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Short poem

George Meredith (1828-1909)

Juggling Jerry

              1Pitch here the tent, while the old horse grazes:
              2     By the old hedge-side we'll halt a stage.
              3It's nigh my last above the daisies:
              4     My next leaf'll be man's blank page.
              5Yes, my old girl! and it's no use crying:
              6     Juggler, constable, king, must bow.
              7One that outjuggles all's been spying
              8     Long to have me, and he has me now.

              9We've travelled times to this old common:
            10     Often we've hung our pots in the gorse.
            11We've had a stirring life, old woman!
            12     You, and I, and the old grey horse.
            13Races, and fairs, and royal occasions,
            14     Found us coming to their call:
            15Now they'll miss us at our stations:
            16     There's a Juggler outjuggles all!

            17Up goes the lark, as if all were jolly!
            18     Over the duck-pond the willow shakes.
            19Easy to think that grieving's folly,
            20     When the hand's firm as driven stakes!
            21Ay, when we're strong, and braced, and manful,
            22     Life's a sweet fiddle: but we're a batch
            23Born to become the Great Juggler's han'ful:
            24     Balls he shies up, and is safe to catch.

            25Here's where the lads of the village cricket:
            26     I was a lad not wide from here:
            27Couldn't I whip off the bale from the wicket?
            28     Like an old world those days appear!
            29Donkey, sheep, geese, and thatch'd ale-house--I know them!
            30     They are old friends of my halts, and seem,
            31Somehow, as if kind thanks I owe them:
            32     Juggling don't hinder the heart's esteem.

            33Juggling's no sin, for we must have victual:
            34     Nature allows us to bait for the fool.
            35Holding one's own makes us juggle no little;
            36     But, to increase it, hard juggling's the rule.
            37You that are sneering at my profession,
            38     Haven't you juggled a vast amount?
            39There's the Prime Minister, in one Session,
            40     Juggles more games than my sins'll count.

            41I've murdered insects with mock thunder:
            42     Conscience, for that, in men don't quail.
            43I've made bread from the bump of wonder:
            44     That's my business, and there's my tale.
            45Fashion and rank all praised the professor:
            46     Ay! and I've had my smile from the Queen:
            47Bravo, Jerry! she meant: God bless her!
            48     Ain't this a sermon on that scene?

            49I've studied men from my topsy-turvy
            50     Close, and, I reckon, rather true.
            51Some are fine fellows: some, right scurvy:
            52     Most, a dash between the two.
            53But it's a woman, old girl, that makes me
            54     Think more kindly of the race:
            55And it's a woman, old girl, that shakes me
            56     When the Great Juggler I must face.

            57We two were married, due and legal:
            58     Honest we've lived since we've been one.
            59Lord! I could then jump like an eagle:
            60     You danced bright as a bit o' the sun.
            61Birds in a May-bush we were! right merry!
            62     All night we kiss'd, we juggled all day.
            63Joy was the heart of Juggling Jerry!
            64     Now from his old girl he's juggled away.

            65It's past parsons to console us:
            66     No, nor no doctor fetch for me:
            67I can die without my bolus;
            68     Two of a trade, lass, never agree!
            69Parson and Doctor!--don't they love rarely
            70     Fighting the devil in other men's fields!
            71Stand up yourself and match him fairly:
            72     Then see how the rascal yields!

            73I, lass, have lived no gipsy, flaunting
            74     Finery while his poor helpmate grubs:
            75Coin I've stored, and you won't be wanting:
            76     You shan't beg from the troughs and tubs.
            77Nobly you've stuck to me, though in his kitchen
            78     Many a Marquis would hail you Cook!
            79Palaces you could have ruled and grown rich in,
            80     But your old Jerry you never forsook.

            81Hand up the chirper! ripe ale winks in it;
            82     Let's have comfort and be at peace.
            83Once a stout draught made me light as a linnet.
            84     Cheer up! the Lord must have his lease.
            85May be--for none see in that black hollow--
            86     It's just a place where we're held in pawn,
            87And, when the Great Juggler makes as to swallow,
            88     It's just the sword-trick--I ain't quite gone!

            89Yonder came smells of the gorse, so nutty,
            90     Gold-like and warm: it's the prime of May.
            91Better than mortar, brick and putty
            92     Is God's house on a blowing day.
            93Lean me more up the mound; now I feel it:
            94     All the old heath-smells! Ain't it strange?
            95There's the world laughing, as if to conceal it,
            96     But He's by us, juggling the change.

            97I mind it well, by the sea-beach lying,
            98     Once--it's long gone--when two gulls we beheld,
            99Which, as the moon got up, were flying
          100     Down a big wave that sparked and swell'd.
          101Crack, went a gun: one fell: the second
          102     Wheeled round him twice, and was off for new luck:
          103There in the dark her white wing beckon'd:--
          104     Drop me a kiss--I'm the bird dead-struck!


27] the bail: one of the cross-pieces on the wicket; Jerry evidently was a wicket-keeper when he played cricket.

81] chipper: cup that makes one cheer up.

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: Once a Week (Sept. 1859). Reprinted in George Meredith, Modern Love, and Poems of the English Roadside, with poems and ballads (London: Chapman and Hall, 1862). end M474 M63 1862 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1859
RPO poem editor: H. Kerpneck
RP edition: 3RP 3.290.
Recent editing: 2:2002/1/30

Rhyme: ababcdcd

Other poems by George Meredith