The Vagabonds

By J. C. Trowbridge

We are two travelers, Roger and I
Roger’s my dog: – come here you scamp!
Jump for the gentleman, – mind your eye!
Over the table, – look out for the lamp –

The rogue is growing a little too old,
Five years we’ve tramp’d through wind and weather,
And slept outdoors when nights were cold,
And ate and drank – starved together.

We’ve learn’d what comfort is, I tell you!
A bed on the floor, a bit of rosie,
A fire to thaw our thumbs (poor fellow)!
The paw he holds up there’s been frozen;
Plenty of catgut for my fiddle,
(This outdoor business is bad for strings)
Then a few nice buckwheats hot from the griddle,
And Roger and I set up for kings.

No, thank he, sir – I never drink;
Roger and I are exceedingly more, –
Aren’t we Roger? – See him wink!
Well, something hot, then – we won’t quarrel,
He’s thirsty too – see him nod his head?
He understands every word that’s said,
And he knows good milk from water and chalk.

The truth is, sir, now I reflect,
I’ve been so sadly given to grog,
I wonder I’ve not had the respect,
(Here’s to you, sir!) even of my dog,
But he sticks by, through thick and thin,
And this old coat, with its empty pockets,
And rags that smell of tobacco and gin,
He’ll follow while he has eyes in his sockets,

There isn’t another creature living
Would do it, and prove, through every disaster,
So fond, so faithful, and so forgiving,
To such a miserable thankless master!
No, sir! – see him way his tail and grin!
By George! makes my old eyes water!
That is, there’s something in this gin
That chokes a fellow. But no matter!

We’ll have some music, if you’re willing,
And Roger (hem! what a plague a cough is sir!)
Shall march a little, – Start, you villain!
Stand straight! ‘Bout face! Salute your officer!
Put up that paw! Dress! Take your rifle!
(Since dogs have no arms, you see), Now hold
Cap, while the gentlemen give a trifle,
To aid a poor old patriot – soldier.

March! Halt! Now show how the traitor shakes,
When he stands up to hear his sentence; –
Now tell us how many drams it takes
To honor a jolly new acquaintance,
Five yelps, – that’s five: he’s mighty knowing!
The night’s before us, fill the glasses!
Quick sir! I’m ill, – my brain is going!
Some brandy, – thank you, – there! – it passes!

Why not reform? That’s easily said;
But I’ve gone through such, wretched treatment,
Sometimes forgetting the taste of bread,
And scarce remembering what meat meant,
That my poor stomach’s past reform;
And there are times when, mad with thinking,
I’d sell out Heaven for something warm
To prop a horrible inward sinking.

“Is there a way to forget to think?
At your age, sir, home, fortune, friends,
A dear girl’s love, – but I took to drink;
The same old story; you know how it ends,
If you could have seen these classic features –
You needn’t laugh, sir; they were not then
Such a burning libel on God’s creatures;
I was one of your handsome men!

If you had seen her, so fair and young,
Whose head was happy on this breast!
If you could have heard the songs I sung
When the wine went round, you wouldn’t have guess’d
That ever I, sir, should be straying
From door to door, with fiddle and dog,
Ragged and penniless, and playing
To you tonight for a glass of grog!

Flo’s married since – a parson’s wife;
‘Twas better for her that we should part –
Better the soberest, prosiest life
Then a blasted home and a broken heart.
I have seen her? Once. I was weak and spent
On the dusty road, a carriage stopp’d
But little she dream’d, as on she went,
Who kiss’d the coin that her fingers dropp’d!

You’ve set me talking, sir; I’m sorry;
Is it amusing? You find it strange?
I had a mother so proud of me!
‘Twas well she died before. – Do you know
If happy spirits in Heaven can see
The ruin and wretchedness here below?

Another glass, and strong, to deafen
This pain: then Roger and I will start.
I wonder, has he such a lumpish, leaden,
Aching thing, in place of a heart?

He is sad sometimes, and would weep, if he could,
No doubt, remembering things that were, –
A virtuous kennel, with plenty of food,
And himself a sober, respectable cur.

I’m better now; that glass was warming. –
You rascal! limber your lazy feet!
We must be fiddling and performing,
For supper and bed, or starve in the street. –
Not a very gay life to lead, you think?
But soon we shall go where lodgings are free,
And the sleepers need neither victuals nor drink; –
The sooner, the better for Roger and me!


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