,
            40Emboss'd and fill'd with water, as pure
            41As any that flows between Rheims and Namur,
            42Which a nice little boy stood ready to catch
            43In a fine golden hand-basin made to match.
            44Two nice little boys, rather more grown,
            45Carried lavender-water, and eau de Cologne;
            46And a nice little boy had a nice cake of soap,
            47Worthy of washing the hands of the Pope.
            48      One little boy more
            49      A napkin bore,
            50Of the best white diaper, fringed with pink,
            51And a Cardinal's Hat mark'd in "permanent ink."
            52The great Lord Cardinal turns at the sight
            53Of these nice little boys dress'd all in white:
            54      From his finger he draws
            55      His costly turquoise;
            56And, not thinking at all about little Jackdaws,
            57      Deposits it straight
            58      By the side of his plate,
            59While the nice little boys on his Eminence wait;
            60Till, when nobody's dreaming of any such thing,
            61That little Jackdaw hops off with the ring!

            62      There's a cry and a shout,
            63      And a deuce of a rout,
            64And nobody seems to know what they're about,
            65But the Monks have their pockets all turn'd inside out.
            66      The Friars are kneeling,
            67      And hunting, and feeling
            68The carpet, the floor, and the walls, and the ceiling.
            69      The Cardinal drew
            70      Off each plum-colour'd shoe,
            71And left his red stockings exposed to the view;
            72      He peeps, and he feels
            73      In the toes and the heels;
            74They turn up the dishes,--they turn up the plates,--
            75They take up the poker and poke out the grates,
            76      --They turn up the rugs,
            77      They examine the mugs:--
            78      But, no!--no such thing;--
            79      They can't find THE RING!
            80And the Abbott declared that, "when nobody twigg'd it,
            81Some rascal or other had popp'd in, and prigg'd it!"

            82  The Cardinal rose with a dignified look,
            83He call'd for his candle, his bell, and his book!
            84    In holy anger, and pious grief,
            85    He solemnly cursed that rascally thief!
            86    He cursed him at board, he cursed him in bed;
            87    From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head;
            88    He cursed him in sleeping, that every night
            89    He should dream of the devil, and wake in a fright;
            90    He cursed him in eating, he cursed him in drinking,
            91    He cursed him in coughing, in sneezing, in winking;
            92    He cursed him in sitting, in standing, in lying;
            93    He cursed him in walking, in riding, in flying,
            94    He cursed him in living, he cursed him in dying!--
            95Never was heard such a terrible curse!
            96      But what gave rise
            97      To no little surprise,
            98Nobody seem'd one penny the worse!

            99      The day was gone,
          100      The night came on,
          101The Monks and the Friars they search'd till dawn;
          102      When the Sacristan saw,
          103      On crumpled claw,
          104Come limping a poor little lame Jackdaw!
          105      No longer gay,
          106      As on yesterday;
          107His feathers all seem'd to be turn'd the wrong way;--
          108His pinions droop'd--he could hardly stand,--
          109His head was as bald as the palm of your hand;
          110      His eye so dim,
          111      So wasted each limb,
          112That, heedless of grammar, they all cried, "THAT'S HIM!--
          113That's the scamp that has done this scandalous thing!
          114That's the thief that has got my Lord Cardinal's Ring!"
          115      The poor little Jackdaw,
          116      When the Monks he saw,
          117Feebly gave vent to the ghost of a caw;
          118And turn'd his bald head, as much as to say,
          119"Pray, be so good as to walk this way!"
          120      Slower and slower
          121      He limp'd on before,
          122Till they came to the back of the belfry door,
          123      Where the first thing they saw,
          124      Midst the sticks and the straw,
          125Was the Ring in the nest of that little Jackdaw!

          126  Then the great Lord Cardinal call'd for his book,
          127And off that terrible curse he took;
          128      The mute expression
          129      Served in lieu of confession,
          130And, being thus coupled with full restitution,
          131The Jackdaw got plenary absolution!
          132      --When those words were heard,
          133      That poor little bird
          134Was so changed in a moment, 'twas really absurd.
          135      He grew sleek, and fat;
          136      In addition to that,
          137A fresh crop of feathers came thick as a mat!
          138      His tail waggled more
          139      Even than before;
          140But no longer it wagg'd with an impudent air,
          141No longer he perch'd on the Cardinal's chair.
          142      He hopp'd now about
          143      With a gait devout;
          144At Matins, at Vespers, he never was out;
          145And, so far from any more pilfering deeds,
          146He always seem'd telling the Confessor's beads.
          147If any one lied,--or if any one swore,--
          148Or slumber'd in pray'r-time and happen'd to snore,
          149      That good Jackdaw
          150      Would give a great "Caw!"
          151As much as to say, "Don't do so any more!"
          152While many remark'd, as his manners they saw,
          153That they "never had known such a pious Jackdaw!"
          154      He long lived the pride
          155      Of that country side,
          156And at last in the odour of sanctity died;
          157      When, as words were too faint
          158      His merits to paint,
          159The Conclave determined to make him a Saint;
          160And on newly-made Saints and Popes, as you know,
          161It's the custom, at Rome, new names to bestow,
          162So they canonized him by the name of Jim Crow!

Notes

1] In 1840 this poem was incorporated into the first series of The Ingoldsby Legends.

50] diaper: fabric woven in a continuous repeated pattern.

80] Twigg'd: colloquial, "observed."

81] prigg'd: colloquial, "stolen."


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: "Family Stories," Bentley's Miscellany (London: R. Bentley, 1837), IV. AP 4 B38 Robarts Library
First publication date: 1837
RPO poem editor: J. D. Robins
RP edition: 2RP.2.218; RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/1/16

Form: couplets and triplets


Other poems by Richard Harris Barham