Porter's Christmas Eve, The

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One Christmas Eve - I will not say when -
Perhaps 'tis a year since, perhaps it is ten -
The wind whistled cold - it seized on your toes,
Benumbed all your fingers, and redden'd your nose,
(Which, if not often rubbed, was apt to get froze)
The snow it fell fast, and drifted amain,
As though 'twere determined to stop every train
Wild and drear was the night, and few ventured abroad
And the rains were all "light" on the cold iron road:
The junction appeared more deserted and drear
Than it ever had done throughout the whole year
In fact 'twas exceedingly doleful and dreary;
The guards looked forlorn and the porters looked weary;
And to grumble and rub their cold fingers were fain;
      Just as if the rough weather
     Had whirled all together
Both station and "staff" to some moor of wild heather,
     Without e'en a shed or
     Sou'-Wester¹ or head, or
The least hap¹ or wrap from the wind, snow or rain!

The last train was late - and got later and later;
The branch-trains all started - no longer would "wait her".
The office was closed and the clerks were all gone
One porter was left, a poor hermit-like one
Like the "last rose of summer" sat moping alone
(All his weary companions had "mizzled²" and gone)
     He moped and he mused,
     And half-watched and half-snoozed -
Like one who a little too freely had "boozed"
     Till he winked and he dosed
     And his heavy eyes closed,
And he dreamt the Express had gone over him thrice!
Then he woke, all benumbed like a thing made of ice.

Still the train didn't come; so he started for home
Through snow-drifts that looked like an ocean of foam
Till his snug little cot he reached gladly at last
     Where cosy in bed
     In a room overhead
The wife of his bosom slept soundly and fast.
     Now relieved of his cares
     Behold! he prepares
From a bottle that both you and I may surmise
Had never paid toll to the hateful Excise¹
And a kettle not boiling for coffee or tea
     A full-brimming "cheerer"
     Of beverage dearer
Than Mocha or Hyson¹, or strongest Bohea¹
In short, Mountain Dew¹ the right genuine O. P.¹

But was one "cheerer", indeed what were two;
He had three, he had four, he got jollily "fou¹!"
Yet still he drank on till he could not hold more
Then fell back in his chair and went off in a snore;
     Of "lush¹" so full
     That push or pull
Of his wife to rouse him was all the same
As if, in her anger, the worthy dame
Had pushed or pulled some sleeping bear
"Full to the bung¹" in his ursine lair
Instead of getting him up, poor soul
She only got out a grunt and a growl

So our hero slept and dreamed and dreamed
Till at last in his tipsy snooze he seemed
Again at the station, and out of his mouth
Came a thundering cry of "train for the South"
     And up from his seat
     In great haste he sprang
But, not being steady on his legs and feet,
Against the oven he fell "slap bang"
And, taking the same for a carriage door,
He did what he'd done so often before
     That is with a vigorous twist
     Of arm and wrist
Opened it wide and thrust in his head
And (by force of dreaming fancy led),
Loud as a bull he bellowed forth,
"Change here of Newcastle - for Shields, and the North".

 

Sources (texts, music) & Publishing data

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Origin Poem
Source Title The Porter's Christmas Eve, - A North-Eastern Lay
Bargery Number 314
Roud V6622
Earliest Date 1868
Evidence for Earliest Date poem dated on sheet
Latest Date 1868
Evidence for Latest Date Publication date
Author John Read Appleton
Music (Given or Suggested) Poem
Source of Music Bodleian Library, Harding B 11(3125) From the Durham Chronicle of Friday December 23rd, 1868
Printer or Publisher Durham
Other Imprints No other imprints found
First Line One Christmas Eve - I will not say when

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