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“Work-work-work! My labor never flags;
CHARLES LAMB (1775–1834) And what are its wages? A bed of straw, A crust of bread-and rags.
CHRIST'S HOSPITAL FIVE AND That shattered roof-this naked floor- 45
THIRTY YEARS AGO
In Mr. Lamb's "Works," published a For sometimes falling there!
year or two since, I find a magnificent
eulogy on my old school, such as it “Work-work—work!
was, or now appears to him to have been, From weary chime to chime,
between the years 1782 and 1789. It Work-work-work,
happens, very oddly, that my own standAs prisoners work for crime!
ing at Christ's was nearly corresponding Band, and gusset, and seam,
with his; and, with all gratitude to him Seam, and gusset, and band,
for his enthusiasm for the cloisters, I Till the heart is sick, and the brain be
think he has contrived to bring to- (10 numbed,
55 gether whatever can be said in praise of As well as the weary hand.
them, dropping all the other side of the “Work-work-work,
argument most ingeniously. In the dull December light,
I remember L. at school; and can well And work-work-work,
recollect that he had some peculiar adWhen the weather is warm and bright- vantages, which I and others of his schoolWhile underneath the eaves
fellows had not. His friends lived in The brooding swallows cling
town, and were near at hand; and he had As if to show me their sunny backs
the privilege of going to see them, almost And twit me with the spring.
as often as he wished, through some (20
invidious distinction, which was denied “Oh! but to breathe the breath
65 to us. The present worthy sub-treasurer Of the cowslip and primrose sweet- to the Inner Temple can explain how that With the sky above my head,
happened. He had his tea and hot rolls And the grass beneath my feet;
in a morning, while we were battening For only one short hour
upon our quarter of a penny loaf-our To feel as I used to feel,
70 crug-moistened with attenuated small Before I knew the woes of want
beer, in wooden piggins, smacking of the And the walk that costs a meal.
pitched leathern jack it was poured from. “Oh! but for one short hour!
Our Monday's milk porritch, blue (30
and tasteless, and the pease soup of SaturA respite however brief! No blessèd leisure for Love or Hope,
day, coarse and choking, were enriched 75
for him with a slice of “extraordinary But only time for Grief!
bread and butter," from the hot-loaf of A little weeping would ease my heart, But in their briny bed
the Temple. The Wednesday's mess of
millet, somewhat less repugnant-(we My tears must stop, for every drop Hinders needle and thread!”
had three banyan to four meat days in the so
week)—was endeared to his palate with With fingers weary and worn,
a lump of double-refined, and a smack With eyelids heavy and red,
of ginger (to make it go down the (40 A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
more glibly) or the fragrant cinnamon. Plying her needle and thread
In lieu of our half-pickled Sundays, or Stitch! stitch! stitch!
85 quite fresh boiled beef on Thursdays In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
(strong as caro equina), with detestable And still with a voice of dolorous pitch, - marigolds floating in the pail to poison Would that its tone could reach the the broth-our scanty mutton crags on Rich!
Fridays-and rather more savory, but She sang this "Song of the Shirt!”
1 Recollections of Christ's Hospital.
grudging, portions of the same flesh, were turned out, for the live-long day, rotten-roasted or rare, on the Tuesdays upon our own hands, whether we had (the only dish which excited our appe- 150 friends to go to, or none. I remember tites, and disappointed our stomachs, in those bathing excursions to the New almost equal proportion)-he had his hot
hot River, which L. recalls with such relish, plate of roast veal, or the more tempting better, I think, than he can--for he was griskin (exotics unknown to our palates), a home-seeking lad, and did not much cooked in the paternal kitchen (a great care for such water-pastimes:—How merthing), and brought him daily by his rily we would sally forth into the (110 maid or aunt! I remember the good old fields; and strip under the first warmth of relative (in whom love forbade pride) the sun; and wanton like young dace in squatting down upon some odd stone in a the streams; getting us appetites for noon, by-nook of the cloisters, disclosing the (60 which those of us that were penniless viands (of higher regale than those cates (our scanty morning crust long since exwhich the ravens ministered to the Tish- hausted) had not the means of allayingbite); and the contending passions of L. while the catt
while the cattle, and the birds, and the at the unfolding. There was love for the fishes, were at feed about us, and we had bringer; shame for the thing brought, nothing to satisfy our cravings-the very and the manner of its bringing; sympathy beauty of the day, and the exercise (120 for those who were too many to share in of the pastime, and the sense of liberty, it; and, at top of all, hunger (eldest, setting a keener edge upon them!-How strongest of the passions!) predominant, faint and languid, finally, we would rebreaking down the stony fences of (70 turn, towards nightfall, to our desired shame, and awkwardness, and a troubling morsel, half-rejoicing, half-reluctant, that over-consciousness.
the hours of our uneasy liberty had I was a poor friendless boy. My par- expired! ents, and those who should care for me, It was worse in the days of winter, to were far away. Those few acquaintances go prowling about the streets objectless
. of theirs, which they could reckon upon shivering at cold windows of print- (130 being kind to me in the great city, after shops, to extract a little amusement; or a little forced notice, which they had the haply, as a last resort, in the hope of a grace to take of me on my first arrival | little novelty, to pay a fifty-times repeated in town, soon grew tired of my holiday (80 visit (where our individual faces should visits. They seemed to them to recur too be as well known to the warden as those often, though I thought them few enough; of his own charges) to the Lions in the and, one after another, they all failed me, Tower-to whose levée, by courtesy and I felt myself alone among six hundred immemorial, we had a prescriptive title playmates.
to admission. o the cruelty of separating a poor lad L.'s governor (so we called the pa- [140 from his early homestead! The yearnings tron who presented us to the foundation) which I used to have towards it in those lived in a manner under his paternal roof. unfledged years! How, in my dreams, Any complaint which he had to make would my native town (far in the west) (90 was sure of being attended to. This was come back, with its church, and trees, understood at Christ's, and an and faces! How I would wake weeping, effectual screen to him against the severity and in the anguish of my heart exclaim of masters, or worse tyranny of the moniupon sweet Calne in Wiltshire!
tors. The oppressions of these young To this late hour of my life, I trace im- | brutes are heart-sickening to call to recolpressions left by the recollection of thoselection. I have been called out of 1150
. ( friendless holidays. The long warm days my bed, and waked for the purpose, in of summer never return but they bring the coldest winter nights—and this not with them a gloom from the haunting once, but night after night-in my shirt, memory of those whole-day-leaves, (100 to receive the discipline of a leathern when, by some strange arrangement, we thong, with eleven other sufferers, because