Context:

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

Source:

William Cowper
The Task and Other Poems

Cast:

[None]

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:

2003-01-01 - This etext was produced by Les Bowler, St. Ives, Dorset.
2005-08-10 - Encoded by Peter Millington
2006-12-30 - Correction of meter by Peter Millington
2021-01-15 - TEI-encoded by Peter Millington

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