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!
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:
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