Down-Hall. A Ballad.

A poem by Matthew Prior

Tune., "King John and the Abbot of Canterbury."

I sing not old Jason who travell'd through Greece
To kiss the fair maids and possess the rich fleece,
Nor sing I AEneas, who, led by his mother,
Got rid of one wife and went far for another.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Nor him who through Asia and Europe did roam,
Ulysses by name, who ne'er cared to go home,
But rather desired to see cities and men
Than return to his farms and converse with old Pen.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Hang Homer and Virgil; their meaning to seek,
A man must have poked into Latin and Greek;
Those who love their own tongue we have reason to hope,
Have read them translated by Dryden and Pope.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

But I sing of exploits that have lately been done
By two British heroes call'd Matthew and John,
And how they rid friendly from fine London town,
Fair Essex to see, and a place they call Down.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Now ere they went out, you may rightly suppose
How much they discoursed both in prudence and prose:
For before this great journey was thoroughly concerted,
Full often they met, and as often they parted.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

And thus Matthew said, look you here my friend John,
I fairly have travell'd years thirty and one,
And though I still carried my Sovereign's warrants,
I only have gone upon other folks errands.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

And now in this journey of life I would have
A place where to bait 'twixt the court and the grave,
Where joyful to live, not unwilling to die,
Gadzooks, I had just a place in my eye.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

There are gardens so stately, and arbours so thick,
A portal of stone, and a fabric of brick;
The matter next week shall be all in your power;
But the money, Gadzooks, must be paid in an hour.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

For things in this world must by law be made certain;
We both must repair unto Oliver Martin,
For he is a lawyer of worthy renown,
I'll bring you to see he must fix you at Down.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Quoth Matthew, I know that from Berwick to Dover
You've sold all our premises over and over;
And now if your buyers and sellers agree
You may throw all our acres into the South-sea.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

But a word to the purpose; to-morrow, dear friend,
We'll sea what to-night you so highly commend,
And if with a garden and house I am bless'd,
Let the devil and Coningsby go with the rest.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Then answer'd Squire Morley, pray get a calash,
That in summer may burn, in winter may splash;
I love dirt and dust; and 'tis always my pleasure
To take with me much of the soil that I measure.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

But Matthew thought better, for Matthew thought right,
And hired a chariot so trim and so tight,
That extremes both of winter and summer might pass,
For one window was canvas, the other was glass.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Draw up, quoth friend Matthew; pull down, quoth friend John,
We shall be both hotter and colder anon:
Thus talking and scolding they forward did speed,
And Ralpho paced by under Newman the Swede.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Into an old inn did this equipage roll,
At a town they call Hodsdon, the sign of the Bull,
Near a nymph with an urn, that divides the highway,
And into a puddle throws mother of tea.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Come here, my sweet landlady, pray, how d'ye do?
Where is Cicily so cleanly, and Prudence, and Sue?
And where is the widow that dwelt here below?
And the ostler that sung about eight years ago?
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

And where is your sister, so mild and so dear?
Whose voice to her maids like a trumpet was clear.
By my troth, she replies, you grow younger I think;
And pray, Sir, what wine does the gentleman drink?
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Why now let me die, Sir, or live upon trust,
If I know to which question to answer you first:
Why things since I saw you most strangely have varied?
The ostler is hang'd, and the widow is married.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

And Prue left a child for the parish to nurse,
And Cicily went off with a gentleman's purse;
And as to my sister, so mild and so dear,
She has lain in the churchyard full many a year.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Well, peace to her ashes; what signifies grief?
She roasted red veal, and she powder'd lean beef;
Full nicely she knew to cook up a fine dish,
For tough were her pullets and tender her fish.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

For that matter, Sir, be ye 'squire, knight, or lord,
I'll give you whate'er a good inn can afford:
I should look on myself as unhappily sped
Did I yield a sister or living or dead.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Of mutton a delicate neck and a breast,
Shall swim in the water in which they were dress'd;
And because you great folks are with rarities taken,
Addle-eggs shall be next course, tost up with rank bacon.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Then supper was served, and the sheets they were laid,
And Morley most lovingly whisper'd the maid.
The maid! was she handsome? why, truly so so;
But what Morley whisper'd we never shall know,
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Then up rose these heroes as brisk as the sun,
And their horses, like his, were prepared to run:
Now when in the morning Matt ask'd for the score,
John kindly had paid it the evening before.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Their breakfast so warm, to be sure they did eat,
A custom in travellers mighty discreet:
And thus with great friendship and glee they went on
To find out the place you shall hear of anon,
Called Down, Down, hey derry down.

But what did they talk of from morning till noon?
Why, of spots in the sun, and the man in the moon;
Of the Czar's gentle temper, the stocks in the city,
The wise men of Greece, and the secret Committee.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

So to Harlow they came; and hey, where are you all?
Show us into the parlour, and mind when I call:
Why, your maids have no motion, your men have no life:
Well Master, I hear you have buried your wife,
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Come this very instant, take care to provide
Tea, sugar, and toast, and a hoarse and a guide.
Are the Harrisons here, both the old and the young?
And where stands fair Down, the delight of my song.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

O 'squire, to the grief of my heart I may say
I have buried two wives since you travell'd this way;
And the Harrisons both may be presently here;
And Down stands, I think, where it stood the last year.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Then Joan brought the tea-pot, and Caleb the toast,
And the wine was frothed out by the hand of mine host;
But we clear'd our extempore banquet so fast,
That the Harrisons both were forgot in the haste.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Now hey or Down-Hall; for the guide he was got;
The chariot was mounted, the horses did trot;
The guide he did bring us a dozen miles round;
But, oh! all in vain, for no Down could be found.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

O thou Popish guide, thou hast led us astray,
Says he, How the devil should I know the way?
I never yet travell'd this road in my life;
But Down lies on the left I was told by my wife.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Thy wife, answer'd Matthew, when she went abroad,
Ne'er told thee of half the by-ways she had trod;
Perhaps she met friends, and brought pence to thy house,
But thou shalt go home without ever a sous.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

What is this thing, Morley, and how can you mean it?
We have lost our estate here before we have seen it;
Have patience, soft Morley in anger replied;
To find out our way let us send off our guide.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

O here I spy Down: cast your eye to the west,
Where a windmill so stately stands plainly confess'd.
On the west! replied Matthew, no windmill I find;
As well thou may'st tell me I see the west wind.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Now pardon me, Morley, the windmill I spy,
But faithful Achates, no house is there nigh:
Look again, says mild Morley, Gadzooks, you are blind;
The mill stands before and the house lies behind,
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

O now a low ruin'd white shed I discern,
Untiled and unglazed, I believe 'tis a barn.
A barn! why you have rave; 'tis a house for a 'squire,
A justice of peace, or a knight of our shire.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

A house should be built or with brick or with stone,
Why, 'tis plaster and lath, and I think that's all one;
And such as it is it has stood with great fame,
Been called a Hall, and has given its name,
To Down, Down, hey derry down.

O Morley, O Morley, if that be a hall,
The same with a building will suddenly fall,
With your friend Jemmy Gibbs about buildings agree,
My business is land, and it matters not me.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

I wish you could tell what a deuce your head ails;
I show'd you Down-Hall, did you look for Versailles?
Then take house and farm as John Ballet will let ye,
For better for worse, as I took my dame Betty.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

And now, Sir, a word to the wise is enough;
You'll make very little of all your old stuff;
And to build at your age, by my troth, you grow simple,
Are you young and rich, like the master of Wimple?
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

If you have these whims of apartments and gardens,
From twice fifty acres you'll ne'er see five farthings;
And in your's I shall find the true gentleman's fate,
Ere you finish your house you'll have spent your estate.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Now let us touch thumb, and be friends ere we part,
Here, John, is my thumb, and here, Mat, is heart;
To Halstead I speed, and you go back to town;
Thus ends the first part of the ballad of Down.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Down-Hall. A Ballad.' by Matthew Prior

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy