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THE OLD BALLAD
SMERCHANT once upon a time, who had great store of
Among his household placed a youth sore pinch'd by want and cold;
No father or no mother watch'd with love o'er this poor boy,
Whose dearest treasure was a Cat, his pet and only joy,
That came to him beseechingly when death was at the door,
And kindly to relieve her wants he shared his little store.
A grateful Cat! no mice might live where she put up to dwell,
And Whittington could calmly sleep, while Puss watched o'er his
That once o'erran with vermin so, no rest had he by night,
Placed in this garret vile to please a cruel woman's spite.
The Baldwin Library
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Alice advises him to send his Cat.
Now on the Thames a gallant ship lay ready to set sail,
When spoke the Merchant, "Ho! prepare to catch the favoring
And each who will his fortune try, haste, get your goods on board,
The gains ye all shall share with me, whatever they may afford;
From distant lands where precious musks and jewels rare are
What joy to waft across the seas their spoils to English ground!"
So hasted then each one on board, with what he best could find,
Before the ship for Afric's land flew swiftly with the wind.
The little boy he was so poor, no goods had he to try,
And as he stood and saw the ship, a tear bedimm'd his eye,
To think how Fortune smiled on all except on his sad lot-
As if he were by gracious Heaven neglected and forgot!
The Merchant and his daughter too, fair Alice, mark'd his grief,
And with a gentle woman's heart, intent on kind relief,
She bade him bring his Cat to try her fortune o'er the sea;
"Who knows," she said, what she may catch in gratitude to
"With weeping and with sore lament he brought poor Puss on board;
And now the ship stood out for sea, with England's produce
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And as she sped far out of sight, his heart was like to break;
His friend had gone that shared his crust, far sweeter for her sake.
Humble his lot the Merchant knew, but knew not that the Cook
With blows and cuffs the boy assailed, and surly word and look;
Until his life a burden seemed, too grievous to be borne,
Though Alice oft would pity him, so lowly and forlorn.
Now musing long, the thought arose his plight could scarce be
And forth he rush'd into the fields, regardless of his course.
The cutting winds blew bleak and cold upon his shiv'ring breast,
His naked feet were pierced with thorns, on every side distressed;
He sank, o'erpowered with grief and pain, upon a wayside stone,
Bethinking there to end his days, with none to make him moan:
And calling upon God for aid in this last hour of need-
On God, who never yet refused to hear the wretched plead.
And now the bells sound loud and clear, as thus he lay forlorn,
Seeming to say, "0 Whittington, thou foolish boy, return!
Lord Mayor of London thou shalt be, Dick Whittington, if thou
Wilt turn again, and meet thy lot with bold and manly brow."*
The six bells of Bow Church rung, and seemed to say to him:
"Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London;
Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London."
The Return of the Ship.
Up sprang the boy to hear such sounds, so cheerful and so
He felt no more the piercing winds, the thorns beneath his feet,
But raising up his eyes to Heaven, he prayed for strength to
Whatever in His wisdom God might please to make him share.
And now his steps retracing fast, good news he quickly hears,
How that a richly-laden ship, amid ten thousand cheers,
Had entered port from distant climes full freighted with their
By traffic gained for English wares in honest barter sold.
With shout and song the crew rejoiced--not less the folk on
Told of adventures strange and rare among the blackamoor;
And how their King was glad to see our English sailors bold,
Who sat and ate and drank with him from cups of purest gold.
Once on a day, amid their cheer, when health went gaily round,
How were the crew amazed to see, in swarms upon the ground,
Unnumber'd rats and mice rush forth and seize the goodly
While stood the wondering guests aloof, overwhelmed with dread
Cat at Banquet Killing Rats.
"Oh!" said the King, "what sums I'd give to rid me of these
Detested rats, whose ravages our bed and board defile!"
Now hearing this, the sailors straight bethought them of the
And said, "0 King, we'll quickly rid your palace of each rat."
"Indeed!" the King delighted said; "go fetch her, quick as
For such a treasure, many a year, I've long and vainly sought;
And should she prove as ye have said, your ship shall loaded be
With gold in heaps, so rich a prize I deem your Cat to be."
And now the Cat did soon perform such feats as ne'er were
Oh, how the scampering, mangled rats amused the King and
Rich treasures now for Whittington were sent on board the ship,
That, laden with a golden freight, did let her cables slip,
And stood for England, while the breeze a fav'ring impulse
As if for sake of Whittington both ship and breeze were sent.
And soon again the bells rang forth a loud and merry strain,
For wealth and honours crowded now on Whittington amain:
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With gentle Alice for his bride, he stands before the priest,
And after holy rites and vows comes next the wedding feast.
The poor were feasted well, I ween, upon that happy day,
And never from his door did go the poor, uncheer'd away.
"Lord Mayor of London" spoke the bells-they spoke both well
And still the stone is pointed out unto the traveller's view,
Where Whittington, in prayer to God, cast all his fears aside,
And rose and braced him for the strife, whatever might betide.
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