William Makepeace Thackeray

(1811-1863 / India)

Titmarsh’s Carmen Lilliense - Poem by William Makepeace Thackeray

LILLE, Sept. 2, 1843.

My heart is weary, my peace is gone,
How shall I e'er my woes reveal?
I have no money, I lie in pawn,
A stranger in the town of Lille.

I.

With twenty pounds but three weeks since
From Paris forth did Titmarsh wheel,
I thought myself as rich a prince
As beggar poor I'm now at Lille.

Confiding in my ample means—
In troth, I was a happy chiel!
I passed the gates of Valenciennes,
I never thought to come by Lille.

I never thought my twenty pounds
Some rascal knave would dare to steal;
I gayly passed the Belgic bounds
At Quievrain, twenty miles from Lille.

To Antwerp town I hasten'd post,
And as I took my evening meal
I felt my pouch,—my purse was lost,
O Heaven! Why came I not by Lille?

I straightway called for ink and pen,
To grandmamma I made appeal;
Meanwhile a loan of guineas ten
I borrowed from a friend so leal.

I got the cash from grandmamma
(Her gentle heart my woes could feel,)
But where I went, and what I saw,
What matters? Here I am at Lille.

My heart is weary, my peace is gone,
How shall I e'er my woes reveal?
I have no cash, I lie in pawn,
A stranger in the town of Lille.

II.

To stealing I can never come,
To pawn my watch I'm too genteel,
Besides, I left my watch at home,
How could I pawn it then at Lille?

'La note,' at times the guests will say.
I turn as white as cold boil'd veal;
I turn and look another way,
I dare not ask the bill at Lille.

I dare not to the landlord say,
'Good sir, I cannot pay your bill;'
He thinks I am a Lord Anglais,
And is quite proud I stay at Lille.

He thinks I am a Lord Anglais,
Like Rothschild or Sir Robert Peel,
And so he serves me every day
The best of meat and drink in Lille.

Yet when he looks me in the face
I blush as red as cochineal;
And think did he but know my case,
How changed he'd be, my host of Lille.

My heart is weary, my peace is gone,
How shall I e'er my woes reveal?
I have no money, I lie in pawn,
A stranger in the town of Lille.

III.

The sun bursts out in furious blaze,
I perspirate from head to heel;
I'd like to hire a one-horse chaise,
How can I, without cash at Lille?

I pass in sunshine burning hot
By cafes where in beer they deal;
I think how pleasant were a pot,
A frothing pot of beer of Lille!

What is yon house with walls so thick,
All girt around with guard and grille?
O gracious gods! it makes me sick,
It is the PRISON-HOUSE of Lille!

O cursed prison strong and barred,
It does my very blood congeal!
I tremble as I pass the guard,
And quit that ugly part of Lille.

The church-door beggar whines and prays,
I turn away at his appeal
Ah, church-door beggar! go thy ways!
You're not the poorest man in Lille.

My heart is weary, my peace is gone,
How shall I e'er any woes reveal?
I have no money, I lie in pawn,
A stranger in the town of Lille.

IV.

Say, shall I to you Flemish church,
And at a Popish altar kneel?
Oh, do not leave me in the lurch,—
I'll cry, ye patron-saints of Lille!

Ye virgins dressed in satin hoops,
Ye martyrs slain for mortal weal,
Look kindly down! before you stoops
The miserablest man in Lille.

And lo! as I beheld with awe
A pictured saint (I swear 'tis real),
It smiled, and turned to grandmamma!—
It did! and I had hope in Lille!

'Twas five o'clock, and I could eat,
Although I could not pay my meal:
I hasten back into the street
Where lies my inn, the best Lille.

What see I on my table stand,—
A letter with a well-known seal?
'Tis grandmamma's! I know her hand,—
'To Mr. M. A. Titmarsh, Lille.'

I feel a choking in my throat,
I pant and stagger, faint and reel!
It is—it is—a ten-pound note,
And I'm no more in pawn at Lille!


[He goes off by the diligence that evening, and is restored to the
bosom of his happy family.]


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010



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