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West Country Poets

JOHN GOODWIN (no dates given)

We record in other parts of the present volume postmen-poets, railway-poets, and others in ordinary walks of life.  We now make a brief note relative to John GOODWIN, one of the olden race of stage-coach guards.  Although a native of Cambridgeshire, he was for some years on the 'Great Britain' coach, which plied between Kingsbridge and Plymouth.  At another period of his life he was on the coach 'Nonpareil', which ran between Bristol and Devonport.  Few men could blow the bugle so well as GOODWIN, and many were the testimonials of bugles and coropeans which he received from admiring patrons.  The coming of the iron horse into the west compelled him to abandon his out-of-door life, and he ended his days as a billiard-marker at Plymouth.  He was an ardent fishermen, and once played a pike off and on for twenty-four hours.  The fish weighed tenty-five pounds.  He had also considerable talent in the making of verses, his principal theme being coaching.  He sung of the days when there was such a thing, if we may so phrase it, as the poetry of locomotion, and his lines reveal how much his vocation meant to him.  In all there is a genuine ring, showing that a true spirit of love of the road prompted him in the writing of them.  There is, too, a tinge of sadness, when he alludes to the steam-egine causing such a revolution in the mode of travelling, and sweeping away one by one the old institutions that had been so dear to him.  He issued, abouth twenty years ago, a little volume entitled 'Carmina Viae', containing such of his poetical effusions as were thought worth of publication.  We give a short piece as a sample of his rude versification:

THE OLD STAGE-COACH

(BY AN OLD STAGE-COACH GUARD)

In days gone by with four-in-hand
  We used to spank along;
The guard on bugle well would play,
  Or tip a jolly song.

I mind the time when I was guard,
  The lord, the duke, or squire,
Would travel by the old stage-coach,
  Or post-chaise they would hire.

Alas! no more those happy days,
  They seem but like a dream;
The road has ceased to be 'the road'
  Since introducing steam.

The roadside inns have dwindled down,
  The 'pikes have shared the lot;
The guards' and coachmen's race is run,
  They're nearly all forgot.

Transcribed by Sandra Windeatt from: Wright, W.H.K., (1896) West-Country Poets:  Their Lives and Works. London: Elliot Stock, p.195.

Last updated 22 Jul 2011 - Brian Randell.

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