Swarte Smekyd Smethes

Original Text: 
Rossell Hope Robbins, ed., Secular Lyrics of the XIVth and XVth Centuries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952): no. 118, pp. 106-07. PR 1203 S4 1952 Trinity College Library. Carleton Brown and Rossell Hope Robbins, The Index of Middle English Verse (New York, 1943): no. 3227. Z 2012 B86 General Reference Robarts Library
2Dryue me to deth wyth den of here dyntes.
3Swech noys on nyghtes ne herd men neuer.
4What knauene cry and clateryng of knockes!
5The cammede kongons cryen after "col, col!"
6And blowen here bellewys, that al here brayn brestes.
7"Huf, puf!" seyth that on; "haf, paf!" that other.
8Thei spytten and spraulyn and spellyn many spelles.
9Thei gnauen and gnacchen, thei gronys togydere
10And holdyn hem hote wyth here hard hamers.
11Of a bole hyde ben here barm-fellys.
12Here schankes ben schakeled for the fere-flunderys.
13Heuy hamerys thei han, that hard ben handled.
14Stark strokes thei stryken on a stelyd stokke.
15Lus, bus! las, das! rowtyn be rowe.
16Swech dolful a dreme the deuyl it todryue!
17The mayster longith a lityl, and lascheth a lesse,
18Twyneth hem tweyn, and towchith a treble.
19Tik, tak! hic, hac! tiket, taket! tyk, tak!
20Lus, bus! lus, das! Swych lyf thei ledyn,
21Alle clothemerys, Cryst hem gyue sorwe!
22May no man for brenwaterys on nyght han hys rest!


1] Translated freely,
Swart, reeking smiths, besmirched with smoke,
Are the death of me with the din of their blows.
Such night-time racket none ever heard of.
What shouting of servants, and clatter of blows!
The bent-over runts call out, "coal! coal!"
And blow their bellows to burst their brains.
"Huff! puff!" says that one, "Haff! paff!" that other.
They spit and throw themselves about and say many things.
They gnaw, they gnash their teeth, they groan together
And heat themselves up with their hard hammers.
Their apron-skins are a bull's hide.
Their legs are armored against the fire-sparks.
They have heavy, hard-to-wield hammers.
They strike heavy strokes on a steely anvil.
Luss, buss! luss, dass! they crash, all in a row.
The devil take it, so awful a noise!
The master lengthens one small piece, and smashes a smaller,
Fuses the two of them, and lays on a third time.
Tick, tack! hick, hack! ticket, tacket! tick, tack!
Luss, buss! luss, dass! They lead such a life,
Christ give them grief, all horse-dressers!
None has a night's rest because of these water-burners!
Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Reliquiae Antiquae, ed. Thomas Wright and James Orchard Halliwell (London: J. R. Smith, 1845).
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: