/ p.188 /
VIII.—PLACES AND FAMILIES.
This division, like the last, might be greatly extended by references to Ray and Grose.
The following lines are still remembered by the members of the Elton family:
Upon Sir Abraham Elt being knighted and taking the
name of Elton.
In days of yore old Abraham Elt,|
When living, had nor sword nor belt;
But now his son, Sir Abraham Elton,
Being knighted, has both sword and belt on.
MS. Harl. Brit. Mus. 7318, p. 206.
N. for a word of deniance,|
E. with a figure of L. fiftie,
Spelleth his name that never
Will be thriftie.
MS. Sloane 2497, of the sixteenth century.
The Collingwoods have borne the name,|
Since in the bush the buck was ta'en;
But when the bush shall hold the buck,
Then welcome faith, and farewell luck.
Alluding to the Collingwood crest of a stag beneath an oak tree.
/ p.189 /
THE CAULD LAD OF HILTON
This fairy or goblin was seldom seen, but his gambols were heard nightly in the hall of the great house. He overturned everything in the kitchen after the servants had gone to bed, and was, in short, one of the most mischievous sprites you could imagine. One night, however, the kitchen happened to be left in great confusion, and the goblin, who did everything by contraries, set it completely to rights; and the next morning it was in perfect apple-pie order. We may be quite sure that, after this occurrence, the kitchen was not again made orderly by the servants.
Norwithstanding, however, the service thus nightly rendered by the Cauld Lad, the servants did not like it. They preferred to do their own work without preternatural agency, and accordingly resolved to do their best to drive him from their haunts. The goblin soon understood what was going on, and he was heard in the dead of night to warble the following lines in a melancholy strain:
He was, however, deceived in this prediction; for one night, being colder than usual, he complained in moving verse of his condition. Accordingly, on the following evening, a cloak and hood were placed for him near the fire. The servants had unconsciously accomplished their deliverance, for present gifts to fairies, and they for ever disappear. On the next / p.190 / morning the following lines were found inscribed on the wall:
Wae's me! wae's me!|
The acorn is not yet
Fallen from the tree,
That's to grow the wood,
That's to make the cradle,
That's to rock the bairn,
That's to grow to a man,
That's to lay me.
I've taken your cloak, I've taken your hood;|
The Cauld Lad of Hilton will do no more good!
A great variety of stories in which fairies are frightened away by presents, are still to be heard in the rural districts of England. Another narrative, by Mr. Longstaffe, relates that on one occasion a woman found her washing and ironing regularly performed for her every night by the fairies. In gratitude to the "good people," she placed green mantles for their acceptance, and the next night the fairies departed, exclaiming—
Now the pixies' work is done!|
We take our clothes, and off we run.
Mrs. Bray tells a similar story of a Devonshire pixy, who helped an old woman to spin. One evening she spied the fairy jumping out of her door, and observed that it was very raggedly dressed; so the next day she thought to win the services of the elf further by placing some smart new clothes, as big as those made for a doll, by the side of her wheel. The pixy came, put on the clothes, and clapping its hands with delight, vanished, saying these lines:
Pixy fine, pixy gay,|
Pixy now will run away.
Fairies always talk in rhyme. Mr. Allies mentions a Worcestershire fairy legend which says that, upon one occasion, a pixy came to a ploughman in a field, and exclaimed:
Oh, lend a hammer and a nail,|
Which we want to mend our pail.
/ p.191 /
The little priest of Felton,|
The little priest of Felton,
He kill'd a mouse within his house,
And ne'er a one to help him.
SIR RALPH ASHTON.
This rhyme is traditionally known in the North of England, and refers, it is said, to Sir Ralph Ashton, who, in the latter part of the fifteenth century, exercised great severity as vice-constable. The ancient custom of riding the black lad at Ashton-under-Lyne on Easter Monday, which consists of carrying an effigy on horseback through the town, shooting at it, and finally burning it, is alleged to have taken its origin from this individual, who, according to tradition, was shot as he was riding down the principal street. According to another story, the custom commemorates the valiant actions of Thomas Ashton at the battle of Neville's Cross.
Sweet Jesu, for thy mercy's sake,|
And for thy bitter passion,
Save us from the axe of the Tower,
And from Sir Ralph of Ashton.
Proud Preston, poor people,|
Fine church, and no steeple.
Little lad, little lad, where wast thou born?|
Far off in Lancashire, under a thorn,
Where they sup sour milk in a ram's horn.
/ p.192 /
A village in lancashire, not far from Chorley. There is, or was sixty years since, a tradition current here, to the effect that the church, on the night following the day in which the building was completed, was removed some distance by supernatural agency, and the astonished inhabitants, on entering the sacred edifice the following morning, found the following metrical command written on a marble tablet on the wall:
Leyland church stands on an eminence at the east side of the village. The ancient tower is still standing, but the body of the church is modern.
Here thou shalt be,|
And here thou shalt stand,
And thou shalt be called
The church of Ley-land.
HUGH OF LINCOLN.
These lines refer to the well-known story of the murder of a child at Lincoln by a Jewess. The child was playing at ball, and threw it into the Jew's garden. She enticed him into the house to recover it, killed him, and, to conceal her guilt, threw the body into a deep well. According to the ballads on the subject, the spirit of the boy answers his mother's inquiry from the bottom of the well, the bells ring without human aid, and several miracles are accomplished. The above / p.193 / fragment of some old ballad on the subject was given me by Miss Agnes Strickland as current in the country nursery.
He tossed the ball so high, so high,|
He tossed the ball so low;
He tossed the ball in the Jew's garden,
And the Jews were all below.
Oh, then out came the Jew's daughter,
She was dressed all in green;
Come hither, come hither, my sweet pretty fellow,
And fetch your ball again.
So said because the church is "very unusual in proportion." Lelandi Itin. ed. 1744, ii. 137.
If you would go to a church miswent,|
You must go to Cuckstone in Kent.
St. Levan's stone is a great rock in the churchyard of St. Levan, co. Cornwall.
When with panniers astride|
A pack-horse can ride
Through St. Levan's stone,
The world will be done.
The "Druidical" stones at Rollright, Oxfordshire, are said to have been originally a general and his army who were transformed into stones by a magician. The tradition runs that there was a prophecy or oracle which told the general,—
He was within a few yards of the spot whence that town could be observed, when his progress was stopped by the magician's transformation,—
If Long Compton thou canst see,|
King of England thou shalt be.
The general was transformed into a large stone which stands on a spot from which Long Compton is not visible, but on ascending a slight rise close to it, the town is / p.194 / revealed to view. Roger Gale, writing in 1719, says that whoever dared to contradict this story was regarded "as a most audacious freethinker." It is said that no man could ever count these stones, and that a baker once attempted it by placing a penny loaf on each of them, but somehow or other he failed in counting his own bread. A similar tale is related of Stonehenge.
Sink down man, and rise up stone!|
King of England thou shalt be none.
The following relation is given in the additions to Camden's Britannia, co. Bucks, p. 318. Tradition says the Black Prince, who held Hartwell, had large possessions at Prince's Risborough, where they show part of a wall of his palace, and a field where his horses were turned called Prince's Field, and repeat these lines on a supposed quarrel between him and one of the family of Hampden:
Hamden of Hamden did foregoe|
The manors of Tring, Wing, and Ivinghoe,
For striking the Black Prince a blow
Camden says that Ribchester was famous for its remains of ancient art.
It is written upon a wall in Rome|
Ribchester was as rich as any town in Christendom.
These lines are said to relate to one John Hawley, a wealthy merchant of Devon some centuries ago, who was fortunate in his shipping. According to Prince, p.477, "so was the gentleman's habitation in that town (Dartmouth) call'd the Hoe or Haw."
Blow the wind high, blow the wind low,|
It bloweth good to Hawley's hoe.
/ p.195 /
Honour to whom honour is due! Mr. Lower will have it that Sussex is the county of the Gothamites. Gotham is near Pevensey, and many traditionary anecdotes are still current respecting the stupidity of the people of that town. On one occasion, the mayor, having received a letter, was reading it upside down, the messenger very respectfully suggested that he would sooner arrive at the meaning of its contents by reversing its position. "Hold your tongue, sir," replied the chief magistrate; "for while I am mayor of Pemsey, I'll hold the letter which eend uppards I like!"
Three wise men of Gotham|
Went to sea in a bowl;
And if the bowl had been stronger,
My song would have been longer.
These are places in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, and Somersetshire. Staunton is pronounced Stawn, and Aston is commonly called Awn.
Buckland and Laverton,|
Stanway and Staunton,
Badsey and Aston.
There were three cooks of Colebrook,|
And they fell out with our cook;
And all was for a pudding he took
From the three cooks of Colebrook.
Tradition informs us, but leaves us in ignorance as to the nature of the offence offered, that once upon a time, / p.196 / a long time ago, his satanic majesty took dire displeasure at the good folks of Hartforth, for some naughty trick, no doubt played upon him, during one of his visits to that locality; so finding a stone of enormous bulk and weight to the south of Gilling, his majesty, in his rage, raised the ponderous mass in one hand, and uttering this exclamatory couplet,—
Cast it from him with all his strength. It would appear that the devil's vision is rather of a telescopic character; for, as luck would have it, he missed his aim, and the stone, which flew whizzing through the air, at last fell harmless far beyond the former place; and now lies, bearing the impression of his unholy fingers, on the rising ground to the north side of Gatherly Moor.*
Have at thee, Black Hartforth,|
But have a care o' Bonny Gilling!
The inhabitants of Shropshire and, it is said, especially Shrewsbury, have an unfortunate habit of misplacing the letter h. It is scarcely necessary to say that the failing is by no means peculiar to that county. I am unable to vouch for the antiquity of the following lines on the subject, but they have become proverbial, and are therefore worth giving:
* Communicated by Mr. M. A. Denham.
The petition of the letter H to the inhabitants of Shrewsbury, greeting,—
Whereas I have by you been driven,|
From house, from home, from hope, from heaven,
And plac'd by your most learn'd society
In exile, anguish, and anxiety,
And used, without one just pretence,
With arrogance and insolence;
I here demand full restitution,
And beg you'll mend your elocution.
/ p.197 /
To this was returned the following answer from the Shrewsburians:
Whereas we've rescued you, Ingrate,|
From handcuff, horror, and from hate,
From hell, from horse-pond, and from halter,
And consecrated you in altar;
And placed you, where you ne'er should be,
In honour and in honesty;
We deem your pray'r a rude intrusion,
And will not mend our elocution.
There are few proverbial expressions more common than the saying, "As soon as you can say Jack Robinson," implying excessive rapidity. I have seen the phrase with the name of Dick Robinson, but failed to take a memorandum of it. It has since occurred to me that it may have originated in some way or other with the actor of that name mentioned by Ben Jonson. If, however, the following quotation from an "old play," given by Carr, be genuine, this conjecture must fall to the ground:
A warke it ys as easie to be doone,|
As 'tys to saye, Jack! robys on.
A hit at the Cheshire provincial pronunciation of the ng.
Swing'em, swang'em, bells at Wrangham,|
Three dogs in a string, hang'em, hang'em.
Higham on the hill,|
Stoke in the vale;
Wykin for buttermilk,
Hinckley for ale.
/ p.198 /
Brockley-hill lies near Elstree, in Hertfordshire, and Penny-well is the name of a parcel of closes in the neighbourhood. See Stukeley's Itin. Cur. 1776, i.118. This distich alludes to the quantity of old coins found near those places.
No heart can think, nor tongue can tell,|
What lies between Brockley-hill and Penny-well.
A Somersetshire proverb, mentioned by Stukeley, in the work above quoted, ii. 169.
A mile from Pensford,
Another from Chue.
Ray gives this proverb, but appears to misunderstand it, the first line not alluding to the prospect, but to an islet or ait in the river, though I have not met with the word eye used in this sense. There can, however, be no doubt as to its meaning; probably from A.-S. eá.
Blessed is the eye,|
That's between Severn and Wye.
The following very curious observations on this town are extracted from an anonymous MS. in my possession, written forty or fifty years ago. I have never seen the lines in print. Aubrey, in his Natural History of Wiltshire, mentions the plant called Danes'-blood, and de- / p.199 / rives the name from a similar circumstance. Some observations on Sherston may be seen in Camden, ed. Gough, i. 96. It is Sceor-stán, where the celebrated battle between the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes was fought in the year 1016, and prodigies of valour exhibited by the combatants.
"When a schoolboy, I have often traced the intrenchments at Sherston Magna, which are still visible on the north side of the town, and particularly in a field near the brow of a hill which overlooks a branch of the river Avon, which rises a little below Didmarton; and with other boys have gone in quest of a certain plant in the field where the battle was said to have been fought, which the inhabitants pretended dropt blood when gathered, and called Danesblood, corruptly no doubt for Danewort, which was supposed to have sprung from the blood of the Danes slain in that battle. Among other memorials, the statue of a brave warrior, vulgarly called Rattlebone, but whose real name I could never learn, is still standing upon a pedestal on the east side of the church-porch, as I've been lately informed, where I saw it above fifty years ago: of whose bravery, almost equal to that of Withrington, many fabulous stories are told. One, in particular, like some of the Grecian fables of old, built upon the resemblance his shield bears to the shape of a tile-stone, which he is said to have placed over his stomach after it had been ripped up in battle, and by that means maintained the field; whilst the following rude verses are said to have been repeated by the king by way of encouragement:
Fight on, Rattlebone,|
And thou shalt have Sherstone;
If Sherstone will not do,
Then Easton Grey and Pinkney too."
/ p.200 /
North Acre is or was the name of the spot where Lord Dacre perished at the battle of Towton in 1461. He is said to have been shot by a boy out of an elder tree.
The Lord Dacre|
Was slain in North Acre.
* Communicated by Mr. Longstaffe.
This saying, as given by Surtees, is still remembered near Bellasis, and is preferable to Hutchinson's version of it from the east window of the north transept of St. Andrew's Auckland church, where he says, "are remains of an inscription painted on the glass; the date appears 1386; beneath the inscription are the arms of Bellasys, and in a belt round them the following words:
Johnny tuth' Bellas daft was thy poll,|
When thou changed Bellas for Henknoll.
Collins (followed by Hutchinson), who gives the proverb as —
Bellysys Belysys dafe was thy sowel,|
When exchanged Belysys for Henknowell."
connects it with a grant dated 1380, from John de Belasye to the convent of Durham, of his lands in Wolveston, in exchange for the Manor of Henknoll. But Bellasyse is not even within the Manor of Wolveston, and, in fact, the Manor of Bellasye was held by the Prior in 1361; and we can only account for the proverb by supposing that, at a former period, Bellasyse had been exchanged for lands, but not the manor of Henknoll. The legend dates the matter in crusading times, and is chivalric in the extreme. John of Bellasis / p.201 / minded to take up the cross, and fight in Holy Land, found his piety sorely let and hindered by his attachment to the green pastures and deep meadows of his ancestors. With resolution strong, he exchanged them with the Church of Durham, for Henknoll, near Auckland. He went to fight, but lived it seems to return and repent his rash bargain. I descend by one step, from the sublime to the ridiculous, to mention how oddly more recent characters are wound round those of olden time, for a popular notion is that the Red-Cross Knight had enormous teeth, and was passionately addicted to "race-horses!" Children, moreover, have a dark saying when they leap off anything:
Belasise, Belassis, daft was thy nowle,|
When thou gave Bellassis for Henknowle,
Bellasay, Bellasay, what time of day?|
One o'clock, two o'clock, three and away!
Miss Bellasyse, the heiress of Brancepeth, died for love of Robert Shafto, of Whitworth, whose portrait at Whitworth represents him as very young and handsome, with yellow hair. He was the favorite candidate in the election of 1791, when he was popularly called Bonny Bobby Shafto; and the old song of the older Bobby, who, it seems, was also "bright and fair, combing down his yellow hair," was revived with the addition of —
The most ancient verses of the old song seem to be—
Bobby Shafto's looking out,|
All his ribbons flew about,
All the ladies gave a shout—
Hey, for Bobby Shafto!
Bobby Shafto's gone to sea,|
Silver buckles at his knee;
He'll come back and marry me,
Bonny Bobby Shafto.
Bobby Shafto's bright and fair,
Combing down his yellow hair;
He's my ain for evermair,
Bonny Bobby Shafto.
/ p.202 /
An apocryphal verse says,—
Bobby Shafto's getten a bairn,|
For to dangle on his arm—
On his arm and on his knee;
Bobby Shafto loves me.
An equivocal rhyme of the bishopric, which may either mean that the parson of the sixteenth century had no son, or that he had no equal in learning, &c. He certainly, however, mentions no son in his will, in which he leaves to his daughter Elizabeth, his best gold ring with a death's head in it (Compare Love's Labour Lost, v.2), and seventeen yards of white cloth for curtains of a bed, and to his daughter Mary his silver seal of arms, his gimald ring, and black gold ring. Another version of the proverb reads "six daughters," and indeed seven is often merely a conventional number.
John Lively, Vicar of Kelloe,|
Had seven daughters and never a fellow.
"Not far from Gisborough is Ounsberry-hill, or Roseberry-topping, which mounts aloft and makes a great shew at a distance, serving unto sailors for a mark of direction, and to the neighbour inhabitants for a prognostication; for as often as the head of it hath its cloudy cap on, there commonly follows rain, whereupon they have a proverbial rhyme,
Near to the top of it, out of a huge rock, there flows a spring of water, medicinable for diseased eyes; and from thence there is a most delightful prospect upon the valleys below to the hills above."—Brome's Travels, 8vo. Lond. 1700.
When Roseberry-topping wears a cap,|
Let Cleveland then beware a clap.
/ p.203 /
"As for the town, though it flourished mightily for some years together after the Norman Conquest, by reason of a staple for wooll and other commodities, setled here by King Edward the Third; yet it met still with some calamities or other, which hindred its growth and eclipsed its grandeur, for it had its share of sufferings, both by fire and water, in King Stephen's days, about which time, it seems, though the king had at first been conquered and taken prisoner, yet he afterward entred into the city in triumph, with his crown upon his head, to break the citizens of a superstitious opinion they held, that no king could possibly enter into that city after such a manner, but some great disaster or other would befal him; but neither did it then, or by the barons' wars afterwards, sustain half the damages which of late years it hath received from the devouring hands of time, who hath wrought its downfal, and from a rich and populous city hath reduced it almost to the lowest ebb of fortune; and of fifty churches, which were all standing within one or two centuries, hath scarce left fifteen; so that the old proverbial rhymes (which go current amonst them) seem so far to have something of verity in them:
Lincoln was, and London is,|
And York shall be
The fairest city of the three."—Ibid.
"After we had passed these borders we arrived again safe in our own native soil, within the precincts of Cumberland, which, like the rest of the northern counties, hath a sharp piercing air; the soil is fertile for the most part both with corn and cattel, and in some parts hereof with fish and fowl; here are likewise several minerals, which of late have been discovered; not only / p.204 / mines of copper, but some veins of gold and silver, as we were informed, have been found; and of all the shires we have, it is accounted the best furnished with the Roman antiquities. Nor is it less renowned for its exceeding high mountains; for, beside the mountain called Wrye-nose, on the top of which, near the highway side, are to be seen three shire-stones within a foot of each other, one in this county, another in Westmoreland, and a third in Lancashire. There are three other hills, Skiddaw, Lanvalin, and Casticand, very remarkable. Skiddaw riseth up with two mighty high heads, like Parnassus, and beholds Scruffel Hill, which is in Annandale, in Scotland; and accordingly as mists arise or fall upon these heads, the people thereby prognosticate of the change of weather, singing this rhime [lit.]:
And there goes also this usual by-word concerning the height, as well of this hill as of the other two:
If Skiddaw have a cap,|
Scruffel wotts full of that.
Skiddaw, Lanvellin, and Casticand,|
Are the highest hills in all England."—Ibid.
"Here are three great hills, not far distant asunder, seeming to be as high as the clouds, which are Ingleborow, Penigent, and Pendle, on the top of which grows a peculiar plant called cloudsberry, as though it came out of the clouds. This hill formerly did the country much harm, by reason of an extraordinary deal of water gushing out of it, and is now famous for an infallible sign of rain whensoever the top of it is covered with a mist; and by reason of the excessive height for which they are all three celebrated, there is this proverbial rhime goes current amongst them:
Ingleborow, Pendle, and Penigent,|
Are the highest hills betwixt Scotland and Trent."—Ibid.
/ p.205 /
THE KIRBY FEIGHT.
After the abdication of James the Second, in the year 1688, a rumour was spread in the North of England that he was lying off the Yorkshire coast, ready to make a descent with a numerous army from France, in hopes of regaining his lost throne. This report gave the Lord Lieutenant of Westmoreland an opportunity of showing his own and the people's attachment to the new order of things; he accordingly called out the posse comitatus, comprising all able-bodied men from sixteen to sixty. The order was obeyed with alacrity; and the inhabitants met armed in a field called Miller's-close, near Kendal, from whence they marched to Kirby Lonsdale. This historical fact explains the above popular rhyme, the meanimg of which is, at this day, perhaps not generally understood.—West. and Cumb. Dial. 89.
Eighty-eight wor Kirby feight,|
When nivver a man was slain;
They hatt ther meaat, an drank ther drink,
An sae com merrily heaam agayn.
A Newcastle distich relating to Roger Thornton, a wealthy merchant, and a great benefactor to that town. A hap is a coarse coverlet of any kind.
At the Westgate came Thornton in|
With a hap, a halfpenny, and a lambskin.
ISLE OF MAN.
All the bairns unborn will rue the day|
That the Isle of Man was sold away;
And there's ne'er a wife that loves a dram,
But what will lament for the Isle of Man.
/ p.206 /
Hartley and Hallowell, a' ya' bonnie lassie,|
Fair Seaton-Delaval, a' ya';
Earsdon stands on a hill, a' ya',
Near to the Billy-mill, 'a ya'.