Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A VOYAGE TO IRELAND IN BURLESQUE, by CHARLES COTTON



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

A VOYAGE TO IRELAND IN BURLESQUE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The lives of frail men are compar'd by the sages
Last Line: For indeed I have ever been true to the crown.
Subject(s): Booth, Sir George (1622-1684); Coriat, Thomas (1577-1617); Ireland; Travel; Coriate, Thomas; Irish; Journeys; Trips


THE lives of frail men are compar'd by the Sages,
Or unto short journeys, or pilgrimages,
As men to their Inns do come sooner or later,
That is, to their ends: (to be plain in my matter);
From whence, when one dead is, it currently follows,
He has run his race, though his goal be the gallows;
And this 'tis, I fancy, sets folk so a madding,
And makes men and women so eager of gadding;
Truth is, in my youth I was one of those people
Would have gone a great way to have seen an high steeple,
And though I was bred 'mongst the wonders o' th' Peak,
Would have thrown away money, and ventur'd my neck,
To have seen a great hill, a rock, or a cave,
And thought there was nothing so pleasant and brave;
But at forty years old you may (if you please)
Think me wiser than run such errands as these;
Or, had the same humour still ran in my toes,
A voyage to Ireland I ne'er should have chose:
But to tell you the truth on't, indeed it was neither
Improvement nor pleasure for which I went thither;
I know then you'll presently ask me, for what?
Why faith, it was that makes the Old Woman trot;
And therefore I think I'm not much to be blam'd
If I went to the place whereof Nick was asham'd.

Oh Couriate! thou traveller fam'd as Ulysses,
In such a stupendious labour as this is
Come lend me the aids of thy hands and thy feet,
Though the first be pedantic, the other not sweet,
Yet both are so restless in peregrination,
They'll help both my journey, and eke my relation.

'Twas now the most beautiful time of the year,
The days were now long, and the sky was now clear,
And May, that fair lady of splendid renown,
Had dress'd herself fine, in her flowr'd tabby gown,
When about some two hours and an half after noon,
When it grew something late, though I thought it too soon,
With a pitiful voice and a most heavy heart,
I tun'd up my pipes to sing "loth to depart."
The ditty concluded, I call'd for my horse,
And with a good pack did the Jument endorse,
Till he groan'd and he farted under the burthen,
For sorrow had made me a cumbersome lurden:
And now farewell Dove, where I've caught such brave dishes
Of overgrown, golden, and silver scal'd fishes;
Thy Trout and thy Grayling may now feed securely,
I've left none behind me can take 'em so surely;
Feed on then, and breed on, until the next year,
But if I return I expect my arrear.

By pacing and trotting, betimes in the even,
E'er the sun had forsaken one half of the Heaven,
We all at fair Congerton took up our Inn,
Where the sign of a King kept a King and his Queen:
But who do you think came to welcome me there?
No worse a man, marry, than good master Mayor,
With his Staff of command, yet the man was not lame,
But he needed it more when he went, than he came;
After three or four hours of friendly potation
We took leave each of other in courteous fashion,
When each one, to keep his brains fast in his head,
Put on a good nightcap, and straightway to bed.

Next morn, having paid for boil'd, roasted, and bacon,
And of sovereign Hostess our leaves kindly taken,
(For her King (as 'twas rumor'd) by late pouring down,
This morning had got a foul flaw in his crown,)
We mounted again, and full soberly riding,
Three miles we had rid e'er we met with a biding;
But there (having over night plied the tap well)
We now must needs water at place call'd Holmes Chapel;
A Hay! quoth the foremost, Ho! who keeps the House?
Which said, out an Host comes as brisk as a louse,
His hair comb'd as slick, as a barber he'd bin,
A cravat with black ribbon ti'd under his chin,
Though by what I saw in him I straight 'gan to fear
That knot would be one day slip'd under his ear:
Quoth he, (with low congy) what lack you my Lord?
The best liquor, quoth I, that the house will afford:
You shall straight, quoth he, and then calls out, Mary,
Come quickly, and bring us a quart of Canary:
Hold, hold, my spruce Host, for i' th' morning so early
I never drank liquor but what's made of barley;
Which words were scarce out, but, which made me admire,
My Lordship was presently turn'd into Squire;
Ale, Squire, you mean, quoth he, nimbly again,
What, must it be purl'd? No, I love it best plain:
Why, if you'll drink ale, Sir, pray take my advice,
Here's the best ale i' th' land, if you'll go to the price,
Better, I sure am, ne'er blew out a stopple,
But then, in plain truth, it is sixpence a bottle:
Why, Faith, quoth I, Friend, if your liquor be such,
For the best ale in England, it is not too much;
Let's have it, and quickly; O Sir! you may stay,
A pot in your pate is a mile in your way:
Come, bring out a bottle here presently, Wife,
Of the best Cheshire Hum he e'er drank in his life.
Straight out comes the mistress in waistcoat of silk,
As clear as a milkmaid, and white as her milk,
With visage as oval and slick as an egg,
As straight as an arrow, as right as my leg;
A court'sy she made, as demure as a Sister,
I could not forbear, but alighted and kiss'd her,
Then ducking another with most modest mien,
The first word she said, was, wilt please you walk in?
I thank'd her, but told her, I then could not stay,
For the haste of my bus'ness did call me away;
She said she was sorry it fell out so odd,
But if, when again I should travel that road,
I would stay there a night, she assur'd me the Nation
Should nowhere afford better accommodation:
Meanwhile my spruce landlord has broken the cork,
And call'd for a bodkin, though he had a fork;
But I shew'd him a screw, which I told my brisk gull
A trepan was for bottles had broken their skull;
Which, as it was true, he believ'd without doubt,
But 'twas I that appli'd it, and pull'd the cork out:
Bounce, quoth the bottle, the work being done,
It roar'd, and it smoked, like a new fir'd gun:
But the shot miss'd us all, or else we'd been routed,
Which yet was a wonder, we were so about it;
Mine Host pour'd and fill'd, till he could fill no fuller,
Look here, Sir, quoth he, both for nap and for colour,
Sans bragging, I hate it, nor will I e'er do 't,
I defy Leek, and Lambhith, and Sandwich to boot:
By my troth he said true, for I speak it with tears,
Though I have been a toss-pot these twenty good years,
And have drank so much liquor has made me a debtor,
In my days, that I know of, I never drank better;
We found it so good, and we drank so profoundly,
That four good round shillings were whipt away roundly;
And then I conceiv'd it was time to be jogging,
For our work had been done, had we staid t'other noggin.

From thence we set forth with more mettle and sprite,
Our horses were empty, our coxcombs were light,
O'er Dellamore Forest we, tantivy, posted,
Till our horses were basted as if they were roasted;
In truth, we pursu'd might have been by our haste,
And I think Sir George Booth did not gallop so fast,
Till about two a clock after noon, God be bless'd,
We came safe and sound, all to Chester i' th' West.

And now in high time 'twas to call for some meat,
Though drinking does well, yet some time we must eat;
And i' faith we had victuals both plenty and good,
Where we all laid about us as if we were wood:
Go thy ways, Mistress Anderton, for a good woman,
Thy guests shall by thee ne'er be turn'd to a Common,
And whoever of thy entertainment complains,
Let him lie with a drab, and be pox'd for his pains.

And here I must stop the career of my Muse,
The poor jade is weary, 'lass! how should she choose,
And if I should farther here spur on my course,
I should, questionless, tire both my wits and my horse;
To-night let us rest, for 'tis good Sunday's even,
To-morrow to Church, and ask pardon of Heaven.
Thus far we our time spent, as here I have pen'd it,
An odd kind of life, and 'tis well if we mend it;
But to-morrow (God willing) we'll have t'other bout,
And better or worse be 't, for murther will out,
Our future adventures we'll lay down before ye,
For my Muse is deep sworn to use truth of the story.

Canto 2

AFTER seven hours sleep, to commute for pains taken,
A man of himself, one would think, might awaken,
But riding, and drinking hard, were two such spells,
I doubt I'd slept on, but for jangling of bells,
Which, ringing to Matins all over the town,
Made me leap out of bed, and put on my gown,
With intent (so God mend me) t' have gone to the choir,
When straight I perceived myself all on a fire;
For the two fore-nam'd things had so heated my blood,
That a little phlebotomy would do me good:
I sent for Chirurgion, who came in a trice,
And swift to shed blood, needed not be call'd twice,
But tilted stiletto quite thorough the vein,
From whence issued out the ill humours amain;
When having twelve ounces he bound up my arm,
And I gave him two Georges, which did him no harm;
But after my bleeding I soon understood
It had cool'd my devotion as well as my blood,
For I had no more mind to look on my Psalter
Than (saving your presence) I had to a halter;
But like a most wicked and obstinate sinner,
Then sat in my chamber till folks came to dinner:
I din'd with good stomach, and very good cheer,
With a very fine woman, and good ale and beer;
When myself having stuff'd than a bag-pipe more full,
I fell to my smoking until I grew dull;
And therefore to take a fine nap thought it best,
For when belly full is bones would be at rest;
I tumbled me down on my bed like a swad,
Where O the delicious dream that I had!
Till the bells, that had been my morning molesters,
Now wak'd me again, chiming all in to Vespers;
With that starting up, for my man I did whistle,
And comb'd out and powder'd my locks that were grizzle,
Had my clothes neatly brush'd, and then put on my sword
Resolv'd now to go and attend on the word.

Thus trick'd, and thus trim, to set forth I begin,
Neat and cleanly without, but scarce cleanly within;
For why, Heaven knows it, I long time had been
A most humble obedient servant to sin;
And now in devotion was even so proud,
I scorned (forsooth) to join pray'r with the crowd,
For though courted by all the bells as I went,
I was deaf, and regarded not the compliment,
But to the Cathedral still held on my pace,
As 'twere, scorning to kneel but in the best place;
I there made myself sure of good Music at least,
But was something deceiv'd, for 'twas none of the best:
But however I stayed at the Church's commanding
Till we came to the peace passes all understanding,
Which no sooner was ended, but whir and away,
Like boys in a school when they've leave got to play,
All save Master Mayor, who still gravely stays
Till the rest had left room for his Worship and 's mace;
Then he and his brethren in order appear,
I out of my stall and fell into his rear;
For why, 'tis much safer appearing, no doubt,
In Authority's tail, than the head of a rout.

In this rev'rend order we marched from Pray'r;
The mace before me borne as well as the May'r;
Who looking behind him, and seeing most plain
A glorious gold belt in the rear of his train,
Made such a low congey, forgetting his place,
I was never so honour'd before in my days;
But then off went my scalp-case, and down went my fist,
Till the pavement, too hard, by my knuckles was kiss'd,
By which, though thick-scull'd, he must understand this,
That I was a most humble servant of his;
Which also so wonderful kindly he took,
(As I well perceiv'd both b' his gesture and look,)
That to have me dogg'd home, he straightway appointed,
Resolving, it seems, to be better acquainted;
I was scarce in my quarters, and set down on crupper,
But his man was there too, to invite me to supper;
I start up, and after most respective fashion
Gave his Worship much thanks for his kind invitation,
But begg'd his excuse, for my stomach was small,
And I never did eat any supper at all;
But that after supper I would kiss his hands,
And would come to receive his Worship's commands:
Sure no one will say, but a patron of slander,
That this was not pretty well for a Moorlander;
And since on such reasons to sup I refus'd,
I nothing did doubt to be holden excus'd;
But my quaint repartee had his Worship possess'd
With so wonderful good a conceit of the rest,
That with mere impatience he hop'd in his breeches
To see the fine fellow that made such fine speeches:
Go, Sirrah, quoth he, get you to him again,
And will and require in his Majesty's name,
That he come: and tell him, obey he were best, or
I'll teach him to know that he's now in West Chester:
The man, upon this, comes me running again,
But yet minc'd his message, and was not so plain;
Saying to me only, good Sir, I am sorry
To tell you my master has sent again for you;
And has such a longing to have you his guest,
That I, with these ears, heard him swear and protest,
He would neither say Grace, nor sit down on his bum,
Nor open his napkin, until you do come.
With that I perceiv'd no excuse would avail,
And, seeing there was no defence for a flail,
I said I was ready master May'r to obey,
And therefore desir'd him to lead me the way:
We went, and e'er Malkin could well lick her ear,
For it but the next door was, forsooth, we were there;
Where lights being brought me, I mounted the stairs,
The worst I e'er saw in my life at a Mayor's,
But everything else must be highly commended;
I there found his Worship most nobly attended,
Besides such a supper as well did convince,
A May'r in his province to be a great Prince:
As he sat in his chair, he did not much vary,
In state, nor in face, from our eighth English Harry;
But whether his face was swell'd up with fat,
Or puff'd up with glory, I cannot tell that:
Being enter'd the chamber half length of a pike,
And cutting of faces exceedingly like
One of those little gentlemen brought from the Indies,
And screwing myself into congeys and cringes,
By then I was half way advanc'd in the room
His worship most rev'rendly rose from his bum,
And with the more honour to grace and to greet me,
Advanc'd a whole step and an half for to meet me;
Where leisurely doffing a hat worth a tester,
He bade me most heartily welcome to Chester;
I thank'd him in language the best I was able,
And so we forthwith sat us all down to table.

Now here you must note, and 'tis worth observation,
That as his chair at one end o' th' table had station,
So sweet Mistress May'ress, in just such another,
Like the fair Queen of Hearts, sat in state at the other;
By which I perceiv'd, though it seemed a riddle,
The lower end of this must be just in the middle;
But perhaps 'tis a rule there, and one that would mind it
Amongst the town statutes 'tis likely might find it.
But now into th' pottage each deep his spoon claps,
As in truth one might safely for burning one's chaps,
When straight, with the look and the tone of a scold,
Mistress May'ress complain'd that the pottage was cold,
And all long of your fiddle-faddle, quoth she;
Why, what then, Goody two-shoes, what if it be?
Hold you, if you can, your tittle-tattle, quoth he.
I was glad she was snapp'd thus, and guess'd by th' discourse,
The May'r, not the grey mare, was the better horse;
And yet for all that, there is reason to fear,
She submitted but out of respect to his year;
However, 'twas well she had now so much grace,
Though not to the man, to submit to his place;
For had she proceeded, I verily thought
My turn would the next be, for I was in fault;
But this brush being past we fell to our diet,
And ev'ry one there fill'd his belly in quiet.

Supper being ended, and things away taken,
Master Mayor's curiosity 'gan to awaken;
Wherefore making me draw something nearer his chair,
He will'd and requir'd me there to declare
My country, my birth, my estate, and my parts,
And whether I was not a Master of Arts;
And eke what the business was had brought me thither,
With what I was going about now, and whither:
Giving me caution, no lie should escape me,
For if I should trip, he should certainly trap me.
I answer'd, my country was fam'd Staffordshire;
That in deeds, bills and bonds, I was ever writ Squire;
That of land, I had both sorts, some good and some evil,
But that a great part on 't was pawn'd to the Devil;
That as for my parts, they were such as he saw;
That indeed I had a small smatt'ring of Law,
Which I lately had got more by practice than reading,
By sitting o' th' Bench, whilst others were pleading;
But that Arms I had ever more studi'd than Arts,
And was now to a Captain rais'd by my deserts;
That the bus'ness which led me through Palatine ground
Into Ireland was, whither now I was bound;
Where his Worship's great favour I loud will proclaim,
And in all other places where ever I came.
He said, as to that, I might do what I list,
But that I was welcome, and gave me his fist;
When having my fingers made crack with his gripes,
He call'd to his man for some bottles and pipes.

To trouble you here with a longer narration
Of the several parts of our confabulation,
Perhaps would be tedious, I'll therefore remit ye
Even to the most rev'rend records of the city,
Where doubtless the acts of the May'rs are recorded,
And if not more truly, yet much better worded.

In short, then we pip'd, and we tippled Canary,
Till my watch pointed on in the circle horary;
When thinking it now was high time to depart,
His Worship I thank'd with a most grateful heart;
And because to great men presents are acceptable,
I presented the May'r, e'er I rose from the table,
With a certain fantastical box and a stopper;
And he having kindly accepted my offer,
I took my fair leave, such my visage adorning,
And to bed, for I was to rise early i' th' morning.

Canto 3

THE sun in the morning disclosed his light,
With complexion as ruddy as mine over night;
And o'er th' eastern mountains peeping up 's head,
The casement being open, espi'd me in bed;
With his rays he so tickled my lids that I wak'd,
And was half asham'd, for I found myself nak'd;
But up I soon start, and was dress'd in a trice,
And call'd for a draught of ale, sugar, and spice;
Which having turn'd off, I then call to pay,
And packing my nawls, whip'd to horse and away;
A guide I had got, who demanded great vails,
For conducting me over the mountains of Wales;
Twenty good shillings, which sure very large is;
Yet that would not serve, but I must bear his charges;
And yet for all that, rode astride on a beast,
The worst that e'er went on three legs, I protest;
It certainly was the most ugly of jades,
His hips and his rump made a right ace of spades;
His sides were two ladders, well spur-gall'd withal;
His neck was a helve, and his head was a mall;
For his colour, my pains and your trouble I'll spare,
For the creature was wholly denuded of hair,
And, except for two things, as bare as my nail,
A tuft of a mane, and a spring of a tail;
And by these the true colour one can no more know,
Than by mouse-skins above stairs the merkin below;
Now such as the beast was, even such was the rider,
With a head like a nutmeg and legs like a spider;
A voice like a cricket, a look like a rat,
The brains of a goose, and the heart of a cat;
Even such was my guide, and his beast, let them pass,
The one for a horse, and the other an ass.
But now with our horses, what sound and what rotten,
Down to the shore, you must know, we were gotten;
And there we were told, it concern'd us to ride,
Unless we did mean to encounter the tide;
And then my guide lab'ring with heels and with hands,
With two up and one down, hopp'd over the sands,
Till his horse, finding th' labour for three legs too sore,
Foal'd out a new leg, and then he had four:
And now by plain dint of hard spurring and whipping,
Dry-shod we came where folks sometimes take shipping;
And where the salt sea, as the Devil were in't,
Came roaring, t' have hinder'd our journey to Flint;
But were, by good luck, before him got thither,
He else would have carried us to man knows whither.

And now her in Wales is, Saint Taph be her speed,
Gotts plutter her taste, some Welch-Ale her had need;
For her ride in great haste, and was like shit her breeches,
For fear of her being catched up by the fishes;
But the Lord of Flint Castle's no Lord worth a louse,
For he keeps ne'er a drop of good drink in his house;
But in a small house near unto 't there was store
Of such ale, as (thank God) I ne'er tasted before;
And surely the Welsh are not wise of their fuddle,
For this had the taste and complexion of puddle.
From thence then we march'd, full as dry as we came;
My guide before prancing, his steed no more lame,
O'er hills, and o'er valleys uncouth and uneven,
Until 'twixt the hours of twelve and eleven,
More hungry and thirsty than tongue can well tell,
We happily came to St. Winifred's Well;
I thought it the Pool of Bethesda had been
By the cripples lay there, but I went to my Inn
To speak for some meat, for so stomach did motion,
Before I did farther proceed in devotion;
I went into th' kitchen, where vict'als I saw,
Both beef, veal and mutton, but all on 't was raw;
And some on 't alive, but it soon went to slaughter,
For four chickens were slain by my Dame and her daughter;
Of which to Saint Win e'er my vows I had paid,
They said I should find a rare Fricassee made;
I thank'd them, and straight to the Well did repair,
Where some I found cursing, and others at pray'r;
Some dressing, some stripping, some out and some in,
Some naked, where botches and boils might be seen;
Of which some were fevers of Venus I'm sure,
And therefore unfit for the Virgin to cure;
But the fountain, in truth, is well worth the sight,
The beautiful Virgin's own tears not more bright;
Nay, none but she ever shed such a tear,
Her conscience, her name, nor her self were more clear:
In the bottom there lie certain stones that look white,
But streak'd with pure red, as the morning with light,
Which they say is her blood, and so it may be,
But for that, let who shed it look to it for me.
Over the fountain a Chapel there stands,
Which I wonder has scap'd Master Oliver's hands;
The floor's not ill pav'd, and the margent o' th' spring
Is enclos'd with a certain octagonal ring;
From each angle of which a pillar does rise,
Of strength and of thickness enough to suffice
To support and uphold from falling to ground
A cupola wherewith the Virgin is crown'd.
Now 'twixt the two angles, that fork to the North,
And where the cold Nymph does her basin pour forth,
Under ground is a place, where they bathe, as 'tis said,
And 'tis true, for I heard folks teeth hack in their head;
For you are to know, that the rogues and the whores
Are not let to pollute the spring-head with their sores.
But one thing I chiefly admir'd in the place,
That a Saint, and a Virgin, endu'd with such Grace,
Should yet be so wonderful kind a well-willer,
To that whoring and filching trade of a Miller,
As within a few paces to furnish the wheels
Of I cannot tell how many water-mills;
I've studi'd that point much, you cannot guess why,
But the Virgin was, doubtless, more righteous than I:
And now for my welcome, four, five, or six lasses,
With as many crystalline liberal glasses,
Did all importune me to drink of the water
Of Saint Winnefreda, good Thewith's fair daughter:
A while I was doubtful, and stood in a muse,
Not knowing, amidst all that choice, where to choose,
Till a pair of black eyes, darting full in my sight,
From the rest o' th' fair maidens did carry me quite;
I took the glass from her, and, whip, off it went,
I half doubt I fanci'd a health to the Saint;
But he was a great villain committed the slaughter,
For St. Winifred made most delicate water.
I slip'd a hard shilling into her soft hand,
Which had like to have made me the place have profan'd,
And giving two more to the poor that were there,
Did, sharp as a hawk, to my quarters repair.

My dinner was ready, and to it I fell,
I never ate better meat that I can tell;
When having half din'd there comes in my host,
A Catholic good, and a rare drunken toast;
This man, by his drinking, inflamed the Scot,
And told me strange stories, which I have forgot;
But this I remember, 'twas much on's own life,
And one thing, that he had converted his wife.

But now my guide told me, it time was to go,
For that to our beds we must both ride and row;
Wherefore calling to pay, and having accounted,
I soon was downstairs, and as suddenly mounted;
On then we travell'd, our guide still before,
Sometimes on three legs, and sometimes on four,
Coasting the sea, and over hills crawling,
Sometimes on all four, for fear we should fall in;
For underneath Neptune lay stalking to watch us,
And, had we but slip'd once, was ready to catch us:
Thus, in places of danger taking more heed,
And in safer travelling mending our speed,
Redland Castle and Abergoney we pass'd,
And o'er against Connaway came at the last.
Just over against a Castle there stood,
O' th' right hand the town, and o' th' left hand a wood;
'Twixt the wood and the Castle they see at high water
The storm, the place makes it a dangerous matter;
And besides, upon such a steep rock it is founded,
As would break a man's neck, should be scape being drowned:
Perhaps though in time one may make them to yield,
But 'tis pretti'st Cob-Castle e'er I beheld.

The sun now was going t'unharness his steeds,
When the ferry-boat brasking her sides 'gainst the weeds,
Came in as good time, as good time could be,
To give us a cast o'er an arm of the sea;
And bestowing our horses before and abaft,
O'er god Neptune's wide cod piece gave us a waft;
Where scurvily landing at foot of the Fort,
Within very few paces we enter'd the Port,
Where another King's head invited me down,
For indeed I have ever been true to the Crown.





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