To Teach thy Base Thoughts Manners

from The Roaring Girl

Original Text: 
The roaring girle. Or Moll Cut-Purse As it hath lately beene acted on the Fortune-stage by the Prince his Players. Written by T. Middleton and T. Dekkar. sig. Fr / STC (2nd ed.), 17908
2That thinks each woman thy fond flexible whore
3If she but cast a liberal eye upon thee;
4Turn back her head, she's thine; or amongst company,
5By chance drink first to thee, then she's quite gone,
6There's no means to help her; nay, for a need,
7Wilt swear unto thy credulous fellow lechers
8That th'art more in favour with a lady at first sight
9Than her monkey all her life time.
10How many of our sex, by such as thou,
11Have their good thoughts paid with a blasted name
12That never deserved loosely, or did trip
13In path of whoredom, beyond cup and lip.
14But for the stain of conscience and of soul,
15Better had women fall into the hands
16Of an act silent, then a bragging nothing.
17There's no mercy in't -- what durst move you, sir,
18To think me whorish? A name which I'd tear out
20To dispatch privy slanders against me.
21In thee I defy all men, their worst hates,
22And their best flatteries, all their golden witchcrafts,
23With which they entangle the poor spirits of fools,
24Distressed needlewomen and trade-fallen wives,
25Fish that must needs bite or themselves be bitten;
26Such hungry things as these may soon be took
27With a worm fastened on a golden hook.
28Those are the lecher's food, his prey; he watches
30'Tis the best fish he takes; but why, good fisherman,
31Am I thought meat for you, that never yet
32Had angling rod cast towards me? Cause, you'll say,
33I'm given to sport, I'm often merry, jest:
34Had mirth no kindred in the world but lust?
35O, shame take all her friends then; but how ere
36Thou and the baser world censure my life,
37I'll send 'em word by thee, and write so much
38Upon thy breast, cause thou shalt bear't in mind.
39Tell them 'twere base to yield where I have conquered.
40I scorn to prostitute myself to a man,
41I that can prostitute a man to me,
42And so I greet thee.


1] Moll Cutpurse, the cross-dressing "roaring girl" of the play's title, addresses this speech to Laxton, a presumptuous London gallant, before overpowering him in a duel. "Roaring" describes a boisterous, hyper-masculine form of behaviour in the seventeenth century. Back to Line
19] the high German: a popular London fencer Back to Line
29] wedlocks: spouses Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: