Peter Bell

Original Text: 
Hartley Coleridge, New Poems, Including a Selection from his Published Poetry, ed. Earl Leslie Griggs (London: Oxford University Press, 1942): 99-100. PR 4467 N4 1942 Robarts Library.
A satire upon the Poet Laureate's celebrated production.
3With a tale of a wonderful potter
4And a very remarkable Ass.
5For the potter his name it was Peter,
6Sure some of you know Peter Bell,
7But as for the Donkey poor creatur
8What they called it I never could tell.
9Some poets begin in the middle
10And some by invoking a muse,
11But that's only like tuning the fiddle
12And in fact not of half so much use.
13But you like to hear the beginning,
14Of a Life all the ins and the outs,
15And to go as far back as the pinning
16Of the hero in swaddling clouts.
17Of ancestry lineage and such like
18Their lengthy narration to swell
19Is a thing that Welch bards very much like --
20Of what family came Peter Bell?
21If his linaege was Saxon or Norman
22Or Danish no annals record,
24He possibly might be a Lord.
25A MOTHER most certainly had he,
27But she ne'er told him who was his daddie,
28For she wasn't quite certain herself.
29Howso'er his existence began near
32'Tis low but it cannot be help'd.
33You have heard of those wonderful Minors
34That were nursed by a Wolf, I dare say;
35So had Peter an ass for his drynurse,
36And she lull'd him to sleep with her bray.
37Dame Nature will sometimes exhibit
38Prophetical marks in the skin,
40The sign of original sin.
41For Peter no mortal was sponsor,
42For he never was christened, poor lamb;
43So God-mother sure he had none, Sir,
45Than Peter no lad cut be 'cuter
46Yet he often had wanted a meal,
47If the Tinker his travelling Tutor
48Had not trained his young genius to steal.


1] Wordsworth's "Peter Bell," composed in 1798, only published in 1819, and mocked by critics on its appearance. It tells of the religious conversion of an insensitive criminal, a potter, as he rides on an ass belonging to a man who has just drowned in the Swale just to tell his widow of this bad news.
Stephen Otter: unidentified. Back to Line
2] Pope: Alexander Pope.
Dryden: John Dryden. Back to Line
23] a Carman: unidentified. Back to Line
26] delf: Delf-ware, glazed earthenware manufactured at Delf, Holland. Back to Line
30] hayrick: pile of hay stacked outdoors, sometimes thatched. Back to Line
31] pannier: large basket. Back to Line
39] gibbet: gallows. Back to Line
44] god dam: "good dame" and "God damn." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1999.