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William Cowper

John Gilpin's Ride

JOHN GILPIN was a citizen
Of credit and renown;
A train-band captain eke was he
Of famous London town.

John Gilpin's spouse said to her dear: "Though wedded we have been These twice ten tedious years, yet we No holiday have seen.

"To-morrow is our wedding-day,
And we will then repair
Unto the Bell at Edmonton
All in a chaise and pair.

"My sister, and my sister's child, Myself, and children three,

Will fill the chaise; so you must ride On horseback after we."

He soon replied: "I do admire
Of womankind but one,

And you are she, my dearest dear,
Therefore it shall be done.

"I am a linen-draper bold,

As all the world doth know, And my good friend the calender Will lend his horse to go."

Quoth Mrs. Gilpin: "That's well said;
And for that wine is dear,
We will be furnished with our own,
Which is both bright and clear."

John Gilpin kiss'd his loving wife;
O'erjoyed was he to find,

That, though on pleasure she was bent,
She had a frugal mind.

The morning came, the chaise was brought, But yet was not allow'd

To drive up to the door, lest all

Should say that she was proud.

So three doors off the chaise was stay'd,
Where they did all get in;

Six precious souls, and all agog

To dash through thick and thin.

Smack went the whip, round went the wheels; Were never folks so glad;

The stones did rattle underneath,

As if Cheapside were mad.

John Gilpin at his horse's side

Seized fast the flowing mane, And up he got, in haste to ride, But soon came down again;

For saddle-tree scarce reach'd had he
His journey to begin,

When, turning round his head, he saw
Three customers come in.

So down he came; for loss of time,
Although it grieved him sore,
Yet loss of pence, full well he knew,
Would trouble him much more.

'Twas long before the customers Were suited to their mind,

When Betty screaming came down-stairs, "The wine is left behind!"

"Good lack!" quoth he, "yet bring it me, My leathern belt likewise,

In which I bear my trusty sword
When I do exercise."

Now Mistress Gilpin (careful soul!)
Had two stone bottles found,
To hold the liquor that she loved,
And keep it safe and sound.

Each bottle had a curling ear,

Through which the belt he drew, And hung a bottle on each side, To make his balance true.

Then over all, that he might be

Equipp'd from top to toe,

His long red cloak, well brush'd and neat, He manfully did throw.

Now see him mounted once again
Upon his nimble steed,

Full slowly pacing o'er the stones,
With caution and good heed.

But finding soon a smoother road
Beneath his well-shod feet,
The snorting beast began to trot,
Which gall'd him in his seat.

"So, fair and softly!" John he cried,
But John he cried in vain;
That trot became a gallop soon,
In spite of curb and rein.

So stooping down, as needs he must
Who cannot sit upright,

He grasp'd the mane with both his hands,
And eke with all his might.

His horse, who never in that sort
Had handled been before,
What thing upon his back had got
Did wonder more and more.

'Away went Gilpin, neck or nought;
Away went hat and wig;
He little dreamt, when he set out,
Of running such a rig.

The wind did blow, the cloak did fly,
Like streamer long and gay,

Till, loop and button failing both,
At last it flew away.

Then might all people well discern
The bottles he had slung;
A bottle swinging at each side,
As hath been said or sung.

The dogs did bark, the children scream'd; Up flew the windows all;

'And every soul cried out, "Well done!" As loud as he could bawl.

'Away went Gilpin-who but he?
His fame soon spread around,
"He carries weight! He rides a race!
'Tis for a thousand pound!"

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