In the North End of Boston, long ago; Although ’tis yet within my memory; There were of gabled houses many a row, With overhanging storeys two or three, And many with half-doors over whose end Leaning upon her elbows, the good-wife At eventide conversed with many a friend Of all the little chances of their life; Small ripples in a stream which ran full slow In the North End of Boston, long ago.
And ’mid these houses was a Hostelrie Frequented by the people of the sea, Known as the Boy and Barrel, from its sign: A jolly urchin on a cask of wine
Bearing the words which puzzled every eye— Orbus In Tactu Mainet Heaven knows why.
Even there a bit of Latin made a show, In the North End of Boston—long ago.
And many a sailor, when his cruise was o’er, Bore straight for it soon as he touched the shore: In many a stormy night upon the sea He’d thought upon the Boy—and of the spree He’d have when there, and let all trouble go, In the North End of Boston, long ago.
There, like their vessels in a friendly port, Met many mariners of every kind, Spinning strange yarns of many a varied sort, Well sheltered from the ocean and the wind; In a long low dark room they lounged at ease; Strange men there were from many a distant land, And there above the high old chimney-piece
Were curiosities from many a strand, Which often made strange tales and memories flow In the North End of Boston, long ago.
And there I often sat to hear those tales, From men who’d passed through storm and fight and fire, Of mighty icebergs and stupendous whales, Of shipwrecked crews and of adventures dire, Until the thought came to me on a time, While I was listening to that merry throng, That I would write their stories out in rhyme, And weave into it many a sailor’s song, That men might something of the legends know Of the North End of Boston, long ago.
First it was said that Captain Kidd in truth Had revelled in that tavern with his crew, And there it was he lost the Golden Tooth Which brought him treasure, and the gossips knew Moll Pitcher dwelt there in the days of yore,
And Peter Rugg had stopped before the door: Tom Walker there did with the Devil go In the North End of Boston, long ago.
Nor had I long to wait, for at the word Some one observed that he had seen in Spain A captain hung—which Abner Chapin heard And said, “I too upon the Spanish Main Met with a man well known unto us all, Who nearly hung a Captain General.”
He told the tale and I did rhyme it so; In the North End of Boston, long ago.