A True Story!

Here is the next installment of poetry generally attributed to Thomas, the sixth Earl of Harrington (circa 1730).  Enjoy!

A True Story


One day a tell-tale, waiting maid,
In tears thus to her lady said:
“The cook has vexed me to the heart,
“And if you do not take my part,
“I never can hold up my face,
“Without dishonor and disgrace.”

My lady said,  — “Pray tell your meaning,
“If there is reason for complaining,
“I’ll take your part, you may be certain,
“And give you full revenge on Martin.”

“Madam,” said she, and then she blushed,
“For me, I wish the thing were hushed,
“But I’m afraid it can’t be hid,
“The servants saw what Martin did;
“As by the kitchen fire I stood,
“Thinking, God knows, on nought but good,
“The cook did slyly by me stand,
“And clapped his something in my hand:
“The like I never saw nor felt,
“I’ll have the wicked fellow gelt.”
My lady said, “Run down in haste,
“And send to me the lustful beast.”

The cook came gravely up the stairs,
The lady put on all her airs:
“You saucy villain,” madam said,
“How dare you thus affront my maid?”

Martin with modesty, began,
“Pray tell me madam, what I’ve done?
“Your maids can never complain of me;
“Like lambs your maids and I agree.”

My lady did in wrath reply,
“Can you your wicked deeds deny?
“My meaning you won’t understand,
“What was it you clapped in Betty’s hand?”

“And is this all?” replied the cook;
“Do I for this deserve rebuke?
“I’ll tell the truth, as I’m a sinner,
“I’ve got some partridges for dinner:
“I was in a hurry, yet your maid
“A thousand wanton frolics play’d;
“And since she in my way would stand
“I clapped a partridge in her hand.”

“A likely tale,” my lady said,
“As if  you thought I’d keep a maid,
“So void of wit and common sense,
“As not to know the difference,
” ‘Twixt partridges and standing p——,
“Pray, Martin, leave your foolish tricks,
“Else I shall show you, to your sorrow,
“I’ll make you quit ere to-morrow.”

Although the dame in anger spoke,
Her eyes declared she was in joke:
She was not cruel in her nature,
But was a most obliging creature;
She had a large extensive mind,
And bore good-will to all mankind,
This made her wish she had surveyed
That something mentioned by her maid;
And thought the cook deserved a bribe,
If ’twas as Betty did describe;
And from her soul she longed to know,
If that the thing was really so;
At last resolved to satisfy
Her female curiosity:
The cook was handsome, young and clean,
And though his birth was low and mean,
Yet he might as much love afford,
As any duke or quartered lord;
Away she let all scruples fly,
And was determined she would try.

She smiled, and thus to Martin said,
“Show me, young man, (be not afraid)
“That partridge that you showed my maid.”

The fellow heard her with surprise,
With joy he viewed her wishing eyes,
Her orders readily obeyed;
Transported she the thing surveyed:
She saw her maid had told the truth,
And hugged the ample-gifted youth;
Upon the bed they panting fell,
What more they did I cannot tell.
The dame was young, the fellow strong,
Their pastime did continue long:
Young Martin all his vigor tried,
My lady in all thing complied:
At last he was disabled quite,
And could not give or take delight.

My lady clasped him round the waist,
And smiling, said, “I never did taste,
“though I have been three years a wife,
“So sweet a partridge in my life.
“Farewell dear Martin, Heaven restore you,
“I think I’ve plumed your partridge for you.”

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 Mia 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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