I'll tell you the story of Balbus,
You know, him as builded a wall;
I'll tell you the reason he built it,
And the place where it happened an' all.
This 'ere Balbus, though only a Tackler,
Were the most enterprising of men;
He'd heard Chicken Farms were lucrative,
So he went out and purchased a hen.
'Twere a White Wyandot he called Mabel,
At laying she turned out a peach,
And her eggs being all double-yoked ones
He reckoned they'd fetch twopence each.
When he took them along to the market
And found that the eggs that sold best
Were them as came over from China
He were vexed, but in no ways depressed.
For Balbus, though only a Tackler,
In business were far from a dunce,
So he packed Mabel up in a basket
And started for China at once.
When he got there he took a small holding,
And selecting the sunniest part,
He lifted the lid of the basket
And said "Come on, lass... make a start!"
The 'en needed no second biddin',
She sat down and started to lay;
She'd been saving up all the way over
And laid sixteen eggs, straight away.
When the Chinamen heard what had happened
Their cheeks went the colour of mud,
They said it were sheer mass production
As had to be nipped in the bud.
They formed themselves in a committee
And tried to arrive at some course
Whereby they could limit the output
Without doing harm to the source.
At the finish they came to t' conclusion
That the easiest road they could take
Were to fill the 'en's nest up wi' scrap-iron
So as fast as she laid eggs they'd break.
When Balbus went out the next morning
To fetch the eggs Mabel had laid
He found nowt but shells and albumen
He were hipped, but in no ways dismayed.
For Balbus, though only a Tackler,
He'd a brain that were fertile and quick
He bought all the scrap-iron in t' district
To stop them repeating the trick.
But next day, to his great consternation
He were met with another reverse,
For instead of old iron they'd used clinker
And the eggs looked the same, or worse.
'Twere a bit of a set-back for Balbus,
But he wasn't downhearted at all,
And when t' Chinamen came round next evening
They found he were building a wall.
"That won't keep us out of your 'en 'ouse"
Said one, with a smug kind of grin;
It's not for that purpose," said Balbus,
"When it's done, it will keep you lot in."
The Chinamen all burst out laffing,
They thowt as he'd gone proper daft
But Balbus got on wi' his building
And said "He laffed last who last laffed."
Day by day Balbus stuck to his building,
And his efforts he never did cease
Till he'd builded the Great Wall of China
So as Mabel could lay eggs in peace.
Marriott Edgar's Other Poems
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Comments about this poem (Balbus by Marriott Edgar )
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- Ah, money!, PARTHA SARATHI PAUL
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