[Page 343]


1 JOHN Gilpin was a citizen
2 Of credit and renown,
3 A train-band Captain eke was he
4 Of famous London town.
5 John Gilpin's spouse said to her dear,
6 Though wedded we have been
7 These twice ten tedious years, yet we
8 No holiday have seen.
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9 To-morrow is our wedding-day,
10 And we will then repair
11 Unto the Bell at Edmonton
12 All in a chaise and pair.
13 My sister and my sister's child,
14 My self and children three
15 Will fill the chaise, so you must ride
16 On horse-back after we.
17 He soon replied, I do admire
18 Of womankind but one,
19 And you are she, my dearest dear,
20 Therefore it shall be done.
21 I am a linnen-draper bold,
22 As all the world doth know,
23 And my good friend the Callender
24 Will lend his horse to go.
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25 Quoth Mrs. Gilpin, that's well said;
26 And for that wine is dear,
27 We will be furnish'd with our own,
28 Which is both bright and clear.
29 John Gilpin kiss'd his loving wife,
30 O'erjoy'd was he to find
31 That though on pleasure she was bent,
32 She had a frugal mind.
33 The morning came, the chaise was brought,
34 But yet was not allow'd
35 To drive up to the door, lest all
36 Should say that she was proud.
37 So three doors off the chaise was stay'd,
38 Where they did all get in,
39 Six precious souls, and all agog
40 To dash through thick and thin.
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41 Smack went the whip, round went the wheels,
42 Were never folk so glad,
43 The stones did rattle underneath
44 As if Cheapside were mad.
45 John Gilpin at his horse's side
46 Seized fast the flowing main,
47 And up he got in haste to ride,
48 But soon came down again.
49 For saddle-tree scarce reach'd had he,
50 His journey to begin,
51 When turning round his head he saw
52 Three customers come in.
53 So down he came, for loss of time
54 Although it grieved him sore,
55 Yet loss of pence, full well he knew,
56 Would trouble him much more:
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57 'Twas long before the customers
58 Were suited to their mind,
59 When Betty screaming came down stairs,
60 "The wine is left behind."
61 Good lack! quoth he, yet bring it me,
62 My leathern belt likewise
63 In which I bear my trusty sword
64 When I do exercise.
65 Now Mistress Gilpin, careful soul,
66 Had two stone bottles found,
67 To hold the liquor that she loved,
68 And keep it safe and sound.
69 Each bottle had a curling ear
70 Through which the belt he drew,
71 And hung a bottle on each side
72 To make his balance true.
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73 Then over all, that he might be
74 Equipp'd from top to toe,
75 His long red cloak well brush'd and neat
76 He manfully did throw.
77 Now see him mounted once again
78 Upon his nimble steed,
79 Full slowly pacing o'er the stones
80 With caution and good heed.
81 But finding soon a smoother road
82 Beneath his well-shod feet,
83 The snorting beast began to trot,
84 Which gall'd him in his seat.
85 So fair and softly, John he cried,
86 But John he cried in vain,
87 That trot became a gallop soon
88 In spite of curb and rein.
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89 So stooping down, as needs he must
90 Who cannot sit upright,
91 He grasp'd the mane with both his hands
92 And eke with all his might.
93 His horse who never in that sort
94 Had handled been before,
95 What thing upon his back had got
96 Did wonder more and more.
97 Away went Gilpin neck or nought,
98 Away went hat and wig,
99 He little dreamt when he set out
100 Of running such a rig.
101 The wind did blow, the cloak did fly,
102 Like streamer long and gay,
103 'Till loop and button failing both
104 At last it flew away.
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105 Then might all people well discern
106 The bottles he had flung,
107 A bottle swinging at each side
108 As hath been said or sung.
109 The dogs did bark, the children scream'd;
110 Up flew the windows all,
111 And ev'ry soul cried out, well done,
112 As loud as he could bawl.
113 Away went Gilpin who but he;
114 His fame soon spread around
115 He carries weight, he rides a race,
116 'Tis for a thousand pound.
117 And still as fast as he drew near,
118 'Twas wonderful to view
119 How in a trice the turnpike-men
120 Their gates wide open threw:
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121 And now as he went bowing down
122 His reeking head full low,
123 The bottles twain behind his back
124 Were shatter'd at a blow.
125 Down ran the wine into the road
126 Most piteous to be seen,
127 Which made his horse's flanks to smoke
128 As they had basted been.
129 But still he seem'd to carry weight,
130 With leathern girdle braced,
131 For all might see the bottle necks
132 Still dangling at his waist.
133 Thus all through merry Islington
134 These gambols he did play,
135 And till he came unto the wash
136 Of Edmonton so gay.
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137 And there he threw the wash about
138 On both sides of the way,
139 Just like unto a trundling mop,
140 Or a wild-goose at play.
141 At Edmonton his loving wife
142 From the balcony spied
143 Her tender husband, wond'ring much
144 To see how he did ride.
145 Stop, stop John Gilpin! Here's the house
146 They all at once did cry,
147 The dinner waits and we are tir'd,
148 Said Gilpin so am I.
149 But yet his horse was not a whit
150 Inclined to tarry there,
151 For why? his owner had a house
152 Full ten miles off at Ware.
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153 So like an arrow swift he flew
154 Shot by an archer strong,
155 So did he fly which brings me to
156 The middle of my song.
157 Away went Gilpin, out of breath,
158 And sore against his will,
159 Till at his friend's the Callender's
160 His horse at last stood still.
161 The Callender amazed to see
162 His neighbour in such trim,
163 Laid down his pipe, flew to the gate,
164 And thus accosted him.
165 What news, what news, your tidings tell,
166 Tell me you must and shall
167 Say why bare headed you are come,
168 Or why you come at all.
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169 Now Gilpin had a pleasant wit
170 And loved a timely joke,
171 And thus unto the Callender
172 In merry guise he spoke.
173 I came because your horse would come,
174 And if I well forebode,
175 My hat and wig will soon be here,
176 They are upon the road.
177 The Callender right glad to find
178 His friend in merry pin,
179 Return'd him not a single word,
180 But to the house went in.
181 Whence strait he came with hat and wig,
182 A wig that flow'd behind,
183 A hat not much the worse for wear,
184 Each comely in its kind.
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185 He held them up, and in his turn
186 Thus show'd his ready wit,
187 My head is twice as big as yours,
188 They therefore needs must fit.
189 But let me scrape the dirt away
190 That hangs upon your face,
191 And stop and eat, for well you may
192 Be in a hungry case.
193 Said John, it is my wedding-day,
194 And all the world would stare,
195 If wife should dine at Edmonton
196 And I should dine at Ware.
197 So turning to his horse, he said,
198 I am in haste to dine,
199 'Twas for your pleasure you came here,
200 You shall go back for mine.
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201 Ah luckless speech, and bootless boast!
202 For which he paid full dear,
203 For while he spake a braying ass
204 Did sing most loud and clear.
205 Whereat his horse did snort as he
206 Had heard a lion roar,
207 And gallop'd off with all his might
208 As he had done before.
209 Away went Gilpin and away
210 Went Gilpin's hat and wig;
211 He lost them sooner than at first,
212 For why? they were too big.
213 Now, Mistress Gilpin when she saw,
214 Her husband posting down
215 Into the country far away,
216 She pull'd out half a crown.
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217 And thus unto the youth she said
218 That drove them to the Bell,
219 This shall be yours when you bring back
220 My husband safe and well.
221 The youth did ride, and soon did meet
222 John coming back amain,
223 Whom in a trice he tried to stop
224 By catching at his rein.
225 But not performing what he meant
226 And gladly would have done,
227 The frighted steed he frighted more,
228 And made him faster run.
229 Away went Gilpin, and away
230 Went post-boy at his heels,
231 The post-boy's horse right glad to miss
232 The lumb'ring of the wheels.
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233 Six gentlemen upon the road
234 Thus seeing Gilpin fly,
235 With post-boy scamp'ring in the rear,
236 They rais'd the hue and cry.
237 Stop thief, stop thief a highwayman!
238 Not one of them was mute,
239 And all and each that pass'd that way
240 Did join in the pursuit.
241 And now the turnpike gates again
242 Flew open in short space,
243 The toll-men thinking as before
244 That Gilpin rode a race.
245 And so he did and won it too,
246 For he got first to town,
247 Nor stopp'd 'till where he had got up
248 He did again get down.
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249 Now let us sing, long live the king,
250 And Gilpin long live he,
251 And when he next doth ride abroad,
252 May I be there to see!


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About this text

Themes: characters
Genres: narrative verse; ballad metre; comic verse

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Source edition

Cowper, William, 1731-1800. The task: a poem, in six books. By William Cowper, ... To which are added, by the same author, An epistle to Joseph Hill, Esq. ... To which are added, ... an epistle ... and the history of John Gilpin. London: printed for J. Johnson, 1785, pp. [343]-359. [8],359,[1]p. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T14896; OTA K027776.000)

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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

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