The Surgeon's Warning

The Doctor whispered to the Nurse
And the Surgeon knew what he said,
And he grew pale at the Doctor's tale
And trembled in his sick bed.

Now fetch me my brethren and fetch them with speed
The Surgeon affrighted said,
The Parson and the Undertaker,
Let them hasten or I shall be dead.

The Parson and the Undertaker
They hastily came complying,
And the Surgeon's Prentices ran up stairs
When they heard that their master was dying.

The Prentices all they entered the room
By one, by two, by three,
With a sly grin came Joseph in,
First of the company.

The Surgeon swore as they enter'd his door,
'Twas fearful his oaths to hear,--
Now send these scoundrels to the Devil,
For God's sake my brethren dear.

He foam'd at the mouth with the rage he felt
And he wrinkled his black eye-brow,
That rascal Joe would be at me I know,
But zounds let him spare me now.

Then out they sent the Prentices,
The fit it left him weak,
He look'd at his brothers with ghastly eyes,
And faintly struggled to speak.

All kinds of carcasses I have cut up,
And the judgment now must be--
But brothers I took care of you,
So pray take care of me!

I have made candles of infants fat
The Sextons have been my slaves,
I have bottled babes unborn, and dried
Hearts and livers from rifled graves.

And my Prentices now will surely come
And carve me bone from bone,
And I who have rifled the dead man's grave
Shall never have rest in my own.

Bury me in lead when I am dead,
My brethren I intreat,
And see the coffin weigh'd I beg
Lest the Plumber should be a cheat.

And let it be solder'd closely down
Strong as strong can be I implore,
And put it in a patent coffin,
That I may rise no more.

If they carry me off in the patent coffin
Their labour will be in vain,
Let the Undertaker see it bought of the maker
Who lives by St. Martin's lane.

And bury me in my brother's church
For that will safer be,
And I implore lock the church door
And pray take care of the key.

And all night long let three stout men
The vestry watch within,
To each man give a gallon of beer
And a keg of Holland's gin;

Powder and ball and blunder-buss
To save me if he can,
And eke five guineas if he shoot
A resurrection man.

And let them watch me for three weeks
My wretched corpse to save,
For then I think that I may stink
Enough to rest in my grave.

The Surgeon laid him down in his bed,
His eyes grew deadly dim,
Short came his breath and the struggle of death
Distorted every limb.

They put him in lead when he was dead
And shrouded up so neat,
And they the leaden coffin weigh
Lest the Plumber should be a cheat.

They had it solder'd closely down
And examined it o'er and o'er,
And they put it in a patent coffin
That he might rise no more.

For to carry him off in a patent coffin
Would they thought be but labour in vain,
So the Undertaker saw it bought of the maker
Who lives by St. Martin's lane.

In his brother's church they buried him
That safer he might be,
They lock'd the door and would not trust
The Sexton with the key.

And three men in the vestry watch
To save him if they can,
And should he come there to shoot they swear
A resurrection man.

And the first night by lanthorn light
Thro' the church-yard as they went,
A guinea of gold the sexton shewed
That Mister Joseph sent.

But conscience was tough, it was not enough
And their honesty never swerved,
And they bade him go with Mister Joe
To the Devil as he deserved.

So all night long by the vestry fire
They quaff'd their gin and ale,
And they did drink as you may think
And told full many a tale.

The second night by lanthorn light
Thro' the church-yard as they went,
He whisper'd anew and shew'd them two
That Mister Joseph sent.

The guineas were bright and attracted their sight
They look'd so heavy and new,
And their fingers itch'd as they were bewitch'd
And they knew not what to do.

But they waver'd not long for conscience was strong
And they thought they might get more,
And they refused the gold, but not
So rudely as before.

So all night long by the vestry fire
They quaff'd their gin and ale,
And they did drink as you may think
And told full many a tale.

The third night as by lanthorn light
Thro' the church-yard they went,
He bade them see and shew'd them three
That Mister Jos
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Robert Southey

Robert Southey was an English poet of the Romantic school, one of the so-called "Lake Poets", and Poet Laureate for 30 years from 1813 to his death in 1843. more…

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"The Surgeon's Warning" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 26 Jan. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/31902/the-surgeon's-warning>.

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