The Night Mail North
By Henry Cholmondeley Pennell
Now then, take your seats! for Glasgow and the North;
Chester! — Carlisle! — Holyhead, — and the wild Firth of Forth,
‘Clap on the steam and sharp’s the word,
You men in scarlet cloth: –
‘Are there any more pas .. sengers,
For the Night .. Mail .. to the North!’
Are there any more passengers?
Yes three — but they can’t get in, —
Too late, too late! – How they bellow and knock,
They might as well try to soften a rock
As the heart of that fellow in green.
For the Night Mail North? what ho —
No use to struggle, you can’t get through,
My young and lusty one —
Whither away from the gorgeous town? —
‘For the lake and the stream and the heather brown,
And the double-barrelled gun!’
For the Night Mail North, I say? —
You, with the eager eyes —
You with the haggard face and pale? —
‘From a ruined hearth and a starving brood,
A Crime and a felon’s gaol!
For the Night Mail North, old man?
Old statue of despair —
Why tug and strain at the iron gate?
Ha! too late, too late,
She is gone, you may safely swear;
She has given you the slip, d’ you hear?
She has left you alone in your wrath, —
And she’s off and away, with a glorious start,
To the home of her choice, with the man of her heart,
By the Night Mail North!
Wh—-ish, R—-ush . . .
‘What’s all that hullabaloo?
Keep fast the gates there – who is this?
That insists on bursting through?’
A desperate man whom none may withstand,
For look, there is something clenched in his hand —
Though the bearer is ready to drop —
He waves it wildly to and fro,
And hark! how the crowd are shouting below —
And back the opposing barriers go,
‘A reprieve for the Canongate murderer, Ho!
In the Queen’s name —
‘Another has confessed the crime.’
Whish — rush — whish — rush . . .
The Guard has caught the fluttering sheet,
Now forward and northward! fierce and fleet,
Through the mist and the dark were in it;
‘Tis a splendid race! a race against Time, —
And a thousand to one we win it:
Look at those flitting ghosts —
The white-armed finger-posts —
If we’re moving the eighth of an inch, I say,
We’re going a mile a minute!
A mile a minute – for life or death —
Away, away! though it catches one’s breath,
The man shall not die in his wrath:
The quivering carriages rock and reel —
Hurrah! for the rush of the grinding steel!
The thundering crank, and the mighty wheel!
Are there any more pass . . sengers
For the Night .. Mail .. to the North?