Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1607–1764
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. I–II: Colonial Literature, 1607–1764
 
Of Meeting a Godly Knave in Maryland
By Ebenezer Cook (c. 1667–c. 1732)
 
[The Sot-Weed Factor. 1708.]

WITH Cockerouse as I was sitting,
I felt a fever intermitting;
A fiery pulse beat in my veins,
From cold I felt resembling pains.
This cursed seasoning, I remember,        5
Lasted from March to cold December;
Nor would it then its quarters shift
Until by Cardus turn’d adrift,
And had my doctress wanted skill,
Or kitchen physic at her will,        10
My father’s son had lost his lands,
And never seen the Goodwin sands.
But thanks to fortune and a nurse
Whose care depended on my purse,
I saw myself in good condition,        15
Without the help of a physician.
At length the shivering ill relieved,
Which long my head and heart had grieved;
I then began to think with care,
How I might sell my British ware,        20
That with my freight I might comply,
Did on my charter party lie.
To this intent, with guide before,
I tript it to the eastern shore;
While riding near a sandy bay,        25
I met a Quaker, “Yea” and “Nay;”
A pious conscientious rogue,
As e’er wore bonnet or a brogue.
Who neither swore nor kept his word
But cheated in the fear of God;        30
And when his debts he would not pay,
By light within he ran away.
With this sly zealot soon I struck
A bargain for my English truck,
Agreeing for ten thousand weight        35
Of Sot-weed good and fit for freight,
Broad Oronooko bright and sound,
The growth and product of his ground;
In cask that should contain complete,
Five hundred of tobacco neat.        40
The contract thus betwixt us made,
Not well acquainted with the trade,
My goods I trusted to the cheat,
Whose crop was then aboard the fleet;
And, going to receive my own,        45
I found the bird was newly flown.
Cursing this execrable slave,
This damned pretended godly knave;
On dire revenge and justice bent,
I instantly to council went,        50
Unto an ambidexter Quack,
Who learnedly had got the knack
Of giving glisters, making pills,
Of filling bonds, and forging wills;
And with a stock of impudence        55
Supplied his want of wit and sense;
With looks demure, amazing people,
No wiser than a Daw in steeple.
My anger flushing in my face,
I stated the preceding case;        60
And of my money was so lavish,
That he’d have poisoned half the parish,
And hanged his father on a tree
For such another tempting fee.
Smiling, said he, “The cause is clear,        65
I’ll manage him you need not fear;
The case is judged, good sir, but look
In Galen, No—in my Lord Cook,
I vow to God I was mistook:
I’ll take out a provincial writ,        70
And trounce him for his knavish wit;
Upon my life we’ll win the cause,
With all the ease I cure the yaws.”
Resolved to plague the holy brother,
I set one rogue to catch another.        75
To try the cause then fully bent,
Up to Annapolis I went,
A city situate on a plain,
Where scarce a house will keep out rain;
*        *        *        *        *
But stranger here will scarcely meet        80
With market-place, exchange, or street,
And if truth I may report,
’Tis not so large as Tottenham court.
St. Mary’s once was in repute,
How here the judges try the suit        85
And lawyers twice a year dispute.
As oft the bench most gravely meet,
Some to get drunk and some to eat
A swingeing share of country treat.
But as for justice right or wrong,        90
Not one among the numerous throng
Knows what they mean, or has the heart
To give his verdict on a stranger’s part.
*        *        *        *        *
The biassed court, without delay,
Adjudged my debt in country pay;        95
In pipe-staves, corn, or flesh of boar,
Rare cargo for the English shore;
Raging with grief, full speed I ran
To join the fleet at Kicketan;
Embarked and waiting for a wind        100
I left this dreadful curse behind.
 
 
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