The Bricklayers Labours

In 1734 and 1735, Robert Tatersal of Kingston-upon-Thames, spurred on by the success of Stephen Duck, produced two slim volumes of poetry, titled The Bricklayer’s Miscellany. The poems are on diverse subjects, but in “The Bricklayers Labours” he spoke uniquely of the daily life of the artisan.

At length the soft Nocturnal Minutes fly,
And crimson Blushes paint the orient Sky;
When by a kind of drowsy Stretch and Yawn,
I ope my Eyes, and view the Scarlet Dawn;
But stealing Sleep my Vitals still surprise,
And with a slumb’ring Softness seal my Eyes,
Till open Light corroborates the Day,
And through the Casement darts his signal Ray;
When up I start, and view the eastern Sky,
And by my Mark find Six o’Clock is nigh:
Then hanging on my Thread-Bare Coat and Hose,
My Hat, my Cap, my Breeches, and my Shoes;
With Sheep-skin Apron girt about my Waste,
Down Stairs I go to visit my Repast;
Which rarely doth consist of more than these,
A Quartern Loaf, and half a Pound of Cheese;
Then in a Linnen Bag, on purpose made,
My Day’s allowance o’re my Shoulder’s laid:
And first, to keep the Fog from coming in,
I whet my Whistle with a Dram of Gin;
So thus equip’d, my Trowel in my Hand,
I haste to Work, and join the ragged Band:
And now each one his different Post assign’d,
And three to three in Ranks completely join’d;
When Bricks and Mortar eccho’s from on high,
Mortar and Bricks, the common, constant Cry;
Each sturdy Slave their different Labours share,
Some Brickmen call’d, and some for Mortar are:
With sultry Sweat and blow without Allay,
Travel the Standard up and down all Day;
And now the Sun with more exalted Ray,
With glowing Beams distributes riper Day,
When amidst Dust and Smoke, and Sweat and Noise,
A Line, a Line, the Foreman crys, my Boys;
When Tuck and Pat with Flemish bound they run,
Till the whole Course is struck, compleat, and done:
Then on again, while two exalts the Quoin,
And draws the midmost Men another Line.
The Course laid out, when thro’ the fleeting Air,
A solemn Sound salutes the willing Ear;
When universal Yo-ho’s echo strait,
Our constant Signal to the Hour of Eight.
And now precipitant away we steer,
To eat our Viands, and to get some Beer;
Where midst the Clamour, Noise and smoky Din
of Dust, Tobacco, Chaws, and drinking gin,
The short Half-hour we merrily do spin.
When for Desert some with their Sun-burnt Fists,
Cram in a Chaw of Half an Ounce at least,
And then to sweep the Passage clean within,
Wash down their Throats a Quartern full of Gin.
And now again the Signal greets our Ear,
We’re called to Book, must at the Bar appear:
When the grim Host examines what we’ve done,
And scores sometimes devoutly two for one;
And now refresh’d again we mount on high,
While on calls Mortar, others Bricks do cry;
And then a Line, a Line’s the constant Sound,
By Line and Rule our daily Labour’s crown’d.
While to divert the sult’ry Hours along,
One tells a Tale, another sings a Song:
And now the Sun with full Meridian Ray,
With scorching Beams confirms the perfect Day.
Full Twelve a Clock the Labourers cry Yo-ho,
When some to Sleep, and some to Dinner go:
Some that have Victuals eat; others who’ve none,
Supply the Place with Drink and Gin alone.
Mod’rate in Food, but in good Beer profuse,
Which for the Heat we modestly excuse.
And now the gliding Minutes almost gone,
And a loud Noise proclaims the Hour of One;
Again we re-assume the dusty Stage,
The Mortar chas’d again we do engage.
This the most tedious Part of all the Day,
Full five Hours Space to toil without Allay:
Now parch’d with Hear, and almost chok’d with Dust,
We join our Pence to satiate our Thirst:
At length the Western Breezes gently play,
And Sol declining moderates his Ray;
Now the approaching welcome Hour draws near,
And now again the Signal glads our Ear;
The happy Hour we waited for all Day,
At length arrives our Labours to repay.
And now the Tools reposited with Care,
Until the morning Rays again appear;
Some homewards bend, some to the Alehouse steer,
Others more sober feast on better Cheer.
But when the Days contract an dwint’ry Hours rise,
And sable Clouds and Fogs invest the Skies,
When Frost and Cold congeals the Atmosphere,
And Trees disrob’d and hoary Fields appear;
When all the Earth in Ice and Snow is bound,
And nought but Desolation all around,
Then haples me! I wander up and down,
With half an Apron, wond’rous greasy grown!
With anxious Looks my Countenance is clad,
And all my Thoughts are like the Winter, sad!
This scene of Life corrodes y troubled Mind,
I seek for Work; but none, alas! can find;
Sometimes, by Chance, I have a Grate to set,
To hang a Copper, or a Hole repleat;
A Day or two to exercise my Skill,
But seldom more reluctant to my Will:
And this I pass the tedious Winter on,
Sometimes Repast I have, and sometimes none;
Till cheerful Phoebus with a grateful Ray,
Thro’ vernal Airs explores his will Way;
Dispells all Cares, and gladdens every Vein,
And all the joyous Scene revolves again.

His poems do not seem to have been successful.

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