[Catherine Jemmat], “The Rural Lass”

[CATHERINE JEMMAT]

The Rural Lass

My father and mother, (what ails ‘em?)
Pretend I’m too young to be wed;
They expect, but in troth I shall fail ‘em,
That I finish my chairs and my bed.

Provided our minds are but cheery,                                        5
Wooden chairs wonnot argue a glove,
Any bed will hold me and my deary,
The main chance in wedlock is love.

My father, when ask’d if he’d lend us
An horse to the parson to ride;                                       10
In a wheel-barrow offer’d to send us,
And John for the footman beside.

Wou’d we never had ask’d him; for, whip it!
To the church tho’ two miles and a half,
Twice as far ‘twere a pleasure to trip it;                                 15
But then how the people would laugh!

The neighbours are nettl’d most sadly,
‘Was e’er such a forward bold thing?
‘Sure girl never acted so madly!’
Thro’ the parish these backbitings ring.                          20

Yet I will be marry’d to-morrow,
And charming young Harry’s the man;
My brother’s blind nag we can borrow,
And he may prevent us that can.

Not waiting for parents’ consenting,                                      25
My brother took Nell of the green;
Yet both far enough from repenting,
Now live like a king and a queen.

Pray when will your gay things of London
Produce such a strapper as Nell’s?                                   30
There wives by their husbands are undone,
As Saturday’s news-paper tells.

Poll Barnley said, over and over,
I soon shou’d be left in the lurch;
For Harry, she knew, was a rover,                                           35
And never wou’d venture to church.

And I know the sorrows that wound her,
He courted her once, he confest;
With another too great, when he found her,
He bid her take him she lik’d best.                                 40

But all that are like her, or wou’d be,
May learn from my Harry and me,
If maids wou’d be maids while they shou’d be,
How faithful their sweet-hearts wou’d be.

My mother says, clothing and feeding                                   45
Will soon make me sick of a brat:
But, tho’ I prove sick in my breeding,
I care not a farthing for that.

For if I’m not hugely mistaken,
We can live by the sweat of our brow;                            50
Stick a hog once a year, for fat bacon,
And all the year round keep a cow.

I value no dainties a button,
Course food with our stomachs allay;
If we cannot get veal, beef, and mutton,                                  55
A chine and a pudding we may.

A fig for your richest brocading;
In lindsey there’s nothing that’s base;
Your finery soon sets a fading,
My dowlass will last beyond lace.                                    60

I envy not wealth to the miser,
Nor wou’d I be plagu’d with his store:
To eat all and wear all is wiser;
Enough must be better than more.

So nothing shall tempt me from Harry,                                 65
His heart is as true as the sun:
Eve with Adam was order’d to marry;
This world it should end as begun.

NOTES:

12 John A literary name for a common or working-class man (OED).

17 nettl’d “Teased, provoked, out of temper” (Grose).

20 backbitings “Slanderous or malicious talk about someone not present” (Grose).

22 Harry May refer to a country man, a common name for “a waggoner” (Grose).

23 nag A horse, usually one that is old or sickly (Grose).

26 Nell Usually a name for a prostitute (OED); of the green A euphemism for sex before marriage (Grose).

35 rover “A flirtatious, promiscuous, or unfaithful man; an inconstant lover” (OED).

48 farthing “A former monetary unit and coin of the UK, withdrawn in 1961, equal to a quarter of an old penny” (OED).

53 dainties “Something good to eat, a delicacy” (OED); button “used in reference to something of little worth” (OED).

56 chine “The backbone of an animal as it appears in a joint of meat” (OED).

58 lindsey Alternate spelling of linsey, “a strong, coarse fabric made with cotton or linen, probably originally made in Lindsey, a town in Suffolk” (OED).

60 dowlass A type of coarse linen (OED).

67 Eve with Adam Refers to the biblical creation story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine (November 1750), p. 517.

Edited by Nicole Walker


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