Home > Uncategorized > John Gay: Parallel lives. Highwaymen and soldiers.

John Gay: Parallel lives. Highwaymen and soldiers.

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

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John Gay
From The Beggar’s Opera

Jemmy…Why are the Laws levell’d at us? are we more dishonest than the rest of Mankind? What we win, Gentlemen, is our own by the Law of Arms, and the Right of Conquest.

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Let us take the Road.
Hark! I hear the Sound of Coaches!
The Hour of Attack approaches,
To your Arms, brave Boys, and load.
See the Ball I hold!
Let the Chymists toil like Asses,
Our Fire their Fire surpasses,
And turns all our Lead to Gold.

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A Fox may steal your Hens, Sir,
A Whore your Health and Pence, Sir,
Your Daughter rob your Chest, Sir,
Your Wife may steal your Rest, Sir.
A Thief your Goods and Plate.
But this is all but picking,
With Rest, Pence, Chest and Chicken;
It ever was decreed, Sir,
If Lawyer’s Hand is fee’d, Sir,
He steals your whole Estate.

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Beggar. Through the whole Piece you may observe such a Similitude of Manners in high and low Life, that it is difficult to determine whether (in the fashionable Vices) the fine Gentlemen imitate the Gentlemen of the Road, or the Gentlemen of the Road the fine Gentlemen. – Had the Play remained, as I at first intended, it would have carried a most excellent Moral. ’Twould have shewn that the lower Sort of People have their Vices in a degree as well as the Rich: And that they are punish’d for them.

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