The Crab, Part 1!

Here is the next installment of poetry generally attributed to Thomas, the sixth Earl of Harrington (circa 1730).  This particular poem will be continued with the second and final part tomorrow.  Enjoy!

The Crab

There stands a town ‘twixt Wemyss and Leven,
Well known if Fife, and called Buckhaven,
For fishers famed, these hardy fellows,
Though Aelons blow all his bellows,
Yet go to sea, and never care
Whether the wind be foul or fair;
Their trade is fish, tehy sell the best,
Their wives and brats eat up the rest:
And though they feed on nought but fish,
They give new names to every dish;
Nay, though quite senseless, never care,
For haddocks are called capons there;
And what to strangers give surprise,
They call the crabs Buckhaven pies;
And these they have in so great plenty,
That for a penny they’ll sell twenty.

Not long ago their parson died,
But soon they got their church supplied,
By one who always did maintain
That there was godliness in gain;
What in the next world might betide
A treasure, in this present life;
To this agreed his thrifty wife,
Who every day provided fish,
Not only as the cheapest dish,
But that she knew they would inspire
Her Thomas’ blood with warm desire;
And sure there could be no offence
In loving due benevolence.

Thus they went on in great content,
And kept a cheap luxurious Lent;
Their wealth each day increased — their nights
Were passed in conjugal delights,
And Master Thomas and his wife,
Alike admired the happy life.

But ah! how transient are our joys!
Old Satan oft our bliss destroys,
And is offended, out of measure,
When he can’t sour our peace and pleasure:
Ungrateful Satan, how couldst thou
Thy malice to this couple show?
Did ever Thomas, or his wife,
Do wrong to thee in all thy life,
Did he in act, or in opinion,
Disturb the peace of thy dominion?
No, he was quiet, honest, civil,
And thought it sin to cheat the devil;
Yet thou a cursed trick did play,
And that well-meaning pair betray.

I’ve told that fish was all their food,
But still they have them fresh and good;
Six crabs they on a day had got,
And put four of them in the pot,
The other two till night they kept,
Who through the house at freedom crept;
But one of them, oppressed with thirst,
Crawled to the tub where Madam pissed,
And with the saltness pleased, did stray
Until the shutting in of day.

To be continued with Part 2 tomorrow . . . 

Note: printed on the page following the title page was the following: “from a collection of poems that have been generally ascribed to Thomas, sixth Earl of Harrington. He was the son of Charles, the fifth Earl, and Margaret Lesslie, Countess of Rothes; and fought on the Royal side at the battle of Shirreffmuir, along with his brother John Lesslie, Earl of Rothes, and his own son, Lord Binning. These poems, according to Pinkerton, were printed about 1730, and have been reprinted in 1753, 1765, 1767, and 1777. He was also the author of a treatise on forest trees, which has gone through several editions. He died in 1735.” However, if these dates are correct (and I am by no means an expert historian in such matters), these poems could only have been written by either the first or second Earl of Harrington (William Stanhope and W.S. Jr.).

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