Saturday, February 04, 2017


The Old Gill

John Cleveland (1613-1658), "The Old Gill," Works (London: Printed by R. Holt, for Obadiah Blagrave, 1687), pp. 306-307 (line numbers added):
If you will be still
Then tell you I will
Of a lovely old Gill,
Dwelt under a Hill:
Her Locks are like Sage        5
That's well worn with Age,
And her Visage would swage
A stout Mans Courage.

Teeth yellow as Box,
Clean out with the Pox,        10
Her Breath smells like Lox,
Or unwiped Nocks.
She hath a devilish Grin,
Long Hairs on her Chin,
To the foul-footed Fin        15
She's nearly a kin.

She hath a beetle Brow,
Deep Furrows enow
She's ey'd like a Sow,
Flat nos'd like a Cow.        20
Lips swarthy and dun,
A Mouth like a Gun,
And her tattle doth run
As swift as the Sun.

On her Back stands a Hill,        25
You may place a Windmill,
And the Farts of her Gill
Will make the Sails trill.
Her Neck is much like
The foul Swines in the dike;        30
Against Crab-lice and Tyke,
A blew Pin is her Pike.

Within this Ano
There dwells an Hurricano,        35
And the Rift of her Plano
Vomits Smoke like Vulcano;
But a Pox of her Twist,
It is always bepist,
And the Devil's in his List, 40
That to her Mill brings Grist.

'Ware the dint of her Dirt,
She will give you a Flirt,
She has always the Squirt,
She is loose and ungirt;        45
Want of Wine makes her pant
Till she fizzle and rant,
And the hole in her Grant,
Is as deep as &c.

Yea, as deep as a Well,        50
A Furnace or Kell,
A bottomless Cell,
Some think it is Hell.
But I have spoken my Fill
Of my lovely old Gill;        55
And 'tis taken so ill,
I'll lay down my Quill.
The poem doesn't appear in John M. Berdan, ed., The Poems of John Cleveland. Annotated and correctly printed for the first time with Biographical and Historical Introductions (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), or in Brian Morris and Eleanor Withington, edd., The Poems of John Cleveland (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1967), so presumably the attribution to Cleveland is doubtful. Whoever wrote this bit of misogynistic doggerel, it's a veritable treasure-house of lexicographical puzzles. Someone better equipped than I am should write a scholarly article about it. With extreme diffidence I offer the following notes (OED = Oxford English Dictionary).

Title, 3, 55 Gill: OED, s.v. gill | jill, n.4, sense 1.a: "A familiar or contemptuous term applied to a woman; a lass, wench."

9 Box: Buxus sempervirens, the Common or Evergreen Box-tree, whose wood is yellow. False teeth were sometimes made of boxwood, perhaps as far back as ancient Rome (see Martial 2.41.6-7).

11 lox: locks, i.e. malodorous tufts or strands of wool?

12 nocks: Could this be from OED, s.v. knock, n.2 ("A hill; a hillock, a knoll"), meaning here the twin protuberances of the buttocks?

15 Fin: fiend, i.e. devil?

27 Gill: OED, s.v. gill, n.2: "A deep rocky cleft or ravine," perhaps used here for the intergluteal cleft.

28 trill: OED, s.v. trill, v.1, sense 1.a: "To twirl, twiddle, whirl, spin."

31 Tyke: A tyke can be a churl or a dog, but neither meaning seems right here.

32 Pike: weapon, means of defence, but I don't understand how a blew (presumably blue) pin can defend against crab-lice.

34 Ano: Spanish for anus.

36 Plano: Spanish for flat surface, used metaphorically for the expanse of the backside?

38 Twist: OED, sense 3.a: "The part of anything at which it divides or branches; spec. the junction of the thighs, the fork."

44 Squirt: diarrhea.

43 Flirt: ?

47 fizzle: break wind without noise?

48 Grant: Gordon Williams, A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespearean and Stuart Literature, Vol. I (London: The Athlone Press, 1994), p. 223: "Grant perhaps relates to grain, fork of the body, Halliwell defining it as 'The pudendum muliebre'."

49 &c.: some word ending in -ant, but what word?

51 Kell: kiln, according to Robert Nares, A glossary; or, Collection of words, phrases, names, and allusions to Customs, Proverbs, etc., which have been thought to Require Illustration, in the Works of English Authors, particularly Shakespeare and his contemporaries, new ed. by James O. Halliwell and Thomas Wright, Vol. II: K-Z (London: John Russell Smith, 1859), p. 480, quoting this line.

A much different version appears in Wit and Mirth: or, Pills to Purge Melancholy, 3rd ed., Vol. II (London: William Pearson, 1712), pp. 323-324 ("By Cleaveland"):
If you will be still,
Then tell you I will
Of a fusty old Gill,
That dwells under a Hill;
She is a right Sage,
Well worn with Age,
And a Visage will swage
A stout Man's Courage.

She has a beetle Brow,
Deep Furrows enow,
She's Ey'd like a Sow,
Flat Nos'd like a Cow;
She has a devilish Grin,
Long Hairs on her Chin,
She's nearly a-kin
To the foul footed Fiend.

Teeth yellow as Box,
Half out with the Pox,
Her Breath sweet as Socks,
Or the Scent of a Fox:
Lips swarthy and Dun,
With a Mouth like a Gun,
And her Twattle does run
As swift as the Sun.

Hair lowzy with Nits,
She stinks i'th' Arm-pits,
She still hauks and spits,
And hems up great Bits.
She has long unpar'd Nails,
Hands cover'd with Scales,
She's still full of Ails,
And to stink never fails.

Her Back has a Hill,
You may plant a Wind-mill,
And the Farts of this Gill,
Would the Sails well trill.
I've taken my fill
Of the fusty old Gill,
Which she took so ill,
That I laid down my Quill.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?