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Poem by Robert Bloomfield

The Horkey

     A Provincial Ballad.

What gossips prattled in the sun,
Who talk'd him fairly down,
Up, memory! tell; 'tis Suffolk fun,
And lingo of their own.

Ah! Judie Twitchet! though thou'rt dead,
With thee the tale begins;
For still seems thrumming in my head
The rattling of thy pins.

Thou Queen of knitters! for a ball
Of worsted was thy pride;
With dangling stockings great and small,
And world of clack beside!

"We did so laugh; the moon shone bright;
"More fun you never knew;
"'Twas Farmer Cheerum's Horkey night,
"And I, and Grace, and Sue----

"But bring a stool, sit round about,
"And boys, be quiet, pray;
"And let me tell my story out;
"'Twas sitch a merry day!

"The butcher whistled at the door,
"And brought a load of meat;
"Boys rubb'd their hands, and cried, 'there's more,'
"Dogs wagg'd their tails to see't.

"On went the boilers till the hake
"Had much ado to bear 'em;
"The magpie talk'd for talking sake,
"Birds sung;--but who could hear 'em?

"Creak went the jack; the cats were scar'd,
"We had not time to heed 'em,
"The owd hins cackled in the yard,
"For we forgot to feed 'em!

"Yet 'twas not I, as I may say,
"Because as how, d'ye see;
"I only help'd there for the day;
"They cou'dn't lay't to me.

"Now Mrs. Cheerum's best lace cap
"Was mounted on her head;
"Guests at the door began to rap,
"And now the cloth was spread.

"Then clatter went the earthen plates--
"'Mind Judie,' was the cry;
"I could have cop't them at their pates;
"'Trenchers for me,' said I.

"'That look so clean upon the ledge,
"'And never mind a fall;
"'Nor never turn a sharp knife's edge;--
"'But fashion rules us all.'

"Home came the jovial Horkey load,
"Last of the whole year's crop;
"And Grace amongst the green boughs rode
"Right plump upon the top.

"This way and that the waggon reel'd,
"And never queen rode higher;
"Her cheeks were colour'd in the field,
"And ours before the fire.

"The laughing harvest-folks, and John,
"Came in and look'd askew;
"'Twas my red face that set them on,
"And then they leer'd at Sue.

"And Farmer Cheerum went, good man,
"And broach'd the Horkey beer;
"And sitch a mort of folks began
"To eat up our good cheer.

"Says he, 'Thank God for what's before us;
"'That thus we meet agen,'
"The mingling voices, like a chorus,
"Join'd cheerfully, 'Amen.'--

"Welcome and plenty, there they found 'em,
"The ribs of beef grew light;
"And puddings--till the boys got round 'em,
"And then they vanish'd quite!

"Now all the guests, with Farmer Crouder,
"Began to prate of corn;
"And we found out they talk'd the louder,
"The oftner pass'd the Horn.

"Out came the nuts; we set a cracking;
"The ale came round our way;
"By gom we women fell a clacking
"As loud again as they.

"John sung 'Old Benbow' loud and strong,
"And I, 'The Constant Swain,'
"'Cheer up my Lads,' was Simon's song,
"'We'll conquer them again.'

"Now twelve o'clock was drawing nigh,
"And all in merry cue;
"I knock'd the cask, 'O, ho!' said I,
"'We've almost conquer'd you.'

"My Lord begg'd round, and held
his hat,
"Says Farmer Gruff, says he,
"There's many a Lord, Sam, I know that,
"Has begg'd as well as thee.'

"Bump in his hat the shillings tumbl'd
"All round among the folks;
"'Laugh if you wool,' said Sam, and mumbl'd,
"'You pay for all your jokes.'

"Joint stock you know among the men,
"To drink at their own charges;
"So up they got full drive, and then
"Went out to halloo largess.

"And sure enough the noise they made!!--
--"But let me mind my tale;
"We follow'd them, we wor'nt afraid,
"We'ad all been drinking ale.

"As they stood hallooing back to back,
"We, lightly as a feather,
"Went sideling round, and in a crack
"Had pinn'd their coats together.

"'Twas near upon't as light as noon;
"'A largess,' on the hill,
"They shouted to the full round moon,
"I think I hear 'em still!

"But when they found the trick, my stars!
"They well knew who to blame,
"Our giggles turn'd to ha, ha, ha's,
"And arter us they came.

"Grace by the tumbril made a squat,
"Then ran as Sam came by,
"They said she could not run for fat;
"I know she did not try.

"Sue round the neathouse squalling ran,
"Where Simon scarcely dare;
"He stopt,--for he's a fearful man--
"'By gom there's suffen there!'

"And off set John, with all his might,
"To chase me down the yard,
"Till I was nearly gran'd outright;
"He hugg'd so woundly hard.

"Still they kept up the race and laugh,
"And round the house we flew;
"But hark ye! the best fun by half
"Was Simon arter Sue.

"She car'd not, dark nor light, not she,
"So, near the dairy door
"She pass'd a clean white hog, you see,
"They'd kilt the day before.

"High on the spirket there it hung,--
"'Now Susie--what can save ye?'
"Round the cold pig his arms he flung,
"And cried, 'Ah! here I have ye!'

"The farmers heard what Simon said,
"And what a noise! good lack!
"Some almost laugh'd themselves to dead,
"And others clapt his back.

"We all at once began to tell
"What fun we had abroad;
"But Simon stood our jeers right well;
--"He fell asleep and snor'd.

"Then in his button-hole upright,
"Did Farmer Crouder put,
"A slip of paper twisted tight,
"And held the candle to't.

"It smok'd, and smok'd, beneath his nose,
"The harmless blaze crept higher;
"Till with a vengeance up he rose,
"Grace, Judie, Sue! fire, fire!

"The clock struck one--some talk'd of parting,
"Some said it was a sin,
"And kilch'd their chairs;--but those for starting
"Now let the moonlight in.

"Owd women, loitering for the nonce,
"Stood praising the fine weather;
"The menfolks took the hint at once
"To kiss them altogether.

"And out ran every soul beside,
"A shanny-pated crew;
"Owd folks could neither run nor hide,
"So some ketch'd one, some tew.

"They skriggl'dand began to scold.
"But laughing got the master;
"Some quack'ling cried, 'let go your hold;'
"The farmers held the faster.

"All innocent, that I'll be sworn,
"There wor'nt a bit of sorrow,
"And women, if their gowns are_ torn,
"Can mend them on the morrow.

"Our shadows helter skelter danc'd
"About the moonlight ground;
"The wondering sheep, as on we pranc'd,
"Got up and gaz'd around,

"And well they might--till Farmer Chcerum,
"Now with a hearty glee,
"Bade all good morn as he came near 'em,
"And then to bed went he.

"Then off we stroll'd this way and that,
"With merry voices ringing;
"And Echo answered us right pat,
"As home we rambl'd singing.

"For, when we laugh'd, it laugh'd again,
"And to our own doors follow'd!
"'Yo, ho!' we cried; 'Yo, ho!' so plain
"The misty meadow halloo'd.

"That's all my tale, and all the fun,
"Come, turn your wheels about;
"My worsted, see!--that's nicely done,
"Just held my story out!!"

Poor Judie!--Thus Time knits or spins
The worsted from Life's ball!
Death stopt thy tales, and stopt thy pins,
--And so he'll serve us all.

Robert Bloomfield

Robert Bloomfield's other poems:
  1. A Visit to Renelagh
  2. Rosy Hannah
  3. Barnham Water
  4. The Woodland Hallo
  5. Lines Occasioned by a Visit to Whittlebury Forest, Northamptonshire, in August, 1800

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