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John Gay

(30 June 1685 – 4 December 1732 / Barnstaple, England)

The Shepherd's Week : Thursday; or, The Spell


Hobnelia.
Hobnelia, seated in a dreary vale,
In pensive mood rehears'd her piteous tale,
Her piteous tale the wind in sighs bemoan,
And pining echo answers groan for groan.
I rue the day, a rueful day I trow,
The woful day, a day indeed of wo!
When Lubberkin to town his cattle drove,
A maiden fine bedight he hap'd to love;
The maiden fine bedight his love retains,
And for the village he forsakes the plains.
Return, my Lubberkin, these ditties hear;
Spells will I try, and spells shall ease my care.
'With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.'
When first the year, I heard the cuckoo sing,
And call with welcome note the budding spring,
I straightway set a running with such haste,
Deborah that won the smock scarce ran so fast.
'Till spent for lack of breath quite weary grown,
Upon a rising bank I sat adown,
Then doff'd my shoe, and by my troth I swear,
Therein I spy'd this yellow frizzled hair,
As like to Lubberkin's in curl and hue,
As if upon his comely pate it grew.
'With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.'
At eve last midsummer no sleep I sought,
But to the field a bag of hemp-seed brought,
I scatter'd round the seed on every side,
And three times in a trembling accent cried,
'This hemp-seed with my virgin hand I sow,
Who shall my true-love be, the crop shall mow.'
I straight look'd back, and if my eyes speak truth,
With his keen scythe behind me came the youth.
'With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.'
Last Valentine, the day when birds of kind
Their paramours with mutual chirpings find;
I rearly rose, just at the break of day,
Before the sun had chas'd the stars away,
A-field I went, amid the morning dew,
To milk my kine (for so should huswifes do)
Thee first I spy'd, and the first swain we see,
In spite of fortune shall our true-love be;
See, Lubberkin, each bird his partner take,
And canst thou then thy sweet-hear dear forsake?
'With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.'
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.
'With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.'
Two hazel-nuts I threw into the flame,
And to each nut I gave a sweet-heart's name.
This with the loudest bounce me sore amaz'd,
That in a flame of brightest colour blaz'd.
As blaz'd the nut, so may thy passion grow,
For 'twas thy nut that did so brightly glow.
'With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.'
As peascods once I pluck'd, I chanc'd to see
One that was closely fill'd with three times three,
Which when I crop'd I safely home convey'd,
And o'er the door the spell in secret laid,
My wheel I turn'd, and sung a ballad new,
While from the spindle I the fleeces drew;
The latch mov'd up, when who should first come in,
But in his proper person - Lubberkin.
I broke my yarn, surpris'd the sight to see,
Sure sign that he would break his word with me.
Eftsoons I join'd it with my wonted slight,
So may again his love with mine unite!
'With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.'
This lady-fly I take from off the grass,
Whose spotted back might scarlet red surpass.
'Fly, lady-bird, North, South, or East, or West,
Fly where the man is found that I love best.'
He leaves my hand, see to the West he's flown,
To call my true-love from the faithless town.
'With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.'
I pare this pippin round and round again,
My shepherd's name to flourish on the plain,
I fling the unbroken paring o'er my head,
Upon the grass a perfect L is read;
Yet on my heart a fairer L is seen
Than what the paring makes upon the green.
'With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.'
This pippin shall another trial make,
See from the core two kernels brown I take;
This on my cheek for Lubberkin's is worn,
And Boobyclod soon drops upon the ground,
A certain token that his love's unsound,
While Lubberkin sticks firmly to the last;
Oh were his lips to mine but join'd so fast!
'With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.'
As Lubberkin once slept beneath a tree,
I twitch'd his dangling garter from his knee;
He wist not when the hempen string I drew,
Now mine I quickly doff of inkle blue;
Together fast I tie the garters twain,
And while I knit the knot repeat this strain.
'Three times a true-lover's knot I tie secure,
Firm be the knot, firm may his love endure.'
'With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.'
As I was wont, I trudg'd last market day
To town, with new laid eggs, preserv'd in hay.
I made my market long before 'twas night,
My purse grew heavy, and my basket light.
Straight to the 'pothecary's shop I went,
And in love-powder all my money spent;
Behap what will, next Sunday after prayers,
When to the ale-house Lubberkin repairs,
These golden flies into his mug I'll throw,
And soon the swain with fervent love shall glow.
'With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.'
But hold - our Lightfoot barks, and cocks his ears,
O'er yonder stile see Lubberkin appears.
He comes, he comes, Hobnelia's not bewray'd,
Nor shall she, crown'd with willow, die a maid.
He vows, he swears, he'll give me a green gown,
Oh dear! I fall adown, adown, adown!

Submitted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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