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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Thomas Hood (1799–1845)

Faithless Nelly Gray

BEN BATTLE was a soldier bold,

And used to war’s alarms,

But a cannon-ball took off his legs,

So he laid down his arms.

Now as they bore him off the field,

Said he, “Let others shoot;

For here I leave my second leg,

And the Forty-second Foot.”

The army surgeons made him limbs;

Said he, “They’re only pegs;

But they’re as wooden members quite

As represent my legs.”

Now Ben he loved a pretty maid,

Her name was Nelly Gray;

So he went to pay her his devours,

When he’d devoured his pay.

But when he called on Nelly Gray,

She made him quite a scoff;

And when she saw his wooden legs,

Began to take them off.

“Oh, Nelly Gray! Oh, Nelly Gray!

Is this your love so warm?

The love that loves a scarlet coat

Should be more uniform.”

Said she, “I loved a soldier once,

For he was blithe and brave;

But I will never have a man

With both legs in the grave.

“Before you had those timber toes

Your love I did allow,

But then, you know, you stand upon

Another footing now.”

“Oh, Nelly Gray! Oh, Nelly Gray!

For all your jeering speeches,

At duty’s call I left my legs

In Badajoz’s breaches.”

“Why, then,” said she, “you’ve lost the feet

Of legs in war’s alarms,

And now you cannot wear the shoes

Upon your feats of arms.”

“Oh, false and fickle Nelly Gray!

I know why you refuse—

Though I’ve no feet, some other man

Is standing in my shoes!

“I wish I ne’er had seen your face;

But now, a long farewell!

For you will be my death; alas!

You will not be my Nell.”

Now, when he went from Nelly Gray,

His heart so heavy got,

And life was such a burthen grown,

It made him take a knot.

So round his melancholy neck

A rope he did entwine,

And, for the second time in life,

Enlisted in the Line!

One end he tied around a beam,

And then removed his pegs,

And, as his legs were off, of course

He soon was off his legs.

And there he hung till he was dead

As any nail in town;

For though despair had cut him up,

It could not cut him down.

A dozen men sat on his corpse,

To find out why he died;

And they buried Ben in four cross-roads,

With a stake in his inside.