Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
A Ballad upon a Wedding
By Sir John Suckling (1609–1642)
I TELL 1 thee, Dick, where I have been,
Where I, the rarest things have seen;
  O, things without compare!
Such sights again cannot be found
In any place on English ground,        5
  Be it at Wake or Fair.
At Charing Cross, hard by the way
Where we (thou know’st!) do sell our hay, 2
  There is a house with stairs; 3
And there, did I see coming down        10
Such folk as are not in our town,
  Forty at least, in pairs.
Amongst the rest, one pest’lent fine
(His beard no bigger, though, than thine)
  Walked on before the rest.        15
Our landlord looks like nothing to him;
The King (God bless him!), ’twould undo him,
  Should he go still so drest.
At Course-a-Park, without all doubt,
He should have first been taken out        20
  By all the Maids i’ th’ town;
Though lusty Roger there had been
Or little George upon the Green,
  Or Vincent of the Crown.
But wot you what? The Youth was going        25
To make an end of all his wooing.
  The Parson for him stayed;
Yet, by his leave, for all his haste,
He did not so much wish all past,
  Perchance, as did the Maid.        30
The Maid (and thereby hangs a tale!): 4
For such a Maid no Whitsun-Ale
  Could ever yet produce;
No grape that ’s kindly ripe could be
So round, so plump, so soft, as She;        35
  Nor half so full of juice!
Her Finger was so small, the ring
Would not stay on; which they did bring.
  It was too wide a peck;
And to say truth, (for out it must)        40
It looked like the great collar (just)
  About our young colt’s neck.
Her Feet, beneath her petticoat,
Like little mice stole in and out,
  As if they feared the light:        45
But O, She dances such a way!
No sun, upon an Easter Day,
  Is half so fine a sight.
Her Cheeks so rare a white was on;
No daisy makes comparison;        50
  Who sees them is undone;
For streaks of red were mingled there,
Such as are on a Katherine pear
  (The side that’s next the sun).
Her lips were red, and one was thin        55
Compared to that was next her chin,
  Some bee had stung it newly:
But, Dick! her Eyes so guard her face;
I durst no more upon them gaze,
  Than on the sun in July.        60
Her Mouth so small, when she does speak,
Thou’dst swear her teeth, her words did break,
  That they might passage get:
But She so handled still the matter,
They came as good as ours, or better;        65
  And are not spent a whit!…
Just in the nick, the Cook knocked thrice,
And all the Waiters, in a trice,
  His summons did obey;
Each Serving Man, with dish in hand,        70
Marched boldly up, like our Trained Band,
  Presented, and away!
When all the meat was on the table;
What man of knife, or teeth, was able
  To stay to be intreated!        75
And this the very reason was,
Before the Parson could say Grace,
  The company was seated!
The business of the kitchen ’s great,
For it is fit that men should eat;        80
  Nor was it there denied.
(Passion o’ me! how I run on!
There’s that, that would be thought upon,
  I trow, besides the Bride!)
Now, hats fly off; and Youths carouse!        85
Healths first go round; and then the house!
  The Bride’s came thick and thick;
And when ’twas named another’s Health;
Perhaps, he made it hers by stealth;
  (And who could help it, Dick?)        90
O’ th’ sudden, up they rise and dance;
Then sit again, and sigh, and glance;
  Then dance again and kiss!
Thus, several ways, the time did pass;
Whilst every woman wished her place,        95
  And every man wished his!…
Note 1. “The version of this famous ballad, which has created one of the world’s ‘familiar quotations,’ is the same as that accepted by Mr. Locker-Lampson in his delightful Lyra Elegantiarum…. He says in connection with this ballad: ‘This is one of his (Suckling’s) best poems, and as Leigh Hunt says—his fancy is so full of gusto as to border on imagination. Three stanzas of the poem have been necessarily omitted.’ In reality six stanzas have been cut from the poem as it originally stood. It was written upon the occasion of the marriage of Suckling’s friend, Roger Boyle (Lord Broghill or Brohall, afterward Earl of Orrery), and Lady Margaret Howard, daughter of the Earl of Suffolk. There are evidences that it was set to music which was very popular. John Lawson wrote of the ballad: ‘This is really excellent, brisk, humorous, and poetical.’ Wordsworth wrote: ‘I fully concur in Mr. Lawson’s criticism, but wish he had been more explicit…. This may safely be pronounced his opus magnum: indeed for grace and simplicity it stands unrivalled in the whole compass of ancient and modern poetry.’” [back]
Note 2. We … do sell our hay: The Haymarket of London of to-day. [back]
Note 3. A house with stairs: said to be Suffolk House, afterwards Northumberland House. [back]
Note 4. The maid, and thereby hangs a tale: Wordsworth wrote: “His portraits of female beauty are not so finished as Byron or Moore, but they possess a great attraction, because he gives only a glimpse and leaves the rest to fancy.” (F. A. Stokes, Suckling’s Poems.) [back]

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