On the Prigging Lay

On the Prigging Lay
By H. T. R....: a translation of a French Slang song (“Un jour à la Croix Rouge”)    in Vidocq’s Memoirs, 1828-9, 4 vols..


Ten or a dozen “cocks of the game,” 1 pickpockets
  On the prigging lay to the flash-house came, 2 thieving game; thieves’ rendezvous
Lushing blue ruin and heavy wet 3 drinking gin; porter
  Till the darkey, when the downy set. 4 evening; sun
All toddled and begun the hunt
  For readers, tattlers, fogies, or blunt. 5 pocket-books; watches; handkerchiefs; money


Whatever swag we chance for to get, 6 plunder
  All is fish that comes to net:
Mind your eye, and draw the yokel,
  Don’t disturb or use the folk ill.
Keep a look out, if the beaks are nigh, 7 police
  And cut your stick, before they’re fly. 8 run; before they see you


As I vas a crossing St James’s Park
  I met a swell, a well-togg’d spark. 9 well-dressed
I stops a bit: then toddled quicker,
  For I’d prigged his reader, drawn his ticker; 10 stolen his pocketbook and watch
Then he calls—“Stop thief!” thinks I, my master,
  That’s a hint to me to mizzle faster. 11 run


When twelve bells chimed, the prigs returned, 12 thieves
  And rapped at the ken of Uncle ----: 13 house
“Uncle, open the door of your crib
  If you’d share the swag, or have one dib. 14 plunder; coin
Quickly draw the bolt of your ken,
  Or we’ll not shell out a mag, old ----.” 15 give you a half-penny


Then says Uncle, says he, to his blowen, 16 woman
  “D’ye twig these coves, my mot so knowing? 17 known; men; mistress
Are they out-and-outers, dearie? 18 safe to trust
  Are they fogle-hunters, or cracksmen leary? 19 pickpockets; burglers
Are they coves of the ken, d’ye know? 20 of our band
  Shall I let ’em in, or tell ’em to go?”


“Oh! I knows ’em now; hand over my breeches—
  I always look out for business—vich is
A reason vy a man should rouse
  At any hour for the good of his house,
The top o’ the morning, gemmen all, 21 a cheery greeting
  And for vot you vants, I begs you’ll call.”


But now the beaks are on the scene, 22 police
  And watched by moonlight where we went:—
Stagged us a toddling into the ken, 23 saw us going
  And were down upon us all; and then
Who should I spy but the slap-up spark 24 dandy
  What I eased of the swag in St James’s Park. 25 robbed of the plunder


There’s a time, says King Sol, to dance and sing;
  I know there’s a time for another thing:
There’s a time to pipe, and a time to snivel—
  I wish all Charlies and beaks at the divel: 26 police and magistrates
For they grabbed me on the prigging lay,
  And I know I’m booked for Bot’ny Bay. 27 transported

Taken from Musa Pedestris, Three Centuries of Canting Songs and Slang Rhymes [1536―1896], collected and annotated by John S. Farmer.

previous * next


. . .
The Song of the Young Prig
The Milling Match
Ya-Hip, My Hearties!
Sonnets For The Fancy: After The Manner Of Petrarch
The True Bottom’d Boxer
Bobby And His Mary
Flashey Joe
My Mugging Maid
Poor Luddy
The Pickpocket’s Chaunt
On the Prigging Lay
The Lag’s Lament
Nix My Doll, Pals, Fake Away
The Game Of High Toby
The Double Cross
The Thieves’ Chaunt
The House Breaker’s Song
The Faking Boy To The Crap Is Gone
The Nutty Blowen
The Faker’s New Toast
My Mother
. . .