Verse > Anthologies > Harvard Classics > English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray
   English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
35. Jolly Good Ale and Old
16th Century
Anonymous (16th century)
BACK and side go bare, go bare,
Both hand and foot go cold;
But, belly, God send thee good ale enough
Whether it be new or old.
But if 1 that I may have truly        5
  Good ale my belly full,
I shall look like one, by sweet Saint John,
  Were shorn against the wool.
Though I go bare, take ye no care,
  I am nothing a-cold;        10
I stuff my skin so full within
  Of jolly good ale and old.
I cannot eat but little meat,
  My stomach is not good;
But sure I think that I could drink        15
  With him that weareth an hood.
Drink is my life; although my wife
  Some time do chide and scold,
Yet spare I not to ply the pot
  Of jolly good ale and old.        20
I love no roast but a brown toast,
  Or a crab in the fire;
A little bread shall do me stead,
  Much bread I never desire.
Nor frost, nor snow, nor wind, I trow,        25
  Can hurt me if it wolde;
I am so wrapped within, and lapped
  With jolly good ale and old.
I care right nought, I take no thought
  For clothes to keep me warm;        30
Have I good drink, I surely think
  Nothing can do me harm.
For truly than I fear no man,
  Be he never so bold,
When I am armed and throughly warmed        35
  With jolly good ale and old.
But now and than I curse and ban,
  They make their ale so small!
God give them care, and evil to fare!
  They strye 2 the malt and all.        40
Such peevish pew, 3 I tell you true,
  Not for a crown of gold
There cometh one sip within my lip,
  Whether it be new or old.
Good ale and strong maketh me among        45
  Full jocund and full light,
That oft I sleep, and take no keep
  From morning until night.
Then start I up and flee to the cup,
  The right way on I hold;        50
My thirst to stanch I fill my paunch
  With jolly good ale and old.
And Kit, my wife, that as her life
  Loveth well good ale to seek,
Full oft drinketh she that ye may see        55
  The tears run down her cheek.
Then doth she troll to me the bowl
  As a good malt-worm should,
And say, “Sweetheart, I take my part
  Of jolly good ale and old.”        60
They that do drink till they nod and wink,
  Even as good fellows should do,
They shall not miss to have the bliss
  That good ale hath brought them to.
And all poor souls that scour black bowls,        65
  And hath them lustily troll’d,
God save the lives of them and their wives,
  Whether they be young or old!
      Back and side, etc.
Note 1. It pleases me. [back]
Note 2. May they thrive! [back]
Note 3. Murderer. [back]


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