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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

The Friend of Humanity and the Knife-grinder

George Canning (1770–1827)

Friend of Humanity
NEEDY Knife-grinder! whither are you going?

Rough is the road; your wheel is out of order—

Bleak blows the blast; your hat has got a hole in’t.

So have your breeches!

Weary Knife-grinder! little think the proud ones

Who in their coaches roll along the turnpike

Road, what hard work ’tis crying all day, ‘Knives and

Scissors to grind O!’

Tell me, Knife-grinder, how you came to grind knives?

Did some rich man tyrannically use you?

Was it some squire? or parson of the parish?

Or the attorney?

Was it the squire, for killing of his game? or

Covetous parson, for his tithes distraining?

Or roguish lawyer, made you lose your little

All in a lawsuit?

Have you not read the ‘Rights of Man,’ by Tom Paine?

Drops of compassion tremble on my eyelids,

Ready to fall, as soon as you have told your

Pitiful story.

Story? God bless you! I have none to tell, sir:

Only last night a-drinking at the Chequers,

This poor old hat and breeches, as you see, were

Torn in a scuffle.

Constables came up for to take me into

Custody; they took me before the justice;

Justice Oldmixon put me in the parish

Stocks for a vagrant.

I should be glad to drink your honour’s health in

A pot of beer, if you will give me sixpence;

But for my part, I never love to meddle

With politics, sir.

Friend of Humanity
I give thee sixpence! I will see thee damned first—

Wretch! whom no sense of wrongs can rouse to vengeance—

Sordid, unfeeling, reprobate, degraded,

Spiritless outcast!
(Kicks the Knife-grinder, overturns his wheel, and exit in a transport of republican enthusiasm and universal philanthropy.)