Philobiblon: A corrective to the claim ...

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A corrective to the claim ...

... that we live in an unusually uncouth or rough age can be found in my Christmas Amazon order, my usual present to myself, which includes a collection of verse from 1580 to 1830 (concentrated in the earlier section of that span).

Two samples from the milder end of the spectrum:

I owed my hostess thirty pound

I owed my hostess thirty pound,
And how d'ye think I paid her?
I met her in my turnip ground
And gently down I laid her.

She oped a purse as black as coal
To hold my coin when counted.
I satisfied her in the whole,
And just by tail she found it.

Two stones make pounds full twenty-eight,
And stones she had some skill in,
And if good flesh bear any rate
A yard's worth forty shilling.

If this coin pass, no man that lives
Shall dun for past debauches.
Zounds, landlords, send but in your wives!
We'll scour off all their notches.

(From an undated song sheet, probably early 18th century. In case you were wondering: "just by tail" means exactly paying off a debt; "yard" was a word for penis and "stones" testicles. Zounds I haven't worked out - Google gives me " a group of anarcho-punk rockers" - probably not quite right.)

And then Sir John Davies, leaving nothing to the imagination, and proving not much has changed in the weirder bedrooms of the nation ...

When Francus comes to solace

When Francus comes to solace with his whore
He sends for rods and strips himself stark naked,
For his lust sleeps and will not rise before
By whipping of the wench it be awaked.
I envy him not, but wish I had the power
To make myself his wench for one half hour.
(From his Epigrammes and Elegies, ?1596. The modern text gives no idea of Francus was, but I bet contemporary readers did.)

Lovers, Rakes and Rogues: A New Garner of Love-songs and Merry Verses, 1580-1830, John Wardroper, Shelfmark, 1995. Poems pages 154-5 and 186.


Blogger Anne said...

I think "Zounds!" is an exclamation, but I don't know the origin.

12/29/2004 04:41:00 am  
Blogger Anne said...

P.S. Aha:

12/29/2004 04:42:00 am  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...


I was thinking of it as a noun, but obviously I was way out. From your reference: "Used to express anger, surprise, or indignation.
[Shortening and alteration of God's wounds!]"

I can see why it died, however - trying it out as an exclamation it is just too large and complex a sound.

12/29/2004 12:46:00 pm  
Blogger Grumpy Old Man said...

"Zounds!" is a euphemistic shortening of "God's wounds," I think. Cf. "bloody," which used to be extremely offensive in England.

1/08/2005 03:51:00 pm  

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