"Ticket-of-Leave: On Bill Sykes (after Anacreon)." Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 81.496 (Feb. 1857): 175. Full text.

On Bill Sykes.

(After Anacreon.)

Paint me, Cruikshank, Doyle, or Leech,

Sykes, my pal, as now I teach.

Paint his hair, smut-black and sleek,

Methodistically meek,

Sheared as round a beechen bowl

On the temples; at the pole,

Topknot like a blacking-brush

Which no comb shall tear or crush;

So the porcupine his quill

Droops or upright sets at will.

Paint a clammy forehead now

Heavy, villanously [sic] low;

Eyebrows like a mat threadbare;

Eyelids innocent of hair,

Proof against the grease of bear.

Goggle eyes of sullen glare,

Overspread with oily calm

When he sings the prison-psalm;

Piglike in their want of passion;

Catlike in their hue and fashion;

Which to some suggest resistance,

And to some respectful distance.

With his cheek if art can grapple,

Paint it like a stale pine-apple,

Blotched, and mountainous and yellow,

Never blushing (trust the fellow)

Save when liquor spreads the rose

Sidewards from his blushing nose.

Deeply in your medium dip

When you paint the blubber lip,

Mute, yet eloquent of sin,

Blistered with sulphuric gin.

Paint a bloated figure-head,

As found drowned in Thames' bed.

Let a flashy kerchief deck

Hippopotamus's neck.

Paint a chest, the dread of Peelers,

Paint his vice-like, vicious feelers,

Paint his legs, short, bowed, and staunch;

Paint a bacchanalian paunch,

Pity that you cannot turn,

Paint at once both stem and stern;

With those pockets, which in doubt,

Beaks and traps turn inside out,

Keeping snugly under hatches

Centrebits, and files and matches,

Crowbars, keys and all the things

Good for opening locks and springs.

Paint me last those high-low'd feet

Wary of policeman's beat.

When you've finished my commission,

Take it to the Exhibition.

Surely their Hanging Committee

Must on William Sykes take pity,

Else you might break in by night

And unfix some city knight,

Some lock-jawed pre-Raphaelite,

Some interior, landscape, plan,

"Portrait of a gentleman."

So may soar in pride of place

Our Bill Sykes's gallows face,

Not transported, but in fine,

Hung precisely on the line.

This document was scanned/transcribed from the original source.

Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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