Description Of A Lost Friend

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LOST--near the 'Change in the city,
(I saw there a girl that seemed pretty)
'Joe Steel,' a short, cross-looking varlet,
With a visage as red as scarlet:
His nose and chin of a hue
Approaching nearly to blue:
With legs just the length, and no more,
That will trot him from door to door;
And a most capacious paunch,
Fed with many a venison haunch.
Whoever will bring the same
To a tailor's of the name
Of Patterson, Watson, and Co.,
Shall receive a guinea or so.
And that all may understand,
And bring him safe to hand,
I subjoin as well as I can,
The character of the man.
He's a grumpy sort of a fellow,
Till liquor has made him mellow;
The sort of man who never
Wishes your guests to be clever,
When he's asked to come and dine,
But only wants his wine.
He is but a stupid ass,
Even when he's filled his glass,
And emptied it too, a dozen
Times, with some civil cousin.
I don't remember his saying
Aught, that meant more than braying.
We met and we talked together
Of politics and the weather,
Of the taxes and the king,
And that silly sort of thing;
But he never would give an opinion
As to the sort of dominion
He should like to live under, if we
To think of such things were free.
He said it was all speculation,
More harm than good to the nation.
He wouldn't abuse the Commons;
Nor admire a pretty woman's
Ancle, that tripped thro' the park
When it wasn't light or dark.
Laugh at him--he turned sour;
Talk gravely--his brow would lower.
Sometimes he wished to grow fat,
(I'm sure it was needless, that)
When he was over-fed,
Or out of spirits, he said.
Sometimes he wished to be thin,
(When he poured fresh spirits in.)
But he never, when we were alone,
Said any thing new of his own.
The merrier you were, the more
He grumbled, and fumed, and swore;
The happier you were, the less
He cared for your happiness.
We never agreed for a day,
Except when one was away.
And meeting too often of late,
It was my peculiar fate
To say something bitter and bad
About wives being not to be had,
When a batchelor got a red nose,
And his short legs were shrunk in his hose--
It was witty; but cost me my friend:
For, being too late to amend,
He took it amiss that I
The defects of his form should spy.
Perchance he had borne a few jeers
On the purple hue of his ears,
But to say that his legs were small!
Oh! his heart's blood was turned to gall.
So leaving his bottle, he swore
That he never would enter my door.
And I chuckled within my own heart,
Snapped my fingers, and saw him depart,
But, alas! now I've lost him, I find
There was no one so much to my mind.
I have now got a good-tempered fellow,
But he tells me my face is grown yellow.
I've got a new friend that is clever,
But he's brewing his good things for ever:
Another, who talks at a rate
That is frightful, of church and of state,
And never will give in a jot,
Tho' you reason and bawl till you're hot:
Another--but why should I bring
Of friends, as of onions, a string
To my dinners, except that I feel
No number can make a Joe Steel!
When they're lively, I think it a bore;
When they're silent, I miss him the more.
I miss him when I would recall
Some fact of my youth to them all.
Not one of my friends seems to care
If I once had a head of black hair--
Not one of them seems to believe
How the pretty girls once used to grieve
When they missed me amongst them,--Oh! no,
I can have no friend equal to Joe!--
I miss his round, red, surly face--
I miss his short legs from their place--
I miss him--I'm growing quite sad;
I think my old port is turned bad--
I miss him, and draw this conclusion,
(Tho' others may think it delusion)
That, with all their worst faults at their back,
(And I'm sure poor Joe Steel had a pack)
Tho' they never can alter or mend;
There's no friend like a very old friend!

© Caroline Norton