The Diverting History of John Gilpin

W.Cowper (1782)


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Context:
Location: [Unlocated],
Year: First publ. 1782
Time of Occurrence: [Not given]
Collective Name: [Not given]

Source:

William Cowper
The Task and Other Poems


Cast: (Click on any name for the character name index.)
Text:

{THE DIVERTING HISTORY OF JOHN GILPIN;}

{SHOWING HOW HE WENT FARTHER THAN HE INTENDED, AND CAME SAFE HOME AGAIN.}

[1]

John Gilpin was a citizen
Of credit and renown,
A train-band captain eke was he
Of famous London town.

[2]

John Gilpin's spouse said to her dear,
"Though wedded we have been
These twice ten tedious years, yet we
No holiday have seen.

[3]

"To-morrow is our wedding-day,
And we will then repair
Unto 'The Bell' at Edmonton,
All in a chaise and pair.

[4]

"My sister and my sister's child,
Myself and children three,
Will fill the chaise; so you must ride
On horseback after we."

[5]

He soon replied, "I do admire
Of womankind but one,
And you are she, my dearest dear,
Therefore it shall be done.

[6]

"I am a linen-draper bold,
As all the world doth know,
And my good friend the Calender
Will lend his horse to go."

[7]

Quoth Mistress Gilpin, "That's well said;
And, for that wine is dear,
We will be furnished with our own,
Which is both bright and clear."

[8]

John Gilpin kissed his loving wife;
O'erjoyed was he to find
That though on pleasure she was bent,
She had a frugal mind.

[9]

The morning came, the chaise was brought,
But yet was not allowed
To drive up to the door, lest all
Should say that she was proud.

[10]

So three doors off the chaise was stayed,
Where they did all get in;
Six precious souls, and all agog
To dash through thick and thin.

[11]

Smack went the whip, round went the wheels,
Were never folk so glad;
The stones did rattle underneath
As if Cheapside were mad.

[12]

John Gilpin at his horse's side
Seized fast the flowing mane,
And up he got, in haste to ride,
But soon came down again;

[13]

For saddle-tree scarce reached had he,
His journey to begin,
When, turning round his head, he saw
Three customers come in.

[14]

So down he came; for loss of time,
Although it grieved him sore,
Yet loss of pence, full well he knew,
Would trouble him much more.

[15]

'Twas long before the customers
Were suited to their mind.
When Betty, screaming, came down stairs,
"The wine is left behind!"

[16]

"Good lack!" quoth he; "yet bring it me,
My leathern belt likewise,
In which I bear my trusty sword,
When I do exercise."

[17]

Now Mistress Gilpin (careful soul!)
Had two stone bottles found,
To hold the liquor that she loved,
And keep it safe and sound.

[18]

Each bottle had a curling ear,
Through which the belt he drew,
And hung a bottle on each side,
To make his balance true.

[19]

Then over all, that he might be
Equipped from top to toe,
His long red cloak, well brushed and neat,
He manfully did throw.

[20]

Now see him mounted once again
Upon his nimble steed,
Full slowly pacing o'er the stones
With caution and good heed!

[21]

But, finding soon a smoother road
Beneath his well-shod feet,
The snorting beast began to trot,
Which galled him in his seat.

[22]

So, "Fair and softly," John he cried,
But John he cried in vain;
That trot became a gallop soon,
In spite of curb and rein.

[23]

So stooping down, as needs he must
Who cannot sit upright,
He grasped the mane with both his hands,
And eke with all his might.

[24]

His horse, who never in that sort
Had handled been before,
What thing upon his back had got
Did wonder more and more.

[25]

Away went Gilpin, neck or naught;
Away went hat and wig;
He little dreamt, when he set out,
Of running such a rig.

[26]

The wind did blow, the cloak did fly,
Like streamer long and gay,
Till, loop and button failing both,
At last it flew away.

[27]

Then might all people well discern
The bottles he had slung;
A bottle swinging at each side,
As hath been said or sung.

[28]

The dogs did bark, the children screamed,
Up flew the windows all;
And every soul cried out, "Well done!"
As loud as he could bawl.

[29]

Away went Gilpin--who but he?
His fame soon spread around--
He carries weight! he rides a race!
'Tis for a thousand pound!

[30]

And still, as fast as he drew near,
'Twas wonderful to view
How in a trice the turnpike men
Their gates wide open threw.

[31]

And now, as he went bowing down
His reeking head full low,
The bottles twain behind his back
Were shattered at a blow.

[32]

Down ran the wine into the road,
Most piteous to be seen,
Which made his horse's flanks to smoke
As they had basted been.

[33]

But still he seemed to carry weight,
With leathern girdle braced;
For all might see the bottle-necks
Still dangling at his waist.

[34]

Thus all through merry Islington
These gambols he did play,
And till he came unto the Wash
Of Edmonton so gay.

[35]

And there he threw the wash about
On both sides of the way,
Just like unto a trundling mop,
Or a wild goose at play.

[36]

At Edmonton, his loving wife
From the bal-cony spied
Her tender husband, wondering much
To see how he did ride.

[37]

"Stop, stop, John Gilpin!--here's the house!"
They all at once did cry;
"The dinner waits, and we are tired."
Said Gilpin, "So am I!"

[38]

But yet his horse was not a whit
Inclined to tarry there;
For why?--his owner had a house
Full ten miles off, at Ware.

[39]

So like an arrow swift he flew,
Shot by an archer strong;
So did he fly--which brings me to
The middle of my song.

[40]

Away went Gilpin, out of breath,
And sore against his will,
Till at his friend the Calender's
His horse at last stood still.

[41]

The Calender, amazed to see
His neighbour in such trim,
Laid down his pipe, flew to the gate,
And thus accosted him:--

[42]

"What news? what news? your tidings tell:
Tell me you must and shall--
Say why bareheaded you are come,
Or why you come at all."

[43]

Now Gilpin had a pleasant wit,
And loved a timely joke;
And thus unto the Calender
In merry guise he spoke:

[44]

"I came because your horse would come;
And if I well forebode,
My hat and wig will soon be here;
They are upon the road."

[45]

The Calender, right glad to find
His friend in merry pin,
Returned him not a single word,
But to the house went in;

[46]

Whence straight he came with hat and wig,
A wig that flowed behind,
A hat not much the worse for wear,
Each comely in its kind.

[47]

He held them up, and, in his turn,
Thus showed his ready wit,--
"My head is twice as big as yours;
They therefore needs must fit.

[48]

"But let me scrape the dirt away
That hangs upon your face;
And stop and eat, for well you may
Be in a hungry case."

[49]

Says John, "It is my wedding-day,
And all the world would stare,
If wife should dine at Edmonton,
And I should dine at Ware."

[50]

So turning to his horse, he said,
"I am in haste to dine;
'Twas for your pleasure you came here,
You shall go back for mine."

[51]

Ah, luckless speech, and bootless boast!
For which he paid full dear;
For while he spake, a braying ass
Did sing most loud and clear;

[52]

Whereat his horse did snort as he
Had heard a lion roar,
And galloped off with all his might,
As he had done before.

[53]

Away went Gilpin, and away
Went Gilpin's hat and wig;
He lost them sooner than at first,
For why?--they were too big.

[54]

Now Mistress Gilpin, when she saw
Her husband posting down
Into the country far away,
She pulled out half-a-crown.

[55]

And thus unto the youth she said,
That drove them to "The Bell,"
"This shall be yours when you bring back
My husband safe and well."

[56]

The youth did ride, and soon did meet
John coming back amain,
Whom in a trice he tried to stop
By catching at his rein;

[57]

But not performing what he meant,
And gladly would have done,
The frighted steed he frighted more,
And made him faster run.

[58]

Away went Gilpin, and away
Went postboy at his heels,
The postboy's horse right glad to miss
The lumbering of the wheels.

[59]

Six gentlemen upon the road
Thus seeing Gilpin fly,
With postboy scampering in the rear,
They raised the hue and cry:

[60]

"Stop thief! stop thief!--a highwayman!"
Not one of them was mute;
And all and each that passed that way
Did join in the pursuit.

[61]

And now the turnpike gates again
Flew open in short space,
The tollmen thinking, as before,
That Gilpin rode a race.

[62]

And so he did, and won it too,
For he got first to town;
Nor stopped till where he had got up
He did again get down.

[63]

Now let us sing, "Long live the king,
And Gilpin, long live he;
And when he next doth ride abroad,
May I be there to see!"


Notes:

Stanza No.3 occurs in the play from North Muskham, Nottinghamshire.

Poem first published in the Public Advertiser on 14 November 1782.

This text copied from http://etext.teamnesbitt.com/books/etext/etext03/ttask10.txt.html.


File History:
Jan.2003 - This etext was produced by Les Bowler, St. Ives, Dorset.
10th Aug.2005 - Encoded by Peter Millington
30th Dec.2006 - Correction of meter

The recommended URL for this web page is www.folkplay.info/Texts/78----cw.htm
Last generated on 26/12/2007 by P.Millington (Peter.Millington1@virgin.net)