Constab Ballads (1912)

The Bobby to the Sneering Lady

You may sneer at us, madam,
But our work is beastly hard;
An’ while toilin thus we scarce
Ever get a lee[1] reward.

Our soul’s jes’ like fe you,
If our work does make us rough;
Me won’t ‘res’ you servant-gal
When you’ve beaten her enough.

You may say she is me frien’,
We are used to all such prate;
Naught we meet on life’s stern road
But de usual scorn an’ hate.

Say dat you wi’ ‘port me, ma’am?
I was lookin’ fe dat, well,
Our Inspector’s flinty hard,
‘Twill be few days’ pay or cell.

Pains an’ losses of such kind
To we p’licemen’s not’in’ new;
Still A’d really like fe hear
Wha’ good it wi’ do to you.

Last week, eatin’ a gill[2] bread,
Me t’row piece out on de lea;
An’ A ketch a ‘port fe dat
Which meant five roun’ mac[3] to me.

Constab-charge, civilian-charge,
Life’s a burden every way;
But reward fund[4] mus’ kep’ up
Out o’ poo’ policeman pay.

Ef our lot, then, is so hard,
I mus’ ever bear in mind
Dat to fe me own black ‘kin
I mus’ not be too unkind.

An’ p’r’aps you too will forgive
Ef I’ve spoken rather free,
An’ will let me somet’ing ask
Which may soften you to me:

In de middle o’ de night,
When de blackness lies do’n deep,
Who protects your homes an’ stores
While de Island is asleep?

When de dead stars cannot shine
Sake o’ rain an’ cloud an’ storm,
Who keeps watch out in de street
So dat not’in’ comes to harm?

Ah! you turn away your head!
See! dere’s pity in your face!
Don’t, dear madam, bring on me
This unmerited disgrace.

  1. Lee: little
  2. Gill: three farthings. Gill bread-loaf costing three farthings
  3. Mac: shilling, shillings; short for macaroni.
  4. A fund out of which rewards are given to constables for meritorious work


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This work (Poems by Claude McKay by Claude McKay) is free of known copyright restrictions.