W. B. Rands, who originated the long-running Boy's Own Paper, was a Victorian author of children's literature and poetry who contributed much to the canon, although little of it has survived to be studied today. "The Pedlar's Caravan" describes the speaker's desire to "roam" with a pedlar whose house is peripatetic, "like a bathing machine," and then to write a book about his adventures after the fact. The pedlar in the poem is, most probably, a Romany Gypsy; his baby is "brown," and his trade appears to be mainly in housewares, including "delf" (a type of Dutch crockery); tea-trays; baskets; and "plates with alphabet around the border." Romany people were not well-respected in the Victorian period and were often subject to racist stereotypes at worst or cultural appropriation at best. Rands's poem, while not malicious, certainly exhibits a degree of cultural appropriation, as Rands sees the pedlar's day-to-day life as a spectacle to write stories about and thus become as famous as the author of "The Travels of Captain Cook."
The pedlar's mobile existence is envied by the speaker, who notes that "where he comes from nobody knows / Or where he goes to, but on he goes!" The structure of the poem—four stanzas of four lines each, in simple aabb rhyme—reflects its light, rather childish subject matter and the fact that it was intended for children. Likewise, the description of the pedlar's caravan is pleasingly simplistic, with its "windows two" and "chimney of tin that the smoke goes through."
Rands uses sea imagery later in the poem to create a connection between the pedlar and Captain Cook, suggesting that the pedlar, in his house "like a bathing machine," is like a sailor on land, able to "rumble and splash to the other side" of the globe. Evidently, to the speaker, this ability to move "from town to town" is intriguing, a very foreign existence worthy of study but beyond the understanding of the target audience of readers, to whom this would be quite alien.
"The Pedlar's Caravan" by William Brighty Rands describes the speaker's longing to live the life of a pedlar man on the road. The short poem uses rhymed couplets and detail-rich imagery to capture the excitement of the peddler's traveling caravan.
The first stanza introduces the speaker's longing for a life of travel like the pedlarr man: "Where he comes from nobody knows, Or where he goes to, but on he goes!" The uncertainty of the pedlar's destinations makes his life seem exciting and fresh.
The second stanza and third stanzas provide details of the pedlar's caravan, describing what the caravan wagon looks like and his goods that he sells from town to town.
The fourth stanza employs both simile and imagery to compare the pedlar's home to a "bathing-machine" (14). The imagery suggests movement and motion that mirrors the rumble of the caravan over the roads as he travels.
The last stanza of the poem is a refrain of the opening of the poem, the speaker's wish to travel with the pedlar man. He longs for the sort of adventure that he could write a book about, like the "travels of Captain Cook!" (20)