By Sir W. S.
Written on the occasion of the visit of the United Fire Brigades to Oxford, 1887.
St. Giles’s street is fair and wide,
St. Giles’s street is long;
But long or wide, may naught abide
Therein of guile or wrong;
For through St. Giles’s, to and fro,
The mild ecclesiastics go
From prime to evensong.
It were a fearsome task, perdie!
To sin in such good company.
Long had the slanting beam of day
Proclaimed the Thirtieth of May
Ere now, erect, its fiery heat
Illumined all that hallowed street,
And breathing benediction on
Thy serried battlements, St. John,
Suffused at once with equal glow
The cluster’d Archipelago,
The Art Professor’s studio
And Mr. Greenwood’s shop,
Thy building, Pusey, where below
The stout Salvation soldiers blow
The cornet till they drop;
Thine, Balliol, where we move, and oh!
Thine, Randolph, where we stop.
But what is this that frights the air,
And wakes the curate from his lair
In Pusey’s cool retreat,
To leave the feast, to climb the stair,
And scan the startled street?
As when perambulate the young
And call with unrelenting tongue
On home, mamma, and sire;
Or voters shout with strength of lung
For Hall & Co’s Entire;
Or Sabbath-breakers scream and shout–
The band of Booth, with drum devout,
Eliza on her Sunday out,
Or Farmer with his choir:–
E’en so, with shriek of fife and drum
And horrid clang of brass,
The Fire Brigades of England come
And down St. Giles’s pass.
Oh grand, methinks, in such array
To spend a Whitsun Holiday
All soaking to the skin!
(Yet shoes and hose alike are stout;
The shoes to keep the water out,
The hose to keep it in.)
They came from Henley on the Thames,
From Berwick on the Tweed,
And at the mercy of the flames
They left their children and their dames,
To come and play their little games
On Morrell’s dewy mead.
Yet feared they not with fire to play–
The pyrotechnics (so they say)
Were very fine indeed.
(P.S. by Lord Macaulay).
Then let us bless Our Gracious Queen and eke the Fire Brigade,
And bless no less the horrid mess they’ve been and gone and made;
Remove the dirt they chose to squirt upon our best attire,
Bless all, but most the lucky chance that no one shouted ‘Fire!’