Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > England
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV.  1876–79.
 
London
Sir Richard Whittington’s Advancement
Anonymous
 
          “There is something so fabulous,” says the editor of Old Ballads, following Grafton and Stow, “or at least, that has such a romantic appearance, in the history of Whittington, that I shall not choose to relate it, but refer my credulous readers to common tradition, or to the penny histories. Certain it is there was such a man; a citizen of London, by trade a mercer, and one who has left public edifices and charitable works enow behind him to transmit his name to posterity.”

HERE must I tell the praise
  Of worthy Whittington,
Known to be in his dayes
  Thrice Maior of London.
But of poor parentage        5
  Borne was he, as we heare,
And in his tender age
  Bred up in Lancashire.
 
Poorely to London than
  Came up this simple lad,        10
Where with a marchant-man
  Soone he a dwelling had;
And in a kitchen plast,
  A scullion for to be,
Whereas long time he past        15
  In labour drudgingly.
 
His daily service was
  Turning spitts at the fire;
And to scour pots of brasse,
  For a poore scullions hire.        20
Meat and drinke all his pay,
  Of coyne he had no store;
Therefore to run away,
  In secret thought he bore.
 
So from this marchant-man,        25
  Whittington secretly
Towards his country ran,
  To purchase liberty.
But as he went along,
  In a fair summer’s morne,        30
Londons bells sweetly rung,
  “Whittington, back return!”
 
Evermore sounding so,
  “Turn againe, Whittington;
For thou in time shall grow        35
  Lord-Maior of London.”
Whereupon back againe
  Whittington came with speed,
A prentise to remaine,
  As the Lord had decreed.        40
 
“Still blessed be the bells”;
  (This was his daily song)
“They my good fortune tells,
  Most sweetly have they rung.
If God so favour me,        45
  I will not proove unkind;
London my love shall see,
  And my great bounties find.”
 
But see his happy chance!
  This scullion had a cat,        50
Which did his state advance,
  And by it wealth he gat.
His maister ventred forth,
  To a land far unknowne,
With marchandize of worth,        55
  As is in stories showne.
 
Whittington had no more
  But this poor cat as than,
Which to the ship he bore,
  Like a brave marchant-man.        60
“Vent’ring the same,” quoth he,
  “I may get store of golde,
And Maior of London be,
  As the bells have me told.”
 
Whittington’s marchandise,        65
  Carried was to a land
Troubled with rats and mice,
  As they did understand.
The king of that country there,
  As he at dinner sat,        70
Daily remain’d in fear
  Of many a mouse and rat.
 
Meat that in trenchers lay,
  No way they could keepe safe;
But by rats borne away,        75
  Fearing no wand or staff.
Whereupon, soone they brought
  Whittingtons nimble cat;
Which by the king was bought;
  Heapes of gold giv’n for that.        80
 
Home againe came these men
  With their ships loaden so,
Whittingtons wealth began
  By this cat thus to grow.
Scullions life he forsooke        85
  To be a murchant good,
And soon began to looke
  How well his credit stood.
 
After that he was chose
  Shriefe of the citty heere,        90
And then full quickly rose
  Higher, as did appeare.
For to this cities praise,
  Sir Richard Whittington
Came to be in his dayes        95
  Thrise Maior of London.
 
More his fame to advance,
  Thousands he lent his king,
To maintaine warres in France,
  Glory from thence to bring.        100
And after, at a feast
  Which he the king did make,
He burnt the bonds all in jeast,
  And would no money take.
 
Ten thousand pound he gave        105
  To his prince willingly,
And would not one penny have;
  This in kind curtesie.
God did thus make him great,
  So would he daily see        110
Poor people fed with meat,
  To shew his charity.
 
Prisoners poore cherish’d were,
  Widdowes sweet comfort found;
Good deeds both far and neere,        115
  Of him do still resound.
Whittington Colledge is
  One of his charities;
Records reporteth this
  To lasting memories.        120
 
Newgate he builded faire,
  For prisoners to live in;
Christs-Church he did repaire,
  Christian love for to win.
Many more such like deedes        125
  Were done by Whittington;
Which joy and comfort breedes,
  To such as looke thereon.
 
Lancashire, thou hast bred
  This flower of charity:        130
Though he be gon and dead
  Yet lives he lastingly.
Those bells that call’d him so,
  “Turne again, Whittington,”
Call you back many moe        135
  To live so in London.
 
 
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