Page images
PDF
EPUB

I've gazed in bright young gipsies' eyes,

And in green lanes have shared their meal,
And danced beneath blue starry skies

Unto the fiddle's merry squeal.
And fain would I have stolen a prize-

A gipsy-girl, but dared not steal :
No road I knew through woods and bogs,
No love I bore to their great dogs.

Sing heigh-ho ! let's merry, merry be ;

Oh a gipsy-girl 's the wife for me!
Oh! let the rich go buy their mutton,

Our flocks they sleep on no man's land ;
We cut three poles the pot to put on,

Our turnips they grow near at hand;
And game have we would feast a glutton :

We are a jovial, fearless band !
For wealth and splendour others sigh,
Our riches are a gipsy's eye!

Sing heigh-ho! let ’s merry, merry be ;
Oh a gipsy-girl's the wealth for me!

All day we round the country tramp,

The birds bear not a lighter heart ;
And then at night we pitch our camp,

Or soundly sleep beneath the cart :
What care we for the night-dew damp !

We pay no rent when we depart ;
And, like the lark, we early rise-
Our clock 's a gipsy's opening eyes !

Sing heigh-ho! let ’s merry, merry be;
Oh a gipsy-girl's the wife for me !

A gipsy was next called upon, and acquitted himself in the following manner :

I love to go with strolling players,

With kings and queens from town to town-
A royalty for which no prayers

Are offered up, or knees bow'd down.
Our prancing steeds are long-ear'd brayers,

A yard of gilt will make a crown ;

A country-barn 's our room of state,
And in the fields we halt to bait.

Sing heigh-ho! let's merry, merry be ;
A strolling-player's life for me !

Sometimes the straw is Hamlet's bed ;

His father's ghost lies by his side ;
And black Othello plants his head

Right snugly by his murder'd bride ;
Iago gnaws a crust of bread,

And swears how badly his wife died ;
And Cassio takes up his hat
To hurl at some intrusive rat.

Sing heigh-ho! let's merry, merry be ;
A strolling-player's life for me !

And we have trains of rustling silk,

Sometimes at uncle's unredeemid;
And good brown bread, and sky-blue milk,

But rather too severely cream’d.
And then the natives that we bilk !

Oh ! how the fat old baker scream'd
• Pay for that bread that Hamlet got !”.
The Prince was deaf, and heard him not.

Sing heigh-ho! let ’s merry, merry be ;
A strolling-player's life for me !

Thus ended our adventure with gipsies, in all safety and good-humour. As to my companion, he was haunted by a pair of dark eyes for months after this adventure ; and I believe he yet possesses the lock of hair which was presented to him by the pretty gipsy-lass, the unmarried daughter of old Abigail.

After the recital of this adventure, I cannot resist quoting a scene from old Izaak Walton.

“I left this place, and saw a brother of the angle sit under that honeysuckle hedge. I sat down by him, and presently we met with an accidental piece of merriment, which I will relate to you,

for it rains still. « On the other side of this very hedge sat a gang

of gipsies; and near to them sat a gang of beggars. The gipsies were then

to divide all the money that had been got that week, either by stealing linen or poultry, or by fortune-telling or legerdemain ; or, indeed, by any other sleights and secrets belonging to their mysterious government, and the sum that was got that week proved to be but twenty and some odd shillings. The odd money was agreed to be distributed amongst the poor of their own corporation ; and for the remaining twenty shillings, that was to be divided unto four gentlemen gipsies, according to their several degrees in their commonwealth ; and the first, or chiefest gipsy, was by consent to have a third part of the twenty shillings, which all men know is six-and-eightpence. The second was to have a fourth part, which is five shillings; the third was to have a fifth part, which is four shillings; and the fourth and last gipsy was to have a sixth part, which is threeand-fourpence. And yet he that divided the money was so very a gipsy, that though he gave to every one these said sums, yet he kept one shilling of it for himself: as, for example, if added up it makes but nineteen shillings, yet, being divided into the above-mentioned parts, each was the exact proportion of a pound. But now you shall know that when the four gipsies saw that he had got one shilling by dividing the money, though not one of them knew any reason to demand more, yet, like lords and courtiers, every gipsy envied him that was the gainer, and wrangled with him ; and so they fell to so high a contest about it as none that knows the faithfulness of one gipsy to another will easily believe: only we that have lived these last twenty years are certain that money has been able to do so much mischief. However, the gipsies were too wise to go to law, and did therefore choose their choice friends Rook and Shark, and our late English Gusman, to be their arbitrators and umpires; and so they left this honeysuckle hedge, and went to tell fortunes, and cheat, and get more money and lodging, in the next village.

“When these were gone, we heard a high contention amongst the beggars, whether it was easiest to rip a cloak, or to unrip a

cloak. One beggar affirmed it was all one; but that was denied by asking her if doing and undoing were all one. Then another said 'twas easiest to unrip a cloak, for that was to let it alone; but she was answered by asking her how she unripped it if she let it alone, and she confessed herself mistaken. These and twenty such like questions were proposed and answered with as much beggarly logic and earnestness as was ever heard to proceed from the mouth of the most pertinacious schismatic; and sometimes all the beggars, whose number was neither more nor less than the poet's nine muses, talked all together about this ripping and unripping, and so loud that not one heard what the other said ; but at last one beggar craved audience, and told them that old Father Clause, whom Ben Jonson, in his Beggar's Bush, created king of their corporation, was that night to lodge at an alehouse called Catch-her-by-the-way, not far from Waltham Cross, and in the high-road towards London ; and he therefore desired them to spend no more time about that and such like questions, but to refer all to Father Clause at night, for he was an upright judge, and in the mean time draw cuts for what song should be next sung, and who should sing it. They all agreed to the motion, and the lot fell to her that was the youngest and veriest virgin of the company; and she sang Frank Davison's song, which he made forty years ago, and all the others of the company joined to sing the burthen with her. The ditty was this ;—but first the burthen :

Bright shines the sun ; play, beggars, play!
Here 's scraps enough to serve to-day.

What noise of viols is so sweet

As when our merry clappers ring?
What mirth doth want when beggars meet ?

A beggar's life is for a king :
Eat, drink, and play, sleep when we list,
Go where we will -so stocks be miss'd.

Bright shines the sun; play, beggars, play!
Here's scraps enough to serve to-day.

The world is ours, and ours alone,

For we alone have world at will;
We purchase not, all is our own-

Both fields and streets we beggars fill;
Nor care to get, nor fear to keep,
Did ever break a beggar's sleep.

Bright shines the sun ; play, beggars, play!
Here 's scraps enough to serve to-day.

A hundred herds of black and white

Upon our gowns securely feed ;
And yet if any dare us bite,

He dies therefore, as sure as creed :
Thus beggars lord it as they please,
And only beggars live at ease.

Bright shines the sun ; play, beggars, play!
Here's scraps enough to serve to-day.'”

The blossoms on the fruit-trees are now daily losing their beauty, and some of them have entirely vanished; but the fields never wear so delightful an aspect as now. Tens of thousands of rich kingcups are in full splendour, glittering in the meadows as if they were paved with flowers of gold, and will continue so until the scythe sweeps down all their beauty. The red poppy is in bloom, and the monkey-poppy still continues in flower; but the peonies are decaying, and the tulips losing their gaudy colours. Pinks are also in flower, and the yellow day-lilies have begun to blow; the splendid orangelily, too, opens its flowers; several species of the garden-iris are also in flower; and the yellow flag unfurls its golden bloom by the sides of ponds and streams, over which it bends, gazing on its own lovely shadow. Sweet is the perfume that now floats over the blossoming clover-fields, which spread out like costly silken carpets enwrought with rich flowers of white and purple ; while a thousand bees murmur over their honied bells, and fill the air with drowsy music, scattering a slumberous repose on every side. Bunyan must have been wandering over a cloverfield in blossom when he imagined the perfumed dreamy air

« PreviousContinue »