With a pretty girl by the fire,
I wish he was atop of Dartemoor
A-stugged in the mire."
A popular folk-rhyme informs us:--
Hull for women, and York for a tit."
Cheam for juicy beef,
Croydon for a pretty girl,
And Mitcham for a thief."
And lies all in a valley;
It has a pretty rng of bells,
Besides a bowling alley;
Wine in liquor in good store,
Pretty maidens plenty,
Can a man desire more?
There ain't such a town in twenty;"
Seated in a valley,
With a church and market cross,
And eke a bowling alley.
All the men are loyal there,
Pretty girls are plenty,
Church and King, and down with the Rump--
There's not such a town in twenty."
Billy Mains, and Billy Hill,
Ashfield and Auchencraw,
Bullerhead and Pefferlaw,
There's bonny lasses in them a'."
Another folk-rhyme tells us:--
Dunstall in the Dale;
Sitenhill for a pretty girl,
And Burton for good ale;"
Wilderley down i' the dale,
Churton for pretty girls,
And Powtherbitch for good ale."
All Suffolk! Nay, all England holds none such;"
On the other hand, we occasionally find a place mentioned as possessing no pretty girls, as in the following:--
And Heptonstall of stone;
In Halifax there's many a pretty girl,
In Heptonstall there's none."
May daunce in an egge shell,
For there are no maydes in that well;"
Cannot daunce in an acre of ground."
Because they wash both in Calder and Aire."
Some places have enjoyed the unenviable notoriety of possessing loose women, if we are to put reliance in folk-rhymes like the subjoined:--
Halesworth for a drunkard, and Bilborough for a whore."
Cogshall for the jeering town, and Kelvedon for the whore."
Epsom for whores, and Ewel for thieves."
The Middle Temple poor;
Lincoln's Inn for law,
And Gray's lnn for a whore."
Broadmeadows for swine;
Paxton for drunken wives,
And salmon sae fine."
Ray, also, tells us that, "The Dones were a great family in Cheshire, living it Utkinton, by the forest side. Nurses use there to call their children so, if girls; if boys, Earls of Derby."
It is also commonly said in Cheshire, "Better wed over the mixen than over the moor"--a proverbial adage which Ray thus explains: "That is, hard by, or at home--the mixon being that heap of compost which lies in the yards of good husbandmen--than far off, or from London. The road from Chester leading to London over some part of the moorlands in Staffordshire, the meaning is, that gentry in Cheshire find it more profitable to match within their own county, than to bring a bride out of other shires: (1) Because better acquainted with her birth and breeding. (2) Because though her portion may chance to be less to maintain her, such inter-marriages in this county have been observed both a prolonger of worshipful families and the preserver of amity between them."
We find the same proverb in Scotland, "Better over the midden than over the muir;" and it has also found its way to the Continent, for to a young person about to marry in Germany this advice is given, "Marry over the mixon, and you will know who and what she is;" with which may be compared the Italian admonitlon, "Your wife and your nag get from a neighbour."
A couplet popular in Wem, Shropshire, runs thus:--
Beat Lord Capel, and all his caveliers."
Another Cheshire adage tells us, "When the daughter is stolen, shut Pepper Gate," which Grose thus explains--"Pepper Gate was a postern on the east side of the city of Chester. The mayor ot the city having his daughter stolen away by a young man through that gate, whilst she was playing at ball with the other maidens, his worship, out of revenge, caused it to be closed up."
There are numerous items of folk-lore of a similar character; and the Scotch, when speaking of a changeable woman, remark, "Ye're as fu' o' maggots as the bride of Preston, wha stopt half-way as she gaed to the kirk;" on which adage, Henderson writes: "We have not been able to learn who the bride of Preston really was, but we have frequently heard the saying applied to young women who are capricious and changeable:--
She wadna gang by the west mains to be married."
Green with the dow o' the jauping main."
It is commonly said in Buckinghamshire, in reference to a marriage of unequal age, "An old man who marries a buxom young maiden bids fair to become a freeman of Buckingham," that is, a cuckold. A Shropshire proverb, in which there does not seem to be much point, says, "He that fetches a wife from Shrewsbury must carry her into Staffordshire, or else he shall live in Cumberland," with which may be compared the following old rhyme:--
Brought up in Cumberland,
Lead their lives in Bedfordshire,
Bring their husbands to Buckingham,
And die in Shrewsbury."
Another old proverbial phrase which, at one time or another, has given rise to much discussion is, "As long as Meg of Westminster," which, says Ray, "is applied to persons very tall, especially if they have hopple height wanting breadth proportionately. But that there ever was," he adds, "such a giant woman cannot be proved by any good witness. I pass not for a late lying pamphlet, entitled, 'Story of a monstrous tall Virago called "Long Megg of Westminster,"' the writer of which thinks it might relate to a great gun lying in the Tower, called Long Megg, in troublesome times brought to Westminster, where for some time it continued."
Fuller, writing in 1662, says, "The large gravestone shown on the south side of the cloister in Westminster Abbey, said to cover her body, was placed over a number of monks who died of the plague, and were all buried in one grave."
Turning once more to Scotland, there is a small village named Ecclesmagirdle situated "under the northern slope of the Ochil Hills, and for some considerable part of the year untouched by the solar rays." Hence the following rhyme:--
May very weel be dun;
For frae Michaelmas till Whitsunday,
They never see the sun."
Drilling up their harn yarn;
They hae corn, they hae kye,
They have webs o' claith, for bye."
Hunts in the Gilburn."
Similarly, a dishonest milk-woman at Shrewsbury, who is condemned to wander up and down Lady Studeley's Diche, in the Raven Meadow--now the Smithfield--is said to repeat this couplet:--
Milk and water sold I ever";
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