Many years ago I got hold of a very old leather bound copy of The Ingolsby Legends, or Mirth and Marvels’ but have never had the time to read them. This is a great tale, wonderfully written, allegedly from a little Welsh milkmaid who recited it to the author. This impromptu recitation by children was a common trope in 18th century newspapers, but they are rarely as long as this, and the casual inclusion of Latin suggests an incredibly high standard of education in Wales. I love this :
LOOK AT THE CLOCK!
‘Look at the clock!’ quoth Winifred Pryce,
As she open’d the door to her husband’s knock,
Then paus’d to give him a piece of advice,
‘You nasty Warmint, look at the Clock!
Is this the way, you Wretch, every day you
Treat her who vow’d to love and obey you?-
Out all night ! Me in a fright;
Staggering home as it’s just getting light!
You intoxified brute! You insensible block!-
‘Look at the clock!’ Do!- Look at the clock!’
Winifred Pryce was tidy and clean,
Her gown was a flower’d one, her petticoat green,
Her buckles were bright as her milking cans,
And her hat was a beaver, and made like a man’s’
Her little red eyes were deep set in their socket-holes,
Her gown-tail was turned up, and tucked through the pocket-holes;
A face like a ferret. Betoken’d her spirit;
To conclude, Mrs Pryce was not over young,
Had very short legs, and a very long tongue.
Now David Pryce had one darling vice;
Remarkably partial to anything nice,
Nought that was good to him came amiss,
Whether to eat, or to drink, or to kiss !
Especially ale – If it was not too stale
I really believe he’d have emptied a pail;
Not that in Wales They talk of their Ales;
To pronounce the word they make use of might trouble you,
Being spelt with a C, two Rs and a W.
That particular day, As I’ve heard people say,
Mr. David Pryce had been soaking his clay,
And amusing himself with his pipe and cheroots,
The whole afternoon a the Goat-in-Boots,
With a couple more soakers, Thoroughbred smokers,
Both like himself, prime singers and jokers;
And long after day had drawn to a close,
And the rest of the world was wrapp’d in repose,
They were roaring out ‘Shenkin!’ and ‘Ar hydd y nos;’
While David himself, to a Sassenach tune,
Sang, ‘We’ve drunk down the Sun, boys! Let’s drink down the Moon!
What have we with day to do?
Mrs Winifred Pryce, ‘twas made for you;’
At length, when they couldn’t well drink any more,
Old ‘Goat-in-Boots’ showed them the door:
And then came that knock, And the sensible shock
David felt when his wife cried, ‘Look at the clock!’
For the hands stood as crooked as crooked might be,
The long at the Twelve, and the short at the Three!
That self-same clock had long been a bone
Of contention between this Darby and Joan,
And often, among their pother and rout,
When this otherwise amiable couple fell out,
Pryce would drop a cool hint, With an ominous squint
At its case, of an ‘Uncle’ of his, who’d a ‘Spout’
That horrid word ‘Spout’ No sooner came out
Than Winifred Pryce would turn her about,
And with scorn on her lip, And a hand on each hip,
‘Spout’ herself till her nose grew red at the tip.
‘You thundering willin, I know you’d be killing
Your wife – ay, a dozen of wives – for a shilling!
You may do what you please, You may sell my chemise,
(Mrs P. Was too well-bred to mention her smock)
But I never will part with my Grandmother’s Clock!’
Mrs Pryce’s tongue ran long and ran fast;
But patience is apt to wear out at last,
And David Pryce in temper was quick,
So he stretched out his hand, and caught hold of a stick;
Perhaps in its use he might mean to be lenient,
But walking just then wasn’t very convenient.
So he threw it instead, Direct at her head;
It knock’d off her hat; Down she fell flat;
Her case, perhaps, was not much mended by that:
But whatever it was, – whether rage and pain
Produced apoplexy, or burst a vein,
Or her tumble produced a concussion of brain,
I can’t say for certain – but this I can,
When sober’d by fright, to assist her he ran,
Mrs Winifred Pryce was as dead as Queen Anne!
The fearful catastrophe Named in my last strophe
As adding to grim Death’s exploits such a vast trophy,
Made a great noise; and the shocking fatality,
Ran over, like wildfire, the whole Principality.
And then came Mr. Ap Thomas, the Coroner,
With his jury to sit, some dozen or more, on her.
Mr Pryce, to commence His ‘ingenious defence,’
Made a ‘powerful appeal’ to the jury’s ‘good sense’:
‘The world he must defy Ever to justify
Any presumption of “Malice Prepense.”’
The unlucky lick From the end of his stick
He ‘deplored,’- he was ‘apt to be rather too quick;’-
But, really, her prating Was so aggravating:
Some trifling correction was just what he meant :-all
The rest, he assured them, was ‘quite accidental!’
Then he calls Mr. Jones, Who depones to her tones,
And her gestures, and hints about ‘breaking his bones;’
While Mr Ap Morgan, and Mr Ap Rhys
Declare the deceased Had styled him ‘a Beast.’
And swear they had witness’d, with greif and surprise,
The allusion she made to his limbs and his eyes.
The jury, in fine, having sat on the body
The whole day, discussing the case adn gin toddy,
Return’d abut half-past eleven at night
The following verdict, ‘We find, Sarve her right!’
Mr. Pryce, Mrs Winifred Pryce being dead,
Felt lonely and moped; and one evening he said
He would marry Miss Davis at once in her stead
Not far from his dwelling, From the vale proudly swelling,
Rose a mountain; its name you’ll excuse me from telling,
For the vowels made use of in Welsh are so few,
That the A and the E, the I, O, and the U,
Have really but little or nothing to do;
And the duty, of course, falls on the heavier by far,
On the L, and the H, and the N and the R.
Its first syllable ‘PEN’ Is pronounceable; – then
Come two L Ls and to H Hs, two F Fs and an N,
About half a score Rs and some Ws follow,
Beating all my best efforts at euphony hollow:
But we shan’t have to mention it often, so when
We do, with your leave, we’ll curtail it to ‘PEN’.
Well – the moon shone bright Upon ‘PEN’ that night,
When Pryce, being quit of his fuss and his fright,
Was scaling its side With that sort of stride
A man puts out when walking in search of a bride.
Mounting higher and higher, He began to perspire,
Till, finding his legs were beginning to tire,
And feeling opprest By a pain in his chest,
He paus’d, and turn’d round to take breath and to rest:
A walk all up hill is apt, we know,
To make one, however robust, puff and blow,
So he stopp’d and look’d down on the valley below.
O’er fell and o’er fen, Over mountain and glen,
All bright in the moonshine, his eye roved, and then
All the Patriot rose in his soul, and he thought
Upon Wales, and her glories, and all he’d been taught
Of her Heroes of old, so brave and so bold,-
Of her Bards with long beards, and harps mounted in gold:
Of King Edward the Firs, of memory accurst;
And the scandalous manner in which he behaved,
Killing poets by dozens With their uncles and cousins,
Of whom not one in fifty had ever been shaved-
Of the Court Ball, at which by a lucky mishap,
Owen Tudor fell into Queen Katherine’s lap;
And how Mr Tudor Successfully woo’d her,
Till the Dowager put on a new wedding ring,
And so made him Father-in-law to the King.
He thought upon Arthur and Merlin of yore,
On Gryffith ap Conan and Owen Glendour;
On Pendragon, and Heaven knows how many more.
He thought of all this, as he gazed, in a trice,
And on all things, in short, but the late Mrs Pryce;
When a lumbering noise from behind made him start,
And sent the blood back in full tide to his heart,
Which went pit-a-pat, As he cried out, ‘What’s that?’-
That very queer sound?- Does it come from the ground?
Or the air – from above, – or below,- or around?-
It is not like Talking, It is not like Walking,
It’s not like the clattering of pot or of pan,
Or the tramp of a horse, – or the tread of a man,-
Or the hum of a crowd, or the shouting of boys,-
It’s really a deuced odd sort of a noise!
Not unlike a cart’s – but that can’t be; for when
Could ‘all the King’s horses, and all the King’s men,’
With Old Nick for a waggoner, drive one up ‘PEN’?
Pryce, usually brimful of valour when drunk,
Now experienced what schoolboys denominate ‘funk’.
In vain he looked back On the whole of the track
He had traversed; a thick cloud, uncommonly black,
At this moment obscured the broad disc of the moon,
And did not seem likely to pass away soon;
While clearer and clearer, ‘Twas plain to the hearer,
Be the noise what it might, it drew nearer and nearer,
And sounded, as Pryce to this moment declares,
Very much ‘like a Coffin a-walking up stairs.’
Mr. Pryce had begun To ‘make up’ for a run,
As in such a companion he saw no great fun,
When a single bright ray Shone out on the way
He had passed, and he saw, with no little dismay,
Coming after him, bounding o’er crag and o’er rock,
The deceased Mrs Winifred’s ‘Grandmother’s Clock!!’
‘Twas so! – it had certainly moved from its place,
And come lumbering on thus, to hold him in chase;
‘Twas the very same Head, and the very same Case,
And nothing was altered at all – but the Face!
In that he perceived, with no little surprise,
The two little winder-holes turned into eyes
Blazing with ire, Like two coals of fire;
And the ‘Name of the Maker’ was changed to a Lip,
And the Hands to a Nose with a very red tip.
No! – he could not mistake it, – ‘twas SHE to the life!
The identical face of his poor defunct wife!
One glance was enough, Completely ‘Quant. Suff.’
As the doctors write down when they send you their ‘stuff.’
Like a Weather-cock whirled by a vehement puff,
David turned himself round; Ten feet of ground
He cleared, in his start, at the very first bound!
I’ve seen people run at West-end Fair for cheeses-
I’ve seen ladies run at Bow Fair for chemises-
At Greenwich Fair twenty men run for a hat,
And one from a Bailiff much faster than that:
At foot-ball I’ve seen lads run after the bladder-
I’ve seen Irish bricklayers run up a ladder-
I’ve seen little boys run away from a cane –
And I’ve seen (that is, read of) good running in Spain;
But I never did read Of, or witness, such speed
As David exerted that evening. – Indeed
All I have ever heard of boys, women or men,
Falls far short of Pryce, as he ran over PEN!
He reaches its brow,- He has past it, and now
Having once gained the summit, and managed to cross it, he
Rolls down the side with uncommon velocity;
But run as he will, Or roll down the hill,
The bugbear behind him is after him still!
And close at his heels, not at all to his liking,
The terrible clock keeps on ticking and striking,
Till exhausted and sore, He can’t run any more,
But falls as he reaches Miss Davis’s door,
And screams when they rush out, alarmed at his knock,
‘Oh! Look at the Clock! – Do! – Look at the Clock!!’
Miss Davis Look’d up, Miss Davis look’d down,
She saw nothing there to alarm her; – a frown
Came o’er her white forehead; She said, ‘it was horrid
A man should come knocking at that time of night,
And give her Mamma and herself such a fright;-
To squall and to bawl About nothing at all!’
She begged ‘he’d not think of repeating his call:
His late wife’s disaster By no means had past her;
She’d have him to know she was meat for his Master!’
Then regardless alike of his love and his woes,
She turned on her heel and she turned up her nose.
Poor David in vain Implored to remain;
He ‘dared not’ he said, ‘cross the mountain again.
Why the fair was obdurate None knows – to be sure, it
Was said she was setting her cap at the Curate.
Be that as it may, it is certain the sole hole
Pryce found to creep into that night was the Coal-hole!
In that shady retreat with nothing to eat,
And with very bruised limbs, and with very sore feet,
All night close he kept; I can’t say he slept;
But he sigh’d and he sobb’d, and he groan’d and he wept;
Lamenting his sins, And his two broken shins,
Bewailing his fate with contortions and grins,
And her he once thought a complete Rara Avis
Consigning to Satan, – viz, cruel Miss Davis!
Mr David has since had a ‘serious call’,
He never drinks ale, wine or spirits at all,
And they say he is going to Exeter Hall
To make a grand speech, And to preach and to teach
People that ‘they can’t brew their malt liquor too small.’
That an ancient Welsh Poet, one PYNDAR AP TUDOR,
Was right in proclaiming ‘ARISTON MEN UDOR!’
Which means ‘the Pure Element Is for Man’s belly meant!’
And that Gin’s but a Snare of Old Nick the deluder!
And ‘still on each evening when pleasure fills up’
At the old Goat-in-Boots, with Metheglin, each cup,
Mr Pryce, if he’s there, Will get into ‘the Chair’,
And make all his quondam associates stare
By calling aloud to the Landlady’s daughter,
‘Patty, bring a cigar and a glass of Spring Water!’
The dial he constantly watches; and when
The long hand’s at the ‘XII’ and the short at the ‘X’,
He gets on his legs, Drains his glass to the dregs,
Takes his hat and great-coat off their several pegs,
With his President’s hammer bestows his last knock,
And says solemnly – ‘Gentlemen!
LOOK AT THE CLOCK!