Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IX. Tragedy: Humor
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IX. Tragedy: Humor.  1904.
 
Humorous Poems: II. Miscellaneous
The Pilgrims and the Peas
John Wolcot (Peter Pindar) (1738–1819)
 
A BRACE of sinners, for no good,
  Were ordered to the Virgin Mary’s shrine,
Who at Loretto dwelt, in wax, stone, wood,
  And in a fair white wig looked wondrous fine.
Fifty long miles had those sad rogues to travel,        5
With something in their shoes much worse than gravel;
In short, their toes so gentle to amuse.
The priest had ordered peas into their shoes:
A nostrum famous in old popish times
For purifying souls that stunk of crimes:        10
    A sort of apostolic salt,
    Which popish parsons for its powers exalt,
For keeping souls of sinners sweet,
Just as our kitchen salt keeps meat.
 
The knaves set off on the same day,        15
Peas in their shoes, to go and pray;
  But very different was their speed, I wot:
One of the sinners galloped on,
Swift as a bullet from a gun;
  The other limped, as if he had been shot.        20
One saw the Virgin soon, Peccavi cried,
  Had his soul whitewashed all so clever;
Then home again he nimbly hied,
  Made fit with saints above to live forever.
 
In coming back, however, let me say,        25
He met his brother rogue about half-way,—
Hobbling, with outstretched arms and bended knees,
Cursing the souls and bodies of the peas;
His eyes in tears, his cheeks and brow in sweat,
Deep sympathizing with his groaning feet.        30
 
“How now,” the light-toed, whitewashed pilgrim broke,
    “You lazy lubber!”
“Ods curse it!” cried the other, “’t is no joke;
My feet, once hard as any rock,
  Are now as soft as blubber.        35
 
“Excuse me, Virgin Mary, that I swear,
As for Loretto, I shall not get there;
No, to the devil my sinful soul must go,
For damme if I ha’n’t lost every toe.
But, brother sinner, pray explain        40
How ’t is that you are not in pain.
  What power hath worked a wonder for your toes,
Whilst I just like a snail am crawling,
Now swearing, now on saints devoutly bawling,
  Whilst not a rascal comes to ease my woes?        45
 
“How is ’t that you can like a greyhound go,
  Merry as if that naught had happened, burn ye!”
“Why,” cried the other, grinning, “you must know,
That just before I ventured on my journey,
    To walk a little more at ease,        50
    I took the liberty to boil my peas.”
 
 
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