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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.

London Streets

St. James’s Street

By Frederick Locker-Lampson (1821–1895)

ST. JAMES’S STREET, of classic fame!

The finest people throng it!—

St. James’s Street? I know the name!

I think I ’ve passed along it!

Why, that ’s where Sacharissa sighed

When Waller read his ditty;

Where Byron lived, and Gibbon died,

And Alvanley was witty.

A famous street. It skirts the Park

Where Rogers took his pastime;

Come, gaze on fifty men of mark,

And then call up the fast time!

The plats at White’s, the play at Crock’s,

The bumpers to Miss Gunning;

The bonhomie of Charlie Fox,

And Selwyn’s ghastly funning.

The dear old street of clubs and cribs,

As north and south it stretches,

Still smacks of Williams’ pungent squibs,

And Gillray’s fiercer sketches;

The quaint old dress, the grand old style,

The mots, the racy stories;—

The wine, the dice,—the wit, the bile,

The hate of Whigs and Tories.

At dusk, when I am strolling there,

Dim forms will rise around me;

Old Pepys creeps past me in his chair,

And Congreve’s airs astound me!

And once Nell Gwynne, a frail young sprite,

Looked kindly when I met her;

I shook my head, perhaps,—but quite

Forgot to quite forget her.

The street is still a lively tomb

For rich and gay and clever;

The crops of dandies bud, and bloom,

And die as fast as ever.

Now gilded youth loves cutty-pipes,

And slang that ’s rather rancid,—

It can’t approach its prototypes

In tone,—or so I ’ve fancied.

In Brummell’s day of buckle shoes,

Starch cravats, and roll collars,

They ’d fight, and woo, and bet,—and lose

Like gentlemen and scholars:

I like young men to go the pace,

I half forgive old Rapid;

These louts disgrace their name and race,—

So vicious and so vapid!

Worse times may come. Bon ton, alas!

Will then be quite forgotten,

And all we much revere will pass

From ripe to worse than rotten;

Rank weeds will sprout between yon stones,

And owls will roost at Boodle’s,

And Echo will hurl back the tones

Of screaming Yankee Doodles.

I like the haunts, and many such,

Where wit and wealth are squandered,

The gardened mansions, just as much,

Where grace and rank have wandered,—

The spots where ladies fair and leal

First ventured to adore me!—

And something of the like I feel

For this old street before me.