Thirty Bob a Week

I couldn’t touch a stop and turn a screw,1
And set the blooming world a-work for me,2
Like such as cut their teeth—I hope, like you3
On the handle of a skeleton gold key.4
I cut mine on a leek, which I eat it every week :5
I’m a clerk at thirty bob, as you can see.6
But I don’t allow it’s luck and all a toss ;7
There’s no such thing as being starred and crossed ;8
It’s just the power of some to be a boss,9
And the bally power of others to be bossed :10
I face the music, sir ; you bet I ain’t a cur !11
Strike me lucky if I don’t believe I’m lost !12
For like a mole I journey in the dark,13
A-travelling along the underground14
From my Pillar’d Halls and broad suburban Park15
To come the daily dull official round ;16
And home again at night with my pipe all alight17
A-scheming how to count ten bob a pound.18
And it’s often very cold and very wet ;19
And my missis stitches towels for a hunks ;20
And the Pillar’d Halls is half of it to let21
Three rooms about the size of travelling trunks.22
And we cough, the wife and I, to dislocate a sigh,23
When the noisy little kids are in their bunks.24
But you’ll never hear her do a growl, or whine,25
For she’s made of flint and roses very odd ;26
And I’ve got to cut my meaning rather fine27
Or I’d blubber, for I’m made of greens and sod :28
So p’rhaps we are in hell for all that I can tell,29
And lost and damned and served up hot to God.30
I ain’t blaspheming, Mr. Silvertongue ;31
I’m saying things a bit beyond your art :32
Of all the rummy starts you ever sprung33
Thirty bob a week’s the rummiest start !34
With your science and your books and your the’ries about
Did you ever hear of looking in your heart ?36
I didn’t mean your pocket, Mr. ; no !37
I mean that having children and a wire38
With thirty bob on which to come and go39
Isn’t dancing to the tabor and the fife ;40
When it doesn’t make you drink, by Heaven, it makes you
And notice curious items about life !42
I step into my heart and there I meet43
A god-almighty devil singing small,44
Who would like to shout and whistle in the street,45
And sequelch the passers flat against the wall ;46
If the whole world was a cake he had the power to take,47
He would take it, ask for more, and eat it all.48
And I meet a sort of simpleton beside49
The kind that life is always giving beans ;50
With thirty bob a week to keep a bride51
He fell in love and married in his teens ;52
At thirty bob he stuck, but he knows it isn’t luck ;53
He knows the seas are deeper than tureens.54
And the god-almighty devil and the fool55
That meet me in the High Street on the strike,56
When I walk about my heart a-gathering wool,57
Are my good and evil angels if you like ;58
And both of them together in every kind of weather59
Ride me like a double-seated “bike.”60
That’s rough a bit and needs its meaning curled ;61
But I have a high old hot un in my mind,62
A most engrugious notion of the world63
That leaves your lightning ’r ithmetic behind :64
I give it a glance when I say “ There ain’t no chance,65
Nor nothing of the lucky-lottery kind.”66
And it’s this way that I make it out to be :67
No fathers, mothers, countries, climates—none!—68
Not Adam was responsible for me ;69
Nor society, nor systems, nary one !70
A little sleeping seed, I woke—I did indeed71
A million years before the blooming sun.72
I woke because I thought the time had come ;73
Beyond my will there was no other cause :74
And everywhere I found myself at home75
Because I chose to be the thing I was ;76
And in whatever shape, of mollusc, or of ape,77
I always went according to the laws.78
I was the love that chose my mother out ;79
I joined two lives and from the union burst ;80
My weakness and my strength without a doubt81
Are mine alone for ever from the first.82
It’s just the very same with a difference in the name83
As “Thy will be done.” You say if it you durst !84
They say it daily up and down the land85
As easy as you take a drink, it’s true ;86
But the difficultest go to understand,87
And the difficultest job a man can do,88
Is to come it brave and meek with thirty bob a week,89
And feel that that’s the proper thing for you.90
It’s a naked child against a hungry wolf ;91
It’s playing bowls upon a splitting wreck ;92
It’s walking on a string across a gulf93
With millstones fore-and-aft about your neck :94
But the thing is daily done by many and many a one. . . .95
And we fall, face forward, fighting, on the deck.96