The Two Boys

By Mary Lamb 1764–1847 Mary Lamb
I saw a boy with eager eye
Open a book upon a stall,
And read as he’d devour it all;
Which when the stall-man did espy,
Soon to the boy I heard him call,
‘You, Sir, you never buy a book,
Therefore in one you shall not look.’
The boy passed slowly on, and with a sigh
He wished he never had been taught to read,
Then of the old churl’s books he should have had no need.

   Of sufferings the poor have many,
Which never can the rich annoy.
I soon perceived another boy
Who looked as if he’d not had any
Food for that day at least, enjoy
The sight of cold meat in a tavern larder.
This boy’s case, thought I, is surely harder,
Thus hungry longing, thus without a penny,
Beholding choice of dainty dressed meat;
No wonder if he wish he ne’er had learned to eat.

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Poet Mary Lamb 1764–1847

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Subjects Class, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Mary  Lamb

Biography

British Poet and anthologist Mary Lamb worked as a seamstress for 10 years to support her ailing family. She suffered from bipolar disorder and, during an episode in 1796, killed her mother with a kitchen knife. Her younger brother Charles, a poet and essayist who worked for the East India Company, agreed to serve as Mary’s caretaker rather than consign her to lifelong institutionalization. They lived together for nearly 40 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Class, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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