A Satire, in Imitation of the Third of Juvenal

Original Text: 
[John Oldham], Poems, and Translations, by the Author of the Satyrs upon the Jesuits (London: Printed for Jos. Hindmarsh, Bookseller to His Royal Highness, at the Black Bull in Cornhill. B-12 06177 Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
2I must however his design commend
3Of fixing in the country: for were I
4As free to choose my residence, as he;
7What place so desert, and so wild is there
8Whose inconveniences one would not bear,
9Rather than the alarms of midnight fire,
10The falls of houses, knavery of cits,
11The plots of factions, and the noise of wits,
12And thousand other plagues, which up and down
13Each day and hour infest the cursed town?
14     As fate would hav't, on the appointed day
15Of parting hence, I met him on the way,
18Here we stood still, and after compliments
19Of course, and wishing his good journey hence
20I ask'd what sudden causes made him fly
21The once lov'd town, and his dear company:
22When, on the hated prospect looking back,
24     ."Since virtue here in no repute is had,
25Since worth is scorn'd, learning and sense unpaid,
26And knavery the only thriving trade;
27Finding my slender fortune ev'ry day
28Dwindle, and waste insensibly away,
29I, like a losing gamester, thus retreat,
30To manage wiselier my last stake of fate:
31While I have strength, and want no staff to prop
32My tott'ring limbs, ere age has made me stoop
35'Tis my resolve to quit the nauseous town.
37Rich with the spoils of some young spendthrift heir:
39Can truth to sham, and sham to truth convert:
40Whoever has an house to build, or set
42Whoever has, or hopes for offices,
44Let sharping courtiers stay, who there are great
45By putting the false dice on King, and state.
46Where they, who once were grooms, and foot-boys known,
47Are now to fair estates, and honours grown;
48Nor need we envy them, or wonder much
49At their fantastic greatness, since they're such,
50Whom Fortune oft, in her capricious freaks,
52To wealth, and dignity above the rest,
53When she is frolic, and dispos'd to jest.
54     "I live in London? What should I do there?
55I cannot lie, nor flatter, nor forswear:
56I can't commend a book, or piece of wit,
57(Though a lord were the author) dully writ:
59And cast nativities for longing heirs,
61To tell the minute when the King shall die,
63And tack about my conscience, whensoe'er,
64To a new point, I see religion veer.
65Let others pimp to courtiers' lechery,
67Nor would I do it, though to be made great,
68And rais'd to the chief ministry of state.
69Therefore, I think it fit to rid the town
70Of one, that is an useless member grown.
71     "Besides, who has pretence to favour now,
72But he, who hidden villainy does know,
73Whose breast does with some burning secret glow?
74By none thou shalt preferred, or valued be,
75That trusts thee with an honest secrecy:
76He only may to great men's friendship reach,
77Who great men, when he pleases, can impeach.
78Let others thus aspire to dignity;
79For me, I'd not their envied grandeur buy
82What would it boot, if I, to gain my end,
83Forego my quiet, and my ease of mind,
84Still fear'd, at last betray'd, by my dear friend?
85    "Another cause, which I must boldly own,
86And not the least, for which I quit the town,
88Where France does all her filth, and ordure pour:
89What spark of true old English rage can bear
90Those, who were slaves at home, to lord it here?
91We've all our fashion, language, compliments,
94If still in the improvement we go on.
96Thy gaudy, flutt'ring race of English now,
99Which thou, and they of old, did so despise?
100What would'st thou say to see th' infected town
101With the foul spawn of foreigners o'errun?
102Hither from Paris, and all parts they come,
103The spew, and vomit of their jails at home;
105And wriggle into great men's service there:
106Footboys at first, till they from wiping shoes,
107Grow, by degrees, the masters of the house:
108Ready of wit, harden'd of impudence,
110Both the King's player, and king's evidence:
111Flippant of talk, and voluble of tongue,
112With words at will, no lawyer better hung:
113Softer than flattering Court-parasite,
114Or City trader, when he means to cheat,
115No calling, or profession comes amiss:
116A needy Monsieur can be what he please,
119Give but the word, the cur will fetch and bring,
123    "Can I have patience, and endure to see
125Whom the same wind, and vessel brought ashore,
127Then, pray, what mighty privilege is there
128For me, that at my birth drew English air?
129And where's the benefit to have my veins
130Run British blood, if there's no difference
132And made a subject of a true-born slave?
133     "But nothing shocks, and is more loath'd by me,
134Than the vile rascal's fulsome flattery:
135By help of this false magnifying glass,
136A louse, or flea, shall for a camel pass:
137Produce an hideous wight, more ugly far
138Than those ill shapes, which in old hangings are,
139He'll make him straight a beau garçon appear:
140Commend his voice, and singing, though he bray
142And if he rhyme, shall praise for standard wit,
144     "And here's the mischief, though we say the same,
145He is believ'd, and we are thought to sham:
146Do you but smile, immediately the beast
147Laughs out aloud, though he ne'er heard the jest;
148Pretend you're sad, he's presently in tears,
149Yet grieves no more than marble, when it wears
150Sorrow in metaphor: but speak of heat;
151'O God! How sultry 'tis!' he'll cry, and sweat
152In depth of winter: strait, if you complain
153Of cold; the weather-glass is sunk again:
156Thus he shifts scenes, and oft'ner in a day
157Can change his face, than actors at a play,
158There's nought so mean can 'scape the flatt'ring sot,
160If he but spit, or pick his teeth; he'll cry,
161'How every thing becomes you! let me die,
162Your Lordship does it most judiciously:'
163And swear, 'tis fashionable, if he sneeze,
164Extremely taking, and it needs must please.
165     "Besides, there's nothing sacred, nothing free
167Nor wife, not virgin-daughter can escape,
168Scarce thou thy self, or son avoid a rape:
170Suspect thy very stable's chastity.
171By this the vermin into secrets creep,
172Thus, families in awe they strive to keep,
173What living for an Englishman, is there,
174Where such as these get head, and domineer,
175Whose use, and custom 'tis, never to share
176A friend, but love to reign, without dispute,
177Without a rival, full and absolute?
178Soon as the insect gets his honour's ear,
179And fly-blows some of 's pois'nous malice there,
180Strait I'm turn'd off, kick'd out of doors, discarded,
181And all my former service disregarded.
182     "But leaving these Messieurs, for fear that I
184From the loath'd subject let us hasten on,
185To mention other grievances in town:
186And further, what respect at all is had
187Of poor men here? and how's their service paid,
188Though they be ne'er so diligent to wait,
189To sneak, and dance attendance on the great?
190No mark of favour is to be obtain'd
191By one, that sues, and brings an empty hand:
192And all his merit is but made a sport,
193Unless he glut some cormorant at Court.
194     "'Tis now a common thing, and usual here,
195To see the son of some rich usurer
196Take place of nobles, keep his first-rate whore,
199Of peers, reduced to poverty, and need,
201Take up with porter's leavings, suburb-ware,
202There spend that blood, which their great ancestor
204At brothel-fights in some foul common shore.
207Whom Heaven, when whole nature shipwreck'd was,
208Thought worth the saving, of all human race;
210When Sodom's lechers angels would have rap'd;
211'How rich he is,' must the first question be,
212Next, for his manners and integrity:
214He's reckon'd worth, in money, and estate,
216And with how many dishes he does dine?'
217You look what cash a person has in store,
218Just so much credit has he, and no more:
219Should I upon a thousand Bibles swear,
220And call each saint throughout the calendar
221To vouch my oath, it won't be taken here;
223And Heav'n itself does at such trifles wink.
224     "Besides, what store of gibing scoffs are thrown
225On one, that's poor, and meanly clad in town;
226If his apparel seem but overworn,
227His stockings out at heel, or breeches torn?
228One takes occasion his ripp'd shoe to flout,
231Because himself wears point: a third, his hat,
232And most unmercifully shows his wit,
234Nothing in poverty so ill is borne,
235As its exposing men to grinning scorn,
236To be by tawdry coxcombs piss'd upon
237And made the jesting-stock of each buffoon,
239Is not for such mean scoundrel curs, as you:
240'Tis for your betters kept:' belike some sot
242But now is rais'd to an estate, and pride,
244Let Gripe and Cheatwell take their places there,
246That wears three ruin'd orphans on his back:
247Meanwhile you in the alley stand, and sneak:
248And you therewith must rest contented, since
249Almighty wealth does put such difference.
250What citizen a son-in-law will take,
251Bred ne'er so well, that can't a jointure make?
252What man of sense, that's poor, e'er summon'd is
255For choosing of some parish officer,
256Or making leather-buckets for the choir?
257    "'Tis hard for any man to rise, that feels
258His virtue clogg'd with poverty at heels:
259But harder 'tis by much in London, where
260A sorry lodging, coarse, and slender fare,
261Fire, water, breathing, every thing is dear:
262Yet such as these an earthen dish disdain,
264Were serv'd, and thought it no disgrace to dine,
265Though they were rich, had store of leather-coin.
266Low as their fortune is, yet they despise
268To speak the truth, great part of England now
269In their own cloth, will scarce vouchsafe to go:
271Some few perhaps wear woollen in the grave.
272Here all go gaily dress'd, although it be
273Above their means, their rank, and quality:
274The most in borrow'd gallantry, are clad,
275For which the tradesman's books are still unpaid:
276This fault is common in the meaner sort,
277That they must needs affect to bear the port
278Of gentlemen, though they want income for't.
279     "Sir, to be short, in this expensive town
280There's nothing without money to be done:
281What will you give to be admitted there,
282And brought to speech of some Court-minister?
283What will you give to have the quarter-face,
285His porter, groom, and steward, must have fees,
287Hard fate of suitors! who must pay, and pray
288To livery-slaves, yet oft go scorn'd away.
290To have his lodging drop about his ears,
291Unless a sudden hurricane befall,
293Here we build slight, what scarce outlasts the lease,
294Without the help of props, and buttresses:
295And houses nowadays as much require
297There buildings are substantial, though less neat,
298And kept with care both wind-, and water-tight:
299There you in safe security are blest,
300And nought, but conscience to disturb your rest.
301     "I am for living where no fires affright,
302No bells rung backward break my sleep at night:
303I scarce lie down, and draw my curtains here,
304But strait I'm rous'd by the next house on fire:
305Pale, and half dead with fear, myself I raise,
306And find my room all over in a blaze;
308Can now discern no other remedy,
309But leaping out at window to get free:
310For if the mischief from the cellar came,
311Be sure the garret is the last, takes flame.
313For him, and 's wife: a piss-pot by its side,
314A looking-glass upon the cupboard's head,
315A comb-case, candlestick, and pewter-spoon,
316For want of plate, with desk to write upon:
317A box without a lid serv'd to contain
318Few authors, which made up his Vatican:
319And there his own immortal works were laid,
320On which the barb'rous mice for hunger prey'd:
321Pordage had nothing, all the world does know;
322And yet should he have lost this nothing too,
323No one the wretched bard would have supplied
324With lodging, house-room, or a crust of bread.
325     "But if the fire burn down some great man's house
327The Court is strait in mourning sure enough,
329Then we mischances of the town lament,
333Nay, while 'tis burning, some will send him in
334Timber, and stone to build his house again:
335Others choice furniture: here some rare piece
338A bed of damask, or embroidery:
341Or bag of gold; thus he, at length, gets more
342By kind misfortune than he had before:
344As if he did himself the fire begin.
345        "Could you but be advis'd to leave the town,
346And from dear plays, and drinking friends be drawn,
347An handsome dwelling might be had in Kent,
348Surrey, or Essex, at a cheaper rent
349Than what you're forc'd to give for one half-year
351A garden there, and well, that needs no rope,
352Engine, or pains to crane its waters up:
353Water is there, through nature's pipes convey'd,
355Had I the smallest spot of ground, which scarce
356Would summer half-a-dozen grasshoppers,
357Not larger than my grave, though hence remote,
359Dwell there content, and thank the fates to boot.
360     "Here, want of rest a-nights more people kills
362Where none have privilege to sleep, but those,
363Whose purses can compound for their repose:
364In vain I go to bed, or close my eyes,
366Where I lie down in storms, in thunder rise:
367The restless bells such din in steeples keep,
368That scarce the dead can in their churchyards sleep:
370The noise of shops, with hawkers' early screams,
371Besides the brawls of coachmen, when they meet,
372And stop in turnings of a narrow street,
373Such a loud medley of confusion makes,
375      "If you walk out in bus'ness ne'er so great,
376Ten thousand stops you must expect to meet:
377Thick crowds in ev'ry place you must charge through
378And storm your passage, wheresoe'er you go:
379While tides of followers behind you throng,
380And pressing on your heels, shove you along:
381One, with a board, or rafter hits your head,
382Another, with his elbow bores your side;
383Some tread upon your corns, perhaps in sport,
384Meanwhile your legs are cas'd all o'er with dirt.
385Here you the march of a slow funeral wait,
386Advancing to the church with solemn state:
389Now you some mighty piece of timber meet,
390Which tott'ring threatens ruin to the street:
392Itself almost a rock, on carriage rolls:
393Which, if it fall, would cause a massacre,
394And serve at once to murder and inter.
395If what I've said can't from the town affright,
396Consider other dangers of the night:
398And emptied chamber pots come pouring down
399From garret windows: you have cause to bless
400The gentle stars, if you come off with piss:
401So many fates attend, a man had need
403And he can hardly now discreet be thought,
404That does not make his will, ere he go out.
405     "If this you 'scape, twenty to one, you meet
407Flush'd with success of warlike deeds perform'd,
408Or constables subdu'd, and brothels storm'd:
409These, if a quarrel, or a fray be miss'd,
411For mischief is a lechery to some,
412And serves to make them sleep like laudanum.
413Yet heated, as they are, with youth, and wine,
415If a great man with his gilt coach appear,
416And a strong guard of footboys in the rear,
417The rascals sneak, and shrink their heads for fear.
418Poor me, who use no light to walk about,
419Save what the parish, or the skies hang out,
420They value not: 'tis worth your while to hear
421The scuffle, if that be a scuffle, where
422Another gives the blows, I only bear:
424For 'twere a senseless thing to disobey,
425And struggle here, where I'd as good oppose
427     ."'Who's there?' he cries, and takes you by the throat,
428'Dog! Are you dumb? Speak quickly, else my foot
429Shall march about your buttocks: whence d' ye come,
430From what bulk-ridden strumpet reeking home?
431Saving your rev'rend pimpship, where d' ye ply?
432How may one have a job of lechery?'
433If you say anything, or hold your peace,
435Still he lays on: nay well, if you scape so:
436Perhaps he'll clap an action on you too
437Of battery, nor need he fear to meet
438A jury to his turn, shall do him right,
439And bring him in large damage for a shoe
440Worn out, besides the pains, in kicking you.
441But patience: his best way in such a case
442Is to be thankful for the drubs, and beg
443That they would mercifully spare one leg,
444Or arm unbroke, and let him go away
445With teeth enough to eat his meat next day.
446     "Nor is this all, which you have cause to fear,
448When the exchanges, and the shops are close,
449And the rich tradesman in his counting house
450To view the profits of the day, withdraws.
452To seek their prize, and booty nearer home:
453'Your purse!' they cry; 'tis madness to resist,
454Or strive with a cock'd pistol at your breast:
455And these each day so strong and num'rous grow,
456The town can scarce afford them jail-room now.
458Ere London knew so much of villainy:
460And Tyburn with few pilgrims was content:
461A less, and single prison then would do,
463     "These are the reasons, sir, that drive me hence,
464To which I might add more, would time dispense,
465To hold you longer, but the sun draws low,
466The coach is hard at hand, and I must go:
467Therefore, dear sir, farewell; and when the town,
468From better company can spare you down,
469To make the country with your presence blest,
470Then visit your old friend amongst the rest:
471There I'll find leisure to unlade my mind
472Of what remarks I now must leave behind:
473The fruits of dear experience, which, with these
475And when you write again, may be of use
476To furnish satire for your daring muse."


1] Written in May 1682, this is one of the last poems that Oldham published before his untimely death from smallpox a year later. It shows Oldham's skill in the genre of imitation that became recognized as he was establishing his reputation as a poet with his highly topical Satires Upon the Jesuits (1681). Imitation in this sense is defined by Johnson in his Dictionary (1755): "a method of translating looser than paraphrase, in which modern examples and illustrations are used for ancient, or domestick for foreign." The modern poet renders the thoughts of his original, but updates the content; in this case, substituting Restoration London for Juvenal's second-century Rome. In some places, the correspondence is almost exact; the pains of poverty and the dangers of the streets in nighttime, for example. In others it is close enough; while actual Frenchmen were less numerous in Oldham's London than Greeks in Juvenal's Rome, the influence of French culture and fashion was powerful. For some things, like the relationship of a powerful Roman to his dependents, modern England provided no real equivalent, and Oldham has to adjust his original to fit the circumstances. For prudential reasons, Juvenal refrains from comments on contemporary politics; Oldham has no such reluctance, and refers several times to the ongoing political crisis initiated by the so-called Popish Plot in 1678. By 1682 the Plot itself had been displaced by the struggle in Parliament and beyond between those, now called Whigs, who wanted to exclude the Duke of York, younger brother of Charles II, from succession to the throne because he was a Roman Catholic, and their opponents, now called Tories, who supported Charles II and the principle of hereditary succession. Oldham is not a concise poet, and he adds and amplifies frequently, so that his version (476 lines) is considerably longer than Juvenal's poem (322 lines). When John Dryden translated this satire by Juvenal a decade later, he took some hints from Oldham's poem. Samuel Johnson, imitating Juvenal III half-a-century later in his London, (1738), rewrote some of Oldham's lines to good effect. Parallel texts (Latin and English translation) of Juvenal?s poem (with notes) are available on-line at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/juv-sat3lateng.html. In book form, the new edition in parallel Latin and English texts in the Loeb Classical Library, Juvenal and Persius, edited and translated by Susanna Morton Braund (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2004) is recommended. The annotations which follow are indebted in many places to the notes in the standard edition: The Poems of John Oldham, ed. Harold F. Brooks with the collaboration of Raman Selden (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987). Back to Line
5] The Peak is a mountain in Derbyshire, the Fens are marshes in Lincolnshire, both about 100 miles from London; the Hundreds are the Essex Hundreds, twenty miles east of London; Land's End is the southwestern tip of England, in Cornwall. Back to Line
6] Fleet Street, in the City of London proper, runs into the Strand, in the City of Westminster; both were busy commercial thoroughfares. Back to Line
16] Mile-end: a district named for a milestone one mile east of the Aldgate entrance to the City of London. Back to Line
17] great faction's treat: a public dinner sponsored by the Whigs ("faction") in April 1682. Back to Line
23] Timon: Oldham substitutes this disyllable for Juvenal's Umbritius (Umbricius in modern Latin texts). The name suggests Timon of Athens, a misanthrope who expressed himself harshly, the subject of a play by Shakespeare. Back to Line
33] my thread: referring to the ancient belief that human lives are determined by the three sister goddesses known euphemistically as ."the Kindly Ones.." Clotho presides over birth, and holds a distaff in her hand; Lachesis spins out each life as a thread, and Atropos cuts the thread with her scissors. Back to Line
34] some sands to run: as in an hourglass. Back to Line
36] Morecraft: generic name for a money-lender, from a play by Beaumont and Fletcher. Back to Line
38] In 1678 a charlatan named Titus Oates (1649-1705) claimed to have knowledge of a plot to murder the King and others and restore the Roman Catholic religion in England, the so-called Popish Plot. Many believed in this plot, and the ensuing furore opened a prolonged period of political crisis, but by 1682 Oates had been substantially discredited. See also ll. 71ff. Back to Line
41] to let: offer for money Back to Line
43] place: an official position; all these are jobs on the government payroll. Back to Line
51] kennels: gutters. jakes: outdoor toilet. Back to Line
58] Sir Sydrophel: In the Second Part of the popular satirical poem Hudibras by Samuel Butler (1612-1680), published in 1663, Sir Sidrophel is a character mocked as a practitioner of astrology. Back to Line
60] drop off: die. Gadbury: John Gadbury (1627-1704), an astrologer who published a well-known almanac from 1658 to 1704. Back to Line
62] you know who come in: since Charles II had no legitimate children, he would be succeeded by his younger brother James, Duke of York; but James was a Roman Catholic and thus objectionable to many, who attempted (unsuccessfully) to persuade Charles to make the Duke of Monmouth, his illegitimate but Protestant son, his heir. Back to Line
66] City-cuckold: it was conventionally assumed that the wives of merchants in the City of London might be easily seduced by the socially prestigious aristocrats and gentry who lived in the fashionable district near the Court in Westminster. Back to Line
80] Exchange; Paul's: both the Royal Exchange, the business centre in the heart of the City of London, and St. Paul's Cathedral, at the west end of the City, had been destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The Royal Exchange was rebuilt in 1669, but because of controversies over the design, Sir Christopher Wren was not finally commissioned to build the new St. Paul's until 1675, and it did not come into use, still unfinished, until 1697. Back to Line
81] In May 1682 a ship carrying the Duke of York to Scotland was wrecked, with the loss of the Duke's personal possessions. Back to Line
87] common shore: open sewer. Back to Line
92] curing: of meats, sausages, etc. Back to Line
93] The first wife of Philippe, Duke of Orleans, the brother of Louis XIV of France, was Henrietta Anne, younger sister of Charles II of England. She and her husband quarreled constantly, and when she died suddenly in 1671 it was widely believed that she had been poisoned, despite the contrary finding of an autopsy. Back to Line
95] great Harry: Henry V, victor over the French at Agincourt (1415). Back to Line
97] pulvilios: scented powders. Back to Line
98] Chedreux perukes: Chedreux was a fashionable Parisian maker of perukes (wigs). Back to Line
104] St. James his Square: at the centre of the fashionable residential district near St. James's Palace, the official seat of the English Court. Back to Line
109] either Haines: the King's player was Joseph Haines (d. 1701), who over a thirty-year career in the London theatre established himself as a personality rather than as an actor; he was particularly famous for his performances of prologues and epilogues. The king's evidence was the unsavoury turncoat Bryan Haynes, a crucial prosecution witness in the treason trials of the poet Stephen College (August 1681) and the Earl of Shaftesbury (November 1681). Back to Line
117] operator: maker of quack remedies. Back to Line
118] jack-pudding: a clown or jester, especially one assisting in the marketing of quack-remedies. Back to Line
120] Emperor: of the Holy Roman Empire, usually opposed to Louis XIV, King of France. Back to Line
121] the pyramid: the Monument, a column 202 feet high commemorating the Great Fire of London, originally intended to be used by the Royal Society for scientific observations and experiments. The vibrations from London traffic made this impractical. Back to Line
122] Aston: Francis Aston, a secretary of the Royal Society. (The first edition has "J---n," which later editions complete as "Johnston," but no known person of that name fits the context. Jenkins and Selden make a convincing argument that Aston is meant.) Back to Line
124] take place of: take precedence over. Back to Line
126] dildoes: faux penises made of leather, very fashionable in aristocratic circles; on at least two occasions, customs officers confiscated shipments of dildoes from France. Back to Line
131] statute: individuals could become naturalized citizens by a private act of parliament. Back to Line
141] Sir Martin Mar-all: The comedy Sir Martin Mar-all, or The Feign'd Innocence, by the Duke of Newcastle and John Dryden, was a huge hit when first performed in 1667. Dryden wrote the title role for the actor James Nokes (1642-1696), who performed it many times until his retirement in 1692. Oldham here preserves a detail of his performance. Back to Line
143] Prynne: William Prynne (1600-1669), lawyer and writer of many controversial books and pamphlets, now best remembered for his attacks on stage plays in the 1630s. John Vicars (1580-1652), poet and propagandist for the parliamentary cause in the Civil Wars of the 1640s, was a friend of Prynne and, like him, a copious author. Back to Line
154] frieze-campaign: a heavy woollen coat, worn by soldiers. Back to Line
155] beyond eighty: degrees of north latitude. Back to Line
159] All these items were means of self-display for fashionable gentlemen. Snuffboxes might be lavishly ornamented. Spots made with gunpowder enhanced male faces. Picking his teeth in public allowed a man to show off his luxury toothpick-case; see Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility (1811), vol. II, ch. xi. Back to Line
166] satyr: a rural demigod, with the horns and legs of a goat, noted for sexual desire. Back to Line
169] go padliock'd: wear chastity belts. Back to Line
183] silk-weavers' mutiny: the English silk-weavers long established in Spitalfields, just outside the City of London, rioted for three days in August 1675 in protest against the employment of French weavers (many of them Huguenot refugees from religious persecution by Louis XIV), who were alleged to work for low wages and to introduce labour-saving machinery. Smaller disturbances occurred in later years. Back to Line
197] vaulting-bout: sexual intercourse with a prostitute. Back to Line
198] a Guard-captain: a captain of the Guards, the troops of the royal household established after the Restoration, and therefore a gentleman, unlike the rich usurer's son. Back to Line
200] Bankside: on the south bank of the Thames, location of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The suburbs of London were traditionally seen as morally and socially inferior to the City itself, impoverished districts where a lack of local government allowed brothels and places of low entertainment to flourish; and "suburb" is a term of contempt. The ousted peers are reduced to mating with the lowest orders of women. Back to Line
203] Cressy: the battle of Crecy (1346), a decisive victory for Edward III of England over the King of France. Back to Line
205] an evidence: a witness. Back to Line
206] he: Noah. Back to Line
209] t'other: Lot. See Genesis 19. Back to Line
213] equipage: carriage and horses. Back to Line
215] Shrieve: Sheriff. to fine: to pay a sum of money to avoid the duties of an office, a means of escaping civic duty available only to the wealthy. Back to Line
222] The poor may swear falsely upon oath, thus exposing themselves to divine punishment, but Heaven overlooks such petty matters; there too only the oaths of the wealthy count. Back to Line
229] at prison-grates: prisoners begged for alms from passersby by holding a shoe out through the grating that covered a window. Back to Line
230] cravat: a cloth necktie, as opposed to one of finest lace (point). Back to Line
233] cock: hats were made with broad brims which, except in wet weather, were folded up (cocked) to make a three-cornered hat. Back to Line
238] Many pews in churches were rented by wealthy members of the congregation for their exclusive use. Back to Line
241] bulks: stalls outside shops, used by day to display goods; used at night by prostitutes to service their clients. Back to Line
243] the kind proverb: bastards were popularly supposed to be more successful in advancing their own interests than the legitimate; see the opening scene of Shakespeare's King John. Back to Line
245] scriv'ner: a money-lender. Back to Line
253] Common Council: the governing body of the City of London. Back to Line
254] The parish was the basic unit of local government, responsible not only for the church but also for roads, poor relief, etc. (see reference to street lighting at line 419). Parish officers were appointed at vestry meetings. Fire buckets were kept in churches. Back to Line
263] It was believed (incorrectly) that Edgar I, the Peaceful, had issued coins minted from leather. Back to Line
267] frieze: coarse woollen cloth. Back to Line
270] A much-mocked statute of 1678 required all corpses to be wrapped in woollen grave-clothes for burial, by way of supporting the English wool industry. Back to Line
284] These are the minimal acknowledgements of acquaintance as the lord passes by. Back to Line
286] The tombs in Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London, both already established as tourist attractions. Back to Line
289] Barnet: about 10 miles north of central London; St. Albans: about 22 miles north. Back to Line
292] old Noll: Oliver Cromwell, who died as a great storm struck southern England on September 3, 1658. Back to Line
296] Nicholas Barbon (1640-1698) started offering fire insurance after the Great Fire of London of 1666, and formed the first fire brigade in 1680. Back to Line
307] third stairs: the third flight of stairs, leading to the top floor of a typical London house. Back to Line
312] Pordage: Samuel Pordage (1633-1691?), poet and playwright, who sided with the Whigs during the political crisis of 1679-82, and was accordingly mocked for his poverty by Tory writers. Back to Line
326] strait: immediately. Back to Line
328] The Act and the Commencement are the degree-granting ceremonies at Oxford and Cambridge respectively; the Term is the legal term; i.e., the courts suspend sittings. Back to Line
330] Fasting is observed to prevent similar ("like," adjective) disasters, understood as divine judgments on human wickedness. Back to Line
331] brief: "A letter patent issued by the sovereign as Head of the Church, licensing a collection in the churches throughout England for a specified object of charity" (Oxford English Dictionary). Back to Line
332] Tweed: river marking the northern boundary of England. Back to Line
336] Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) were Flemish painters who worked in, and were much admired in England; both were knighted by Charles I. Back to Line
337] Mortlack tapestry: tapestry woven at Mortlake, on the Thames upriver from London. Back to Line
339] scritoire: escritoire, writing desk. Back to Line
340] plate: precious metal, here probably silver. Back to Line
343] laid design: premeditated scheme. Back to Line
350] lumber: discarded furniture. Back to Line
354] In London, water was piped in by contractors, subject to taxation, and expensive. Back to Line
358] St. Michael's Mount: a tidal island off the southern coast of Cornwall. Back to Line
361] College: the Royal College of Physicians; weekly bills: the Bills of Mortality for the City of London, a record of deaths with their causes, published weekly. Back to Line
365] middle region: of the atmosphere, supposed to be perpetually stormy. Back to Line
369] bellmen: night watchmen, who called the hours during the night. Back to Line
374] Archer: Sir John Archer (1598-1682), a judge whose competence was doubted by some of his contemporaries. Back to Line
387] lackeys: here, two footmen carrying a sedan chair. Back to Line
388] punk of honour: literally, a prostitute of high social rank; i.e., a lady of loose morals, perhaps even a royal mistress. Back to Line
391] Paul's: see note to line 80. Back to Line
397] brickbats: pieces of broken bricks. Back to Line
402] surgeon: medical attendant. Back to Line
406] scourers: rowdy, usually drunken, gentlemen who roamed the streets at night, attacking passersby and sometimes killing them. Back to Line
410] want: are deprived of. Back to Line
414] flambeaus: torches, also known as links, usually carried by boys to light a gentleman on foot or in his carriage through the streets. Back to Line
423] of force: of necessity. Back to Line
426] Preston: keeper of the beargarden at Hockley-in-the-Hole, north of Holborn, a district noted for crude entertainments. Back to Line
434] 'tis all a case: it makes no difference. Back to Line
447] padders; robbers. Back to Line
451] Shooter's Hill: a hill overlooking the City of London on the south bank of the Thames, where travellers were often robbed. Back to Line
457] Heptarchy: the supposed seven kingdoms into which England was divided in early Anglo-Saxon times; i.e., England before Alfred the Great. Back to Line
459] Condemned criminals were driven in carts from Newgate Prison by way of Holborn to Tyburn, the place of execution outside London, approximately in the location of the modern Marble Arch. Back to Line
462] the city, and the county: the City of London and the county of Middlesex in which it stood. Back to Line
474] notices: ideas. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
John D. Baird
RPO Edition: 
Special Copyright: 

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