Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IX. Tragedy: Humor
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IX. Tragedy: Humor.  1904.
Humorous Poems: II. Miscellaneous
Faithless Nelly Gray
Thomas Hood (1799–1845)
A Pathetic Ballad

BEN BATTLE was a soldier bold,
  And used to war’s alarms;
But a cannon-ball took off his legs,
  So he laid down his arms.
Now as they bore him off the field,        5
  Said he, “Let others shoot;
For here I leave my second leg,
  And the Forty-second Foot.”
The army-surgeons made him limbs:
  Said he, “They ’re only pegs;        10
But there ’s as wooden members quite
  As represent my legs.”
Now Ben he loved a pretty maid,—
  Her name was Nelly Gray;
So he went to pay her his devours,        15
  When he devoured his pay.
But when he called on Nelly Gray,
  She made him quite a scoff;
And when she saw his wooden legs,
  Began to take them off.        20
“O Nelly Gray! O Nelly Gray!
  Is this your love so warm?
The love that loves a scarlet coat
  Should be more uniform.”
Said she, “I loved a soldier once,        25
  For he was blithe and brave;
But I will never have a man
  With both legs in the grave.
“Before you had those timber toes
  Your love I did allow;        30
But then, you know, you stand upon
  Another footing now.”
“O Nelly Gray! O Nelly Gray!
  For all your jeering speeches,
At duty’s call I left my legs        35
  In Badajos’s breaches.”
“Why, then,” said she, “you ’ve lost the feet
  Of legs in war’s alarms,
And now you cannot wear your shoes
  Upon your feats of arms!”        40
“O false and fickle Nelly Gray!
  I know why you refuse:
Though I ’ve no feet, some other man
  Is standing in my shoes.
“I wish I ne’er had seen your face;        45
  But, now a long farewell!
For you will be my death;—alas!
  You will not be my Nell!”
Now when he went from Nelly Gray
  His heart so heavy got,        50
And life was such a burden grown,
  It made him take a knot.
So round his melancholy neck
  A rope he did intwine,
And, for his second time in life,        55
  Enlisted in the Line.
One end he tied around a beam,
  And then removed his pegs;
And as his legs were off,—of course
  He soon was off his legs.        60
And there he hung till he was dead
  As any nail in town;
For, though distress had cut him up,
  It could not cut him down.
A dozen men sat on his corpse,        65
  To find out why he died,—
And they buried Ben in four cross-roads,
  With a stake in his inside.

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