John Gay

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

The Shepherd's Week : Tuesday; or, the Ditty


Marian.
Young Colin Clout, a lad of peerless meed,
Full well could dance, and deftly tune the reed;
In every wood his carrols sweet were known,
At every wake his nimble feats were shown.
When in the ring the rustic routs he threw,
The damsel's pleasures with his conquests grew;
Or when aslant the cudgel threats his head,
His danger smites the breast of every maid;
But chief of Marian. Marian lov'd the swain,
The parson's maid, and neatest of the plain.
Marian that soft could stroke the udder'd cow,
Or lessen, with her sieve, the barley mow;
Marbled with sage the hardening cheese she press'd,
And yellow butter Marian's skill confess'd;
But Marian now devoid of country cares,
Nor yellow butter nor sage cheese prepares.
For yearning love the witless maid employs,
And love, say swains, 'all busy heed destroys.'
Colin makes mock at all her piteous smart,
A lass that Cicily hight, had won his heart,
The rival of the parson's maid was she.
In dreary shade now Marian lies along,
And mix'd with sighs thus wails in plaining song.
Ah woful day! ah woful noon and morn!
When first by thee my younglings white were shorn,
Then first, I ween, I cast a lover's eye,
My sheep were silly, but more silly I.
Beneath the sheers they felt no lasting smart,
They lost but fleeces while I lost a heart.
Ah Colin! canst thou leave thy sweetheart true!
What have I done for thee will Cicily do?
Will she thy linen wash or hosen darn,
And knit thee gloves made of her own-spun yarn?
Will she with huswife's hand provide thy meat,
And every Sunday morn thy neckcloth plait?
Which o'er thy kersey doublet spreading wide,
In service-time drew Cicily's eyes aside.
Where'er I gad I cannot hide my care,
My new disasters in my look appear.
White as the curd my ruddy cheek has grown,
So thin my features that I'm hardly known;
Our neighbours tell me oft in joking talk,
Of ashes, leather, oatmeal, bran, and chalk;
Unwittingly of Marian they divine,
And wist not that with thoughtful love I pine.
Yet Colin Clout, untoward shepherd swain,
Walks whistling blithe, while pitiful I 'plain.
Whilom with thee 'twas Marian's dear delight
To moll all day, and merry-make at night.
If in the soil you guide the crooked share,
Your early breakfast is my constant care.
And when with even hand you strow the grain,
I fright the thievish rooks from off the plain.
In misling days when I my thresher heard,
With nappy beer I to the barn repair'd;
Lost in the music of whirling flail,
To gaze on thee I left the smoking pail;
In harvest when the sun was mounted high,
My leathern bottle did thy drought supply;
Whene'er you mow'd I follow'd with the rake,
And have full oft been sun-burnt for thy sake;
When in the welkin gathering showers were seen,
I lagg'd, the last with Colin on the green;
And when at eve returning with thy car,
Awaiting heard the jingling bells from afar;
Straight on the fire the sooty pot I plac'd,
To warm thy broth I burn'd my hands for haste.
When hungry thou stood'st staring like an Oaf,
I slic'd the luncheon from the barley loaf,
With crumbled bread I thicken'd well thy mess.
Ah! love me more, or love thy pottage less!
Last Friday's eve, when as the sun was set,
I, near yon stile, three sallow gypsies met
Upon my hand they cast a poring look,
Bid me beware, and thrice their heads they shook,
They said that many crosses I must prove,
Some in my worldly gain, but most in love.
Next morn I miss'd three hens and our old cock,
And off the hedge two pinners and a smock.
I bore these losses with a Christian mind,
And no mishaps could feel, while thou wert kind.
But since, alas! I grew my Colin's scorn,
I've known no pleasure, night, or noon, or morn.
Help me, ye gypsies, bring him home again,
And to a constant lass give back her swain.
Have I not sat with thee full many a night,
When dying embers were our only light,
When every creature did in slumbers lie,
Besides our cat, my Colin Clout, and I?
No troublous thoughts the cat or Colin move,
While I alone am kept awake by love.
Remember, Colin, when at last year's wake,
I bought the costly present for thy sake,
Couldst thou spell o'er the posy on thy knife,
And with another change they state of life?
If thou forget'st, I wot, I can repeat,
My memory can tell the verse so sweet.
'As this is grav'd upon this knife of thine,
So is thy image on this heart of mine.'
But wo is me! such presents luckless prove,
For knives, they tell me, always sever love.
Thus Marian wail'd, her eyes with tears brimfull,
When goody Dobbins brought her cow to bull.
With apron blue to dry her tears she sought,
Then saw the cow well serv'd, and took a groat.

Submitted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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