p.155 /


      Rhymes upon natural objects and rural sayings are perhaps more generally interesting than any other relics of the popular anthology. They not unfrequently contain scientific truths, and have been considered worthy of examination by the philosopher; while the unlearned are often contented to use them as substitutes for the barometer or Nautical Almanac. We all recollect the story of Dr. Johnson, and the boy who prophesied a shower when not a speck was to be seen in the sky. The doctor, drenched with rain, hastened back to the lad, and offered him a shilling if he would divulge the data of his prediction. "Why, you zee, zur, when that black ram holds its tail up, it be sure to rain!" The story loses none of its force when we find it in the Hundred Merry Tales, printed nearly two centuries before Dr. Johnson was born.

Rainbow i' th' morning
Shipper's warning;
Rainbow at night
Shipper's delight.
      This, in one form or other, is a most common weather proverb. The present version was heard in Essex.
If there be a rainbow in the eve,
It will rain and leave;
But if there be a rainbow in the morrow,
It will neither lend nor borrow.

The ev'ning red, and the morning gray,
Are the tokens of a bonny day.

p.156 /

Winter's thunder
Is the world's wonder.
From Lancashire.

As the days grow longer,
The storms grow stronger;
As the days lengthen,
So the storms strengthen.
No weather is ill,
If the wind be still.
When clouds appear like rocks and towers,
The earth's refresh'd by frequent showers.
This proverb is sufficiently homely, yet the first line reminds us of the description of the clouds in Anthony and Cleopatra, act iv. sc. 12; but the commonest observer must have seen the "tower'd citadel," and the "pendant rock."

A northern har
Brings drought from far.
A har is a mist or thick fog.

First comes David, next come Chad,
Then comes Whinwall as if he was mad.
Alluding to the storms about the day of St. Winwaloe, March 3d, called St. Whinwall by the country people.

Rain, rain, go to Spain;
Come again another day:
When I brew and when I bake,
I'll give you a figgy cake.
This appears to be a child's address to rain, a kind of charm or entreaty for its disappearance. A plum-cake is always called a figgy cake in Devonshire, where raisins are denominated figs, and hence the term. Other versions are given by Chambers, p. 155, who remarks that it was the practice among the children of Greece, when the sun happened to be obscured by a cloud, to p.157 / exclaim, "Exec' w, fil' hlie! — Come forth, beloved sun! Howell, in his Proverbs, 1659, p. 20, has, —
Rain, rain, go to Spain;
Fair weather, come again.
      "Little children have a custome, when it raines to sing or charme away the raine; they all joine in a chorus, and sing thus, viz.:
Raine, raine, goe away,
Come againe a Saterday.
I have a conceit that this childish custome is of great antiquity, and that it is derived from the gentiles." (Aubrey, MS. Lansd. 231.)

If Candlemas day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
It is generally the case that fine weather continues if it is mild at Candlemas. A somewhat similar proverb is given by M. Kuhn, Gebräuche und Aberglauben, ii. 12.
It is time to cock your hay and corn,
When the old donkey blows his horn.
The braying of the ass is said to be an indication of rain or hail.

      In Yorkshire, when it begins to snow, the boys exclaim,—
Snow, snow faster,
The cow's in the pasture.
When the storm is concluding, or when they wish it to give over, they sing,—
Snow, snow, give over,
The cow's in the clover!

p.158 /

      White is the rural generic term for snow, and black for rain. Thus, in the well-known proverb,—

February fill the dyke,
Be is black or be it white;
But if it be white,
It's the better to like.
      The Anglo-Saxon and Northern literatures are full of similar poetical synonymes. A common nursery riddle conceals the term snow by the image of a white glove, and another in the same manner designates rain as a black glove:
Round the house, and round the house,
And there lies a white glove in the window.*

Round the house, and round the house,
And there lies a black glove in the window.

A copy of this riddle occurs in MS. Harl. 1962, of the seventeenth century.

When the wind is in the east,
Then the fishes do bite the least;
When the wind is in the west,
Then the fishes bite the best;
When the wind is in the north,
Then the fishes do come forth;
When the wind is in the south,
It blows the bait in the fish's mouth.
This weather-wise advice to anglers was obtained from Oxfordshire. It is found in a variety of versions throughout Great Britain.
      The Lincolnshire shepherds say,—
When the wind is in the east,
'Tis neither good for man nor beast:
When the wind is in the south,
It is in the rain's mouth.

p.159 /

      March winds are proverbial, and the following distich is not uncommon in Yorkshire:

March winds and April showers,
Bring forth May flowers.
To which we may add,—
The south wind brings wet weather,
The north wind wet and cold together;
The west wind always brings us rain,
The east wind blows it back again.
      The solution of the following pretty nursery-riddle is a hurricane of wind:
Arthur o'Bower has broken his band,
He comes roaring up the land:
The King of Scots, with all his power,
Cannot turn Arthur of the Bower.

      The inhabitants of most of our rural districts still retain the old dislike to a new moon on Friday, and perpetuate it by the saying,—
Friday's moon,
Come when it wool,
It comes too soon.
Or by the following,—
Friday's moon,
Once in seven year comes too soon.
      Some persons, however, contend that Saturday is the unlucky day for the new, and Sunday equally so for a full moon. So runs the distich,—
Saturday's new, and Sunday's full,
Was never fine, nor never wool.
      The moon anciently occupied an important place in p.160 / love-divinations. The following invocation to the planet is used by young women throughout the country:
New moon, new moon, declare to me
Shall I this night my true love see?
Not in his best, but in the array
As he walks in every day.
Or, sometimes, the following:
New moon, new moon, I hail thee!
By all the virtue in thy body,
Grant this night that I may see
He who my true love is to be.
      Aubrey, in his Miscellanies, ed. 1696, p. 105, gives the following lines, used in Yorkshire for charming the moon to cause a dream of a future husband:
All hail to the moon, all hail to thee!
I, prithee, good moon, reveal to me
This night who my husband must be!

      We are usefully reminded of the season of the cuckoo by the following homely proverbial lines:
In April,
The cuckoo shows his bill;
In May,
He sings all day;
In June,
He alters his tune:
In July,
Away he'll fly;
Come August,
Away he must!
In some dialects thus:
In April,
'A shake 'as bill;
In May,
'A pipe all day;
p.161 /
In June,
'A change 'as tune;
In July,
Away 'a fly;
Else in August,
Away 'a must.
      Of the "change of tune" alluded to in these verses, it has been remarked (Trans. Linn. Soc.) that in early season the cuckoo begins with the interval of a minor third, proceeds to a major third, then to a fourth, then to a fifth; after which his voice breaks, never attaining a minor sixth. This was observed by old John Heywood, Workes, 1576, vi. 95:
In April the koo-coo can sing her note by rote,
In June of tune she cannot sing a note;
At first, koo-koo, koo-coo, sing shrill can she do;
At last, kooke, kooke, kooke, six cookes to one koo.
      The following proverbial verses relating to this bird are current in the North of England.
The cuckoo comes in April,
     Stops all the month of May,
Sings a song at Midsummer,
     And then he goes away.

When the cuckoo comes to the bare thorn,
Sell your cow and buy your corn;
But when she comes to the full bit,
Sell your corn and buy your sheep.

      The following "tokens of love and marriage by hearing the cuckow, or seeing other birds first in the morning," are extracted from an old chap-book entitled, the Golden Cabinet, or the Compleat Fortune-teller, n.d.: "When you walk out in the spring, as soon as you hear the cuckow, sit down on a bank or other convenient place, and pull your stockings off, saying,—
May this to me,
Now happy be.
p.162 /

Then look between your great toe and the next, you'll find a hair that will easily come off. Take and look at it, and of the same colour will that of your lover be; wrap it in a piece of paper, and keep it ten days carefully; then, if it has not changed, the person will be constant: but if it dies, you are flattered." Gay alludes to this method of divination in his Fourth Pastoral, ed. 1742, p. 32.

      The superstitious reverence with which these birds are almost universally regarded takes its origin from a pretty belief that they undertake the delicate office of covering the dead bodies of any of the human race with moss or leaves, if by any means left exposed to the heavens. This opinion is alluded to by Shakespeare and many writers of his time, as by Drayton, for example:
Cov'ring with moss the dead's unclosed eye,
The little red-breast teacheth charitie.
      Webster, in his tragedy of Vittoria Corombona, 1612, couples the wren with the robin as coadjutors in this friendly office:
Call for the robin red-breast and the wren,
Since o'er shady groves they hover,
And with leaves and flowers do cover
The friendless bodies of unburied men.
      Notwithstanding the beautiful passage in Shakespeare to which we have alluded, it is nevertheless undeniable that, even to this day, the ancient belief attached to these birds is perpetuated chiefly by the simple ballad of the Babes in the Wood. Early in the last century, Addison was infatuated with that primitive song. "Admitting," he says, "there is even a despicable simplicity in the verse, yet because the sentiments appear genuine p.163 / and unaffected, they are able to move the mind of the most polite reader with inward meltings of humanity and compassion." Exactly so; but this result arises from the extraordinary influence of early association over the mind, not from the pathos of the ballad itself, which is infinitely inferior to the following beautiful little nursery song I have the pleasure of transcribing into these pages:
My dear, do you know
How a long time ago,
     Two poor little children,
Whose names I don't know,
Were stolen away
On a fine summer's day,
     And left in a wood,
As I've heard people say.

And when it was night,
So sad was their plight,
     The sun it went down,
And the moon gave no light!
They sobb'd and they sigh'd,
And they bitterly cried,
     And the poor little things,
They laid down and died.

And when they were dead,
The robins so red
     Brought strawberry leaves,
And over them spread;
And all the day long,
They sang them this song,—
Poor babes in the wood!
Poor babes in the wood!
     And don't you remember
The babes in the wood?

      Adages respecting the robin and the wren, generally including the martin and swallow, are common in all parts of the country. In giving the following, it should be premised it is a popular notion that the wren is the p.164 / wife of the robin; and Mr. Chambers mentions an extraordinary addition to this belief current in Scotland, that the wren is the paramour of the tom-tit!
The robin red-breast and the wren
Are God Almighty's cock and hen;*
The martin and the swallow
Are the two next birds that follow.

The wren was also called our Lady's hen. See Cotgrave, in v. Berchot.

      The next was obtained from Essex:
A robin and a titter-wren
Are God Almighty's cock and hen;
A martin and a swallow
Are God Almighty's shirt and collar!
      And the following from Warwickshire:
The robin and the wren
Are God Almighty's cock and hen;
The martin and the swallow
Are God Almighty's bow and arrow!†

   † In Cheshire the last line is, "Are God's mate and marrow," marrow being a provincial term for a companion. See Wilbraham's Chesh. Gloss. p.105.

      The latter part of this stanza is thus occasionally varied:
The martin and the swallow
Are God Almighty's birds to hollow;
where the word hollow is most probably a corruption of the verb hallow, to keep holy.‡ If this conjecture be correct, it exhibits the antiquity of the rhyme.
   ‡ Parker in his poem of the Nightingale, published in 1632, speaking of swallows, says:
And if in any's hand she chance to dye,
'Tis counted ominous, I know not why.

      Nor let it be thought there is any impiety in giving these verses in the form in which they are cherished, for the humble recorders of them dream of no irreverence. On the contrary, the sanctification of these harmless birds is no unpoetical or objectionable frag- p.165 / ment of the old popular mythology; and when we reflect that not even a sparrow "is forgotten before God," can we blame a persuasion which protects more innocent members of the feathered tribes from the intrusion of the wanton destroyer?
      It is exceedingly unlucky to molest the nests of any of these birds. This belief is very prevalent, and it was acted upon in a case which came under my observation, where, misfortune having twice followed the destruction of a swallow's nest, the birds were afterwards freely permitted to enjoy the corner of a portico, where their works were certainly not very ornamental. The following verses were obtained from Essex:
The robin and the red-breast,
     The robin and the wren;
If ye take out o' their nest,
     Ye'll never thrive agen!

The robin and the red-breast,
     The martin and the swallow;
If ye touch one o' their eggs,
     Bad luck will surely follow!

      The Irish call the wren the king of birds; and they have a story that, when the birds wanted to choose a king, they determined that the one which could fly highest should have the crown. The wren, being small, very cunningly hid itself under the wing of the eagle; and when that bird could fly no higher, the wren slipped from its hiding-place and easily gained the victory. In Cotgrave's Dictionarie, 1632, we find the wren called roitelet, and in another dictionary, quoted by Mr. Wright, it is called roi des oiseaux, so it is probable a similar superstition prevailed in France. The ceremony of hunting of the wren on St. Stephen's day has been so frequently described, that it is not necessary to do more than allude to it, and to mention that Mr. Crofton Croker possesses a proclamation lately issued by the mayor of Cork, forbidding the custom, p.166 / with the intent "to prevent cruelty to animals," as the document is headed. This custom was also prevalent in France. An analogous ceremony is still observed in Pembrokeshire on Twelfth-day, where it is customary to carry about a wren, termed the king, inclosed in a box with glass windows, surmounted by a wheel, from which are appended various coloured ribands. It is attended by men and boys, who visit the farm-houses, and sing a song, the following fragments of which are all that have come under my observation:
For we are come here
To taste your good cheer,
And the king is well dressed
In silks of the best.

He is from a cottager's stall,
To a fine gilded hall.

      The poor bird often dies under the ceremony, which tradition connects with the death of an ancient British king at the time of the Saxon invasion. The rhyme used in Ireland runs thus:
The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
Was caught St. Stephen's day in the furze;
Although he's little his family's great,
Then pray, gentlefolks, give him a treat.

Cold toe—toe!
expresses the hooting of the owl. This bird, according to old ballads and legends, was of exalted parentage. A rural ballad, cited in Waterton's Essays on Natural History, 1838, p. 8, says:
Once I was a monarch's daughter,
     And sat on a lady's knee;
But am now a nightly rover,
     Banished to the ivy tree.
p.167 /
Crying hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo,
     Hoo, hoo, hoo, my feet are cold.
Pity me, for here you see me
     Persecuted, poor, and old.
      An anonymous writer, in the Gentleman's Magazine, vol. lxxiv. p. 1003, mentions an old fairy tale respecting the owl, which, he says, is well known to the nurses of Herefordshire. A certain fairy, disguised as an old distressed woman, went to a baker's shop, and begged some dough of his daughter, of whom she obtained a very small piece. This she farther requested leave to bake in the oven, where it swelling to the size of a large loaf, the baker's daughter refused to let her have it. She, however, gave the pretended beggar another piece of dough, but still smaller than the first; this swelled in the oven even more than the other, and was in like manner retained. A third and still smaller peice of dough came out of the oven the largest of all, and shared the same fate. The disguised fairy, convinced of the woman's covetousness by these repeated experiments, no longer restrained her indignation. She resumed her proper form, and struck the culprit with her wand, who immediately flew out of the window in the shape of an owl. This story may be a version of the legend alluded to by Ophelia in Hamlet, iv. 5: "They say the owl was a baker's daughter. Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be."

      Wide-spread is the superstition that it is unlucky to see magpies under certain conditions, but these vary considerably in different localities. Thus, in some counties, two bring sorrow, in others joy; while, in some places, we are instructed that one magpie is a signal of misfortune, which can, however, be obviated by pulling off your hat, and making a very polite bow p.168 / to the knowing bird. This operation I have more than once seen quite seriously performed. In Lancashire they say:
One for anger,
Two for mirth,
Three for a wedding,
Four for a birth,
Five for rich,
Six for poor,
Seven for a witch,
I can tell you no more.
But in Tim Bobbin it is expressly said that two are indicative of ill fortune: "I saigh two rott'n pynots, hongum, that wur a sign o' bad fashin; for I heard my gronny say hoode os leef os seen two owd harries os two pynots." The same belief obtains in Scotland. In the North they thus address the bird:
Magpie, magpie, chatter and flee,
Turn up thy tail, and good luck fall me.
      The half-nest of the magpie is accounted for by a rural ornithological legend. Once on a time, when the world was very young, the magpie, by some accident or another, although she was quite as cunning as she is at present, was the only bird that was unable to build a nest. In this perplexity, she applied to the other members of the feathered race, who kindly undertook to instruct her. So, on a day appointed, they assembled for that purpose, and, the materials having been collected, the blackbird said, "Place that stick there," suiting the action to the word, as she commenced the work. "Ah!" said the magpie, "I knew that afore." The other birds followed with their suggestions, but to every piece of advice, the magpie kept saying, "Ah! I knew that afore." At length, when the birdal habitation was half-finished, the patience of the company was fairly exhausted by the pertinacious conceit of the pye, so they p.169 / all left her with the united exclamation, "Well, Mistress Mag, as you seem to know all about it, you may e'en finish the nest yourself." Their resolution was obdurate and final, and to this day the magpie exhibits the effects of partial instruction by her miserably incomplete abode.
      The magpie is always called Madge, and the Christian names given to birds deserve a notice. Thus we have Jack Snipe, Jenny Wren, Jack Daw, Tom Tit, Robin Redbreast, Poll Parrot, Jill Hooter, Jack Curlew, Jack Nicker, and King Harry for the goldfinch, and the list might be widely extended. A starling is always Jacob, a sparrow is Philip, a raven is Ralph, and the consort of the Tom Tit rejoices in the euphonic name of Betty! Children give the name of Dick to all small birds, which, in nursery parlance, are universally Dicky-birds.

Who kill'd Cock Robin?
     I, said the sparrow,
     With my bow and arrow,
I kill'd Cock Robin.

Who see him die?
     I, said the fly,
     With my little eye,
And I see him die.

Who catch'd his blood?
     I, said the fish,
     With my little dish,
And I catch'd his blood.

Who made his shroud?
     I, said the beadle,
     With my little needle,
And I made his shroud.

/ p.170 /
Who shall dig his grave?
     I, said the owl,
     With my spade and showl,*
And I'll dig his grave.
Shovel. An archaism.
Who'll be the parson?
     I, said the rook,
     With my little book,
And I'll be the parson.

Who'll be the clerk?
     I, said the lark,
     If 'tis not in the dark,
And I'll be the clerk.

Who'll carry him to the grave?
     I, said the kite,
     If 'tis not in the night,
And I'll carry him to his grave.

Who'll carry the link?
     I, said the linnet,
     I'll fetch it in a minute,
And I'll carry the link.

Who'll be chief mourner?
     I, said the dove,
     I mourn for my love,
And I'll be chief mourner.

Who'll bear the pall?
     We, said the wren,
     Both the cock and the hen,
And we'll bear the pall.

Who'll sing a psalm?
     I, said the thrush,
     As she sat in a bush,
And I'll sing a psalm.

And who'll toll the bell?
     I, said the bull,
     Because I can pull;
And so, Cock Robin, farewell !

p.171 /
All the birds in the air
     Fell to sighing and sobbing,
When they heard the bell toll
     For poor Cock Robin!
      The above version of this widely-extended poem is taken from a copy printed many years ago in Aldermary Churchyard, entitled, "Cock Robin, a pretty gilded toy for either girl or boy, suited to children of all ages," 18mo. It is reprinted even at the present day with a few immaterial variations.
      In Eccardi Historia Studii Etymologici, 8vo. Han. 1711, p. 269, is an old Wendie nursery ballad of a somewhat similar character. Perhaps the first verse will be sufficient to give the reader an idea of its composition.
Katy mês Ninka beyt?
Teelka mês Ninka beyt:
Teelka rîtzi
Wapakka neimo ka dwemo:
Gos giss wiltge grîsna Sena,
Nemik Ninka beyt;
Gos nemik Ninka beyt.

Who, who, the bride will be?
The owl she the bride shall be.
     The owl quoth,
     Again to them both,
I am sure a grim ladye;
Not I the bride can be,
I not the bride can be!

      In Essex they have a rhyme respecting crows very similar to that above quoted regarding magpies. The following lines are said to be true, if crows fly towards you:
One's unlucky,
Two's lucky ;
Three is health,
Four is wealth,
Five is sickness,
And six is death!

p.172 /
Pigeons never do know woe,
Till they do a benting go.
This means that pigeons are never short of food except when they are obliged to live on the seeds of the grass, which ripen before the crops of grain. The seed-stalk of grass is called the bent, and hence the term benting.

      The common people in the North Riding of Yorkshire, says Brockett, ii. 71, believe that at one period the cushat, or ringdove, laid its eggs upon the ground, and that the peewit, or lapwing, made its nest on high; but that some time or other, an amicable arrangement took place between these birds, exchanging their localities for building. The peewit accordingly expresses its disappointment at the bargain as follows:
Pee-wit, pee-wit,
I coup'd my nest and I rue it.
While the cushat rejoices that she is out of the reach of mischievous boys,—
Coo, coo, come now,
Little lad
With thy gad,
Come not thou!

      An Isle of Wight legend respecting this bird tells us that, soon after the creation of the world, all the birds were assembled for the purpose of learning to build their nests, and the magpie, being very sagacious and cunning, was chosen to teach them. Those birds that were most industrious, such as the wren and the longtailed-capon, or pie-finch, he instructed to make whole nests in the shape of a cocoa-nut, with a small hole on p.173 / one side; others, not so diligent, he taught to make half-nests, shaped something like a teacup. Having thus instructed a great variety of birds according to their capacity, it came to the turn of the wood-pigeon, who, being a careless and lazy bird, was very indifferent about the matter, and while the magpie was directing him how to place the little twigs, &c., he kept exclaiming, "What, athurt and across! what zoo! what zoo! — athurt and across! What zoo! what zoo!" At length the magpie was so irritated with his stupidity and indolence that he flew away, and the wood-pigeon, having had no more instruction, to this day builds the worst nest of any of the feathered tribe, consisting merely of layers of cross-twigs.
      Montagu gives a Suffolk version of the tale, which differs considerably from the above. "The magpie, it is said, once undertook to teach the pigeon how to build a more substantial and commodious dwelling; but, instead of being a docile pupil, the pigeon kept on her old cry of 'Take two, Taffy! take two!' The magpie insisted that this was a very unworkmanlike manner of proceeding, one stick at a time being as much as could be managed to advantage; but the pigeon reiterated her 'two, take two,' till Mag, in a violent passion, gave up the task, exclaiming, 'I say that one at a time's enough; and, if you think otherwise, you may set about the work yourself, for I will have no more to do with it!' Since that time, the wood-pigeon has built her slight platform of sticks, which certainly suffers much in comparison with the strong substantial structure of the magpie." The cooing of the wood-pigeon produces, it is said—
Take two-o coo, Taffy!
Take two-o coo, Taffy!
Alluding, says Mr. Chambers, to a story of a Welshman, who thus interpreted the note, and acted upon the recommendation by stealing two of his neighbour's cows.

p.174 /

      The clucking conversation of poultry, the cackling of the hen, and the replying chuckle of the cock, is represented by the following dialogue:
Hen.  Cock, cock, I have la-a-a-a-yed!
Cock.  Hen, hen, that's well sa-a-a-yed!
Hen.  Although I have to go barefooted every da-a-ay!
Cock (con spirito).  Sell your eggs, and buy shoes,
        Sell your eggs, and buy shoes!

Mr. Chambers, p. 167, has given a very different version of this current in Scotland. In Galloway, the hen's song is:
The cock gaed to Rome, seeking shoon, seeking shoon,
The cock gaed to Rome, seeking shoon,
     And yet I aye gang barefit, barefit!

      The following proverb is current in the North of England:
If the cock moult before the hen,
We shall have weather thick and thin;
But if the hen moult before the cock,
We shall have weather hard as a block.

      In some parts of the Isle of Wight, these insects are found of a peculiarly large size, and their colours are extremely beautiful. There is an old legend respecting them which is still current. It is supposed by the country people that their sting or bite is venomous, as bad as that of a snake or adder, and perhaps from this belief their provincial name of snake-stanger or snake-stang is derived. It is said that these insects can distinguish the good children from the bad when they go fishing: if the latter go too near the water, they are almost sure to be bitten; but when the good boys go, the dragon-flies point out the places where the fish are, p.175 / by settling on the banks, or flags, in the proper direction. This curious myth is commemorated by the following song:
Snakestanger! snakestanger! vlee aal about the brooks;
Sting aal the bad bwoys that vor the vish looks,
But lat the good bwoys ketch aal the vish they can,
And car'm awaay whooam* to vry'em in a pan;
Bred and butter they shall yeat at zupper wi' their vish,
While aal the littul bad bwoys shall only lick the dish.
Carry them away home.

      This has of late years been introduced into the nursery, but in different suit of clothes:
Dragon fly! dragon fly! fly about the brook;
Sting all the bad boys who for the fish look;
But let the good boys catch all that they can,
And then take them home to be fried in a pan;
With nice bread and butter they shall sup upon their fish,
While all the little naughty boys shall only lick the dish.

      In Yorkshire, in evenings when the dew falls heavily, the boys hunt the large black snails, and sing:
Snail, snail! put out your horn,
Or I'll kill your father and mother i' th' morn,
Another version runs thus:
Snail, snail, put out your horns,
I'll give you bread and barleycorns.
And sometimes the following song is shouted on this occasion:
Sneel, snaul,
Robbers are coming to pull down your wall.
Sneel, snaul,
Put out your horn,
Robbers are coming to steal your corn,
Coming at four o'clock in the morn.
      The version generally heard in the southern counties p.176 / differs very considerably from the above, and the original use and meaning are very seldom practised or understood:
Snail, snail, come out of your hole,
Or else I'll beat you as black as a coal.
      Mr. Chambers, p. 171, gives some very interesting observations on these lines. "In England," he says, "the snail scoops out hollows, little rotund chambers, in limestone, for its residence. This habit of the animal is so important in its effects, as to have attracted the attention of geologists; one of the most distinguished of whom (Dr. Buckland) alluded to it at the meeting of the British Association at Plymouth, in 1841." The above rhyme is a boy's invocation to the snail to come out of such holes or any other places of retreat resorted to by it. Mr. Chambers also informs us that, in some districts of Scotland, it is supposed that it is an indication of good weather if the snail obeys the injunction of putting out its horn:
Snailie, snailie, shoot out your horn,
And tell us if it will be a bonnie day the morn.
      It appears from Gay's Shepherd's Week, ed. 1742, p. 34, that snails were formerly used in rural love-divinations. It was the custom*
A similar practice is common in Ireland. See Croker's Fairy Legends, i. 215.

to place the little animal on the soft ashes, and to form an opinion respecting the initial of the name of a future lover by the fancied letter made by the crawling of the snail on the ashes:
Last May-day fair I search'd to find a snail,
That might my secret lover's name reveal;
Upon a gooseberry bush a snail I found,
For always snails near sweetest fruit abound.
I seiz'd the vermin, home I quickly sped,
And on the hearth the milk-white embers spread.
Slow crawl'd the snail, and if I right can spell,
In the soft ashes mark'd a curious L;
Oh, may this wondrous omen lucky prove,
For L is found in Lubberkin and Love!

p.177 /

      Verses on the snail, similar to those given above, are current over many parts of Europe. In Denmark, the children say (Thiele, iii. 138)—

Snegl! snegl! kom herud!
Her er en Mand, som vil kjöbe dit Huus,
For en Skjæppe Penge!

Snail! snail! come out here!
Here is a man thy house will buy,
For a measure of white money.

A similar idea is preserved in Germany, the children saying (Das Knaben Wunderhorn, iii. 81)—
Klosterfrau im Schneckenhäussle,
Sie meint, sie sey verborgen.
Kommt der Pater Guardian,
Wünscht ihr guten Morgen!

Cloister-dame, in house of shell,
Ye think ye are hidden well.
Father Guardian will come,
And wish you good morning.

      The following lines are given by M. Kuhn, Gebräuche und Aberglauben, 398, as current in Stendal:
Schneckhûs, peckhûs,
Stäk du dîn vêr hörner rût,
Süst schmît ick dî in'n gråven,
Då frêten dî de råven.


      Children in the North of England, when they eat apples or similar fruit, delight in throwing away the pippin, exclaiming—

Pippin, pippin, fly away,
Get me one another day!

p.178 /

      There is a common persuasion amongst country people that whipping a walnut-tree tends to increase the produce, and improve the flavour of the fruit. This belief is embodied in the following distich:
A woman, a spaniel, and a walnut-tree,
The more you whip them the better they be.
And also in this quatrain:
Three things by beating better prove,
     A nut, an ass, a woman;
The cudgel from their back remove,
     And they'll be good for no man.

Burn ash-wood green,
'Tis a fire for a queen:
Burn ash-wood sear,
'Twill make a man swear.
      Ash, when green, makes good fire-wood, and, contrary perhaps to all other sorts of wood, is bad for that purpose when sear, or dry, withered. The old Anglo-Saxon term sear is well illustrated by this homely proverb. The reader will remember Macbeth:
I have lived long enough:
My way of life is fallen into the sear and yellow leaf.

      Children get the pods of a pea, and flinging them at each other, cry
Pea-pod hucks,
     Twenty for a pin;
If you don't like them,
     I'll take them agin.
      The hucks are the shells or pods, and agin the provincial pronunciation of again.

p.179 /

No heart can think, no tongue can tell,
The virtues of the pimpernell.
      Gerard enumerates several complaints for which this plant was considered useful, and he adds, that country people prognosticated fine or bad weather by observing in the morning whether its flowers were spread out or shut up. — Herbal, first ed. p. 494. According to a MS. on magic, preserved in the Chetham Library at Manchester, "the herb pimpernell is good to prevent witchcraft, as Mother Bumby doth affirme;" and the following lines must be used when it is gathered:
Herbe pimpernell, I have thee found
Growing upon Christ Jesus' ground:
The same guift the Lord Jesus gave unto thee,
When he shed his blood on the tree.
Arise up, pimpernell, and goe with me,
And God blesse me,
And all that shall were thee. Amen.
      "Say this fifteen dayes together, twice a day, morning earlye fasting, and in the evening full." MS. ibid.

If you set it,
The cats will eat it;
If you sow it,
The cats will know it.

Awa', birds, awa',
Take a peck
And leave a seck,
And come no more to day!
      This is the universal bird-shooer's song in the midland counties.

p.180 /

      In the eastern counties of England, and perhaps in other parts of the country, children chant the following lines when they are pursuing this insect:
Gnat, gnat, fly into my hat,
And I'll give you a slice of bacon!

      In Herefordshire the alder is called the aul, and the country people use the following proverbial lines:
When the bud of the aul is as big as the trout's eye,
Then that fish is in season in the river Wye.

Tobacco hic,
Will make you well
If you be sick.
      Tobacco was formerly held in great esteem as a medicine. Sickness was the old term for illness of any kind, and is no doubt the more correct expression.
      It may just be worth a passing notice to observe, that Shakespeare never mentions tobacco, nor alludes to it even indirectly. What a brilliant subject for a critic! A treatise might be written to prove from this circumstance that the great poet was not in the habit of smoking; or, on the contrary, that he was so great an admirer of the pernicious weed, that, being unable to allude to it without a panegyric, he very wisely eschewed the subject for fear of giving offence to his royal master, the author of the 'Counterblast.' The discussion, at all events, would be productive of as much utility as the disputes which have occasioned so many learned letters respecting the orthography of the poet's name.

p.181 /

      Boys have a very curious saying respecting the reflection of the sun's beams from the surface of water upon a ceiling, which they call "Jack-a-dandy beating his wife with a stick of silver." If a mischievous boy with a bit of looking-glass, or similar material, threw the reflection into the eye of a neighbour, the latter would complain, "He's throwing Jack-a-dandy in my eyes."