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...........by Rudyard Kipling


If you wake at Midnight, and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Five and twenty ponies
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson.
'Baccy for the Clerk;
Laces for a lady, letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Running round the woodlump, if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine,
Don't you shout to come and look, nor use 'em for your play.
Put the brushwood back again - and they'll be gone next day!

Five and twenty ponies...........

If you see the stable door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside;
If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining's wet and warm - don't you ask no more!

Five and twenty ponies...........

If you meet King George's men, dressed in blue and red,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you "pretty maid", and chuck you 'neath the chin,
Don't you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one's been!

Five and twenty ponies...........

If you do as you've been told, 'likely there's a chance,
You'll be given a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of pretty lace, and a velvet hood -
A present from the Gentlemen, along o' being good!

Five and twenty ponies...........

Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie -
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!


Kipling lived in the South East of England at one time. I won't be specific as I don't know where or for how long but he knew the stories of the smugglers well. In fact, it was impossible to avoid them in those days. The warning to "watch the wall, my darling" was sound advice when the smugglers were abroad and the opportunity to make off with hidden contraband was best forgotten as it could end in grave results.
In the days of the smugglers there was a small "middle class" and the remainder of the population was made up of those that "had" and those that "had not". The "had nots" were far greater in number and many of those lived in very poor conditions. However, the Kipling poem also makes reference in the chorus to the fact that even if they didn't become directly involved, many others benfited from the trade that went on in these areas. In addition to this, we forget these days, how difficult travel could be. When it rained, many roads were impossible to navigate in any form of wheeled transport but the smugglers, all local people, knew the lanes, the footpaths and tracks where they could avoid the authorities. This is also why they would use packhorses rather than carts to move their goods.
From this background came the violence that was associated with many of the gangs. After all, the penalties were severe. When we read about the cut-throats and desperate people that often made up the early settlers in many of England's Colonies, as they were in those days, we have to remember that many of them came by their violent habits among what now seems like the tranquil highways and byways of the South of England.

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