Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, LYDFORD JOURNEY, by WILLIAM BROWNE (1591-1643)



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LYDFORD JOURNEY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I oft have heard of lydford law
Last Line: Unless by some tin warrant.
Alternate Author Name(s): Browne, William Of Tavistock
Subject(s): Law & Lawyers; Travel; Attorneys; Journeys; Trips


I OFT have heard of Lydford law,
How in the morn they hang and draw,
And sit in judgment after:
At first I wonder'd at it much;
But now I find their reason such,
That it deserves no laughter.

They have a castle on a hill;
I took it for an old windmill,
The vanes blown off by weather;
Than lie therein one night, 'tis guess'd,
'Tis better to be ston'd or press'd,
Or hang'd, now choose you whether.

Ten men less room within this cave
Than five mice in a lanthorn have;
The keepers they are sly ones:
If any could devise by art
To get it up into a cart,
'Twere fit to carry lions.
When I beheld it, Lord! thought I,
What justice and what clemency
Hath Lydford, when I spy all!
They know none there would gladly stay,
But rather hang out of the way,
Than tarry for his trial.

The Prince a hundred pounds hath sent
To mend the leads and planchings rent
Within this living tomb:
Some forty-five pounds more had paid
The debts of all that shall be laid
There till the day of doom.

One lies there for a seam of malt,
Another for three pecks of salt,
Two sureties for a noble;
If this be true, or else false news,
You may go ask of Mr. Crewes,
John Vaughan, or John Doble.

Near to the men that lie in lurch,
There is a bridge, there is a church,
Seven ashes, and an oak;
Three houses standing, and ten down;
They say the parson hath a gown,
But I saw ne'er a cloak.

Whereby you may consider well,
That plain simplicity doth dwell
At Lydford without bravery;
For in that town, both young and grave
Do love the naked truth, and have
No cloaks to hide their knavery.

This town's enclos'd with desert moors,
But where no bear nor lion roars,
And nought can live but hogs:
For, all o'erturn'd by Noah's flood,
Of fourscore miles scarce one foot's good,
And hills are wholly bogs.

And near hereto's the Gubbins' cave;
A people that no knowledge have
Of law, or God, or men:
Whom Cæsar never yet subdued;
Who've lawless liv'd; of manners rude;
All savage in their den.

By whom,—if any pass that way,
He dares not the least time to stay,
For presently they howl;
Upon which signal they do muster
Their naked forces in a cluster,
Led forth by Roger Rowle.

The people all, within this clime,
Are frozen up all winter time;
Be sure I do not fain;
And when the summer is begun
They lie like silkworms in the sun,
And come to life again.

One told me, in King Cæsar's time,
The town was built of stone and lime,
But sure the walls were clay:
For they are fall'n, for ought I see,
And since the houses were got free,
The town is run away.

O Cæsar, if thou there didst reign,
Whilst one house stands, come there again;
Come quickly, while there is one:
If thou but stay a little fit,
But five years more, they may commit
The whole town into prison.

To see it thus much griev'd was I;
The proverb says, Sorrow is dry,
So was I at this matter:
When by great chance, I know not how,
There thither came a strange stray'd cow,
And we had milk and water.

Sure I believe it then did rain
A cow or two from Charles his wain,
For none alive did see
Such kind of creatures there before,
Nor shall from hence for evermore,
Save pris'ners, geese, and we.

To nine good stomachs, with our whig,
At last we got a tithing pig;
This diet was our bounds:
And that was just as if 'twere known,
One pound of butter had been thrown
Amongst a pack of hounds.

One glass of drink I got by chance,
'Twas claret when it was in France;
But now from that nought wider:
I think a man might make as good
With green crabs boil'd with Brazil wood
And half a pint of cider.

I kiss'd the Mayor's hand of the town,
Who, though he wear no scarlet gown,
Honours the Rose and Thistle:
A piece of coral to the mace,
Which there I saw to serve the place,
Would make a good child's whistle.

At six o'clock I came away,
And pray'd for those that were to stay,
Within a place so arrant,
Wild and ope to winds that roar:
By God's grace I'll come there no more,
Unless by some tin warrant.





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