Classic and Contemporary Poetry
THE BEGGAR WOMAN, by WILLIAM KING
First Line: A gentleman in hunting rode astray
Last Line: To try a year or two how you'll keep this.'
Subject(s): Begging & Beggars
A GENTLEMAN in hunting rode astray,
More out of choice than that he lost his way.
He let his company the hare pursue,
For he himself had other game in view:
A beggar by her trade; yet not so mean
But that her cheeks were fresh and linen clean.
'Mistress,' quoth he, 'and what if we two should
Retire a little way into the wood?'
She needed not much courtship to be kind,
He ambles on before, she trots behind;
For little Bobby, to her shoulders bound,
Hinders the gentle dame from ridding ground.
He often asked her to expose, but she
Still feared the coming of his company.
Says she, 'I know an unfrequented place,
To the left hand, where we our time may pass,
And the meanwhile your horse may find some grass.'
Thither they come, and both the horse secure;
Then thinks the squire, I have the matter sure.
She's asked to sit, but then excuse is made:
'Sitting,' says she, "s not usual in my trade;
Should you be rude, and then should throw me down,
I might perhaps break more backs than my own.'
He smiling cries, 'Come, I'll the knot untie,
And, if you mean the child's, we'll lay it by.'
Says she. 'That can't be done, for then 'twill cry.
I'd not have us, but chiefly for your sake,
Discovered by the hideous noise 'twould make.
Use is another nature and 'twould lack,
More than the breast, its custom to the back.'
'Then,' says the gentleman, 'I should be loth
To come so far and disoblige you both:
Were the child tied to me, d'ye think 'twould do?'
'Mighty well, sir! Oh, Lord! if tied to you!'
With speed incredible to work she goes,
And from her shoulders soon the burthen throws;
Then mounts the infant with a gentle toss
Upon her generous friend, and, like a cross,
The sheet she with a dextrous motion winds,
Till a firm knot the wand'ring fabric binds.
The gentleman had scarce got time to know
What she was doing; she, about to go,
Cries, 'Sir, goodbye; ben't angry that we part,
I trust the child to ye with all my heart:
But, ere you get another, ti'n't amiss
To try a year or two how you'll keep this.'
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