Foul Play!

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

Foul Play

 

Walking through Fleet-street on a time,
I saw a prentice, in his prime,
Come running from a house in haste,
As if by twenty devils chased:
His face with blood was all besmeared.
And on his head a wound appeared.
This sight about him quickly drew
Of gazing fools and idle crew;
Till some one wiser than therest,
Called Lovell, thus the youth addressed:

“Dear cousin, I am quite confounded
“To see your head thus sadly wounded;
“Pray, tell me, Will, who did this deed?”
“For I am vexed to see you bleed.”

William replied, “I’ll here declare:
“My master’s wife is very fair,m
“But he’s an old and fumbling beast,
“And jealousy disturbs his breast:
“For, wanting youth, and wanting vigor,
“He’s angry at my handsome figure,
“And thinks, in spite of our concealing,
“His wife and I have private dealing.
“This put him to a deal of pain,
“And has at last quite turned his brain:
“And now he lurked within the house,
“On purpose to surprise his spouse;
“Who, being from suspicion free,
“Had sat her down upon my knee;
“And, kissing me, as she was wont,
“I kindly took her by the —–;
“On this the wretch (good Master Lovell)
“Came in with a cursed paring shovel.
“And, like a villain knocked me down,
“Making this gash across my crown:
“Again he did his blow repeat,
“Till I was fain to make retreat:
“This is the reason why I bleed.”
“Your case is very hard indeed,”
Said Lovell: “let me understand,
“Had you got nothing in your hand,
“To save you from the cuckold’s stroked?”
Will, frowning, said, “None of your jokes;
“I had his wife’s —–, Master Lovell,
“But what’s a —– to a paring shovel?”

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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