A Smuggler’s Song

I have little recall of my mother reading stories to me, but how she loved to recite poetry. Like many of them, she knew this one off by heart. She would say the main verses and I’d repeat Five and twenty ponies between each oneIt conjured up such a vivid picture and, along with Meg Merrilies (the subject of an earlier post) remains one of my best loved poems today.Kipling

A Smuggler’s Song – 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 ask 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,
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 brishwood back again – and they’ll be gone next day !

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 !

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 !

Knocks and footsteps round the house – whistles after dark –
You’ve no call for running out till the house-dogs bark.
Trusty’s here, and Pincher’s here, and see how dumb they lie
They don’t fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by !

‘If You do as you’ve been told, ‘likely there’s a chance,
You’ll be give a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood –
A present from the Gentlemen, along ‘o being good !

Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark –
Brandy for the Parson, ‘Baccy for the Clerk.
Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie –
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by !


  1. I love this poem, Eloise, to evocative of an age when smuggling was often about essentials, not just luxury items. Margaret P


  2. So, Catherine hangs her head in shame as she admits she’s never heard of this poem before. However as I read about King George’s menI remembered another poem that also mentions the same men .
    The Highwayman (Alfred Noyes) was a special one for me. The picture the words painted along with the metre are still impressed in my mind. Not such a ‘jolly’ one as yours though:)


    • No shame Cathy! No-one could know every poem! I remember a poem called The Highwayman and shall look it up to see if it’s the same one


  3. Thank you for sharing this – a Kipling poem that I didn’t know. I don’t always agree with what he writes (I’m more than a ‘rag, a bone and a hank of hair’) but darn it, that man could write and he could make rhythm really work for him. Thank you again.


  4. I don’t know this poem as well as I know his “If”, but, I do like that third line: “Them than ask no questions isn’t told a lie”!


    • It’s wonderful, isn’t it? Even if a little suspect on the grammar side! We studied ‘If’ in high school and I told the teacher that I preferred the smuggler poem. She said (rather disparagingly, I thought) that she would have done at my age too!


Comments are closed.