The Beggar’s Curse

The Beggar’s Curse
From Lanthorne and Candlelight, by THOMAS DEKKER, ed. GROSART (1881), iii, 203:—“a canting song, wherein you may learn, how  this cursed generation pray, or (to speake truth) curse  such officers as punish them”.


The Ruffin cly the nab of the Harmanbeck,
If we mawnd Pannam, lap, or Ruff-peck,
Or poplars of yarum: he cuts, bing to the Ruffmans,
Or els he sweares by the light-mans,
To put our stamps in the Harmans,
The ruffian cly the ghost of the Harmanbeck
If we heaue a booth we cly the lerk.

[The devil take the Constable’s head!
If we beg bread, drink, bacon,
Or milk porridge, he says: “be off to the hedges”
Or swears, in the morning
To clap our feet in the stocks.
The devil take the Constable’s ghost
If we rob a house we are flogged.]


If we niggle, or mill a bowzing Ken,
Or nip a boung that has but a win,
Or dup the giger of a Gentry cores ken,
To the quier cuffing we bing;
And then to the quier Ken, to scowre the Cramp-ring,
And then to the Trin’de on the chates, in the light-mans,
The Bube &. Ruffian cly the Harmanbeck & harmans.

[If we fornicate, or thieve in an alehouse,
Rob a purse with only a penny in it.
Or break into a gentleman’s house,
To the magistrate we go;
Then to gaol to be shackled,
Whence to be hanged on the gallows in the morning,
The pox and the devil take the constable and his stocks.]


Thomas Dekker, one of the best known of the Elizabethan pamphleteers and dramatists, was born in London about 1570, and began his literary career in 1597-8 when an entry referring to a loan-advance occurs in Henslowe’s Diary. A month later forty shillings were advanced from the same source to have him discharged from the Counter, a debtor’s prison. Dekker was a most voluminous writer, and not always overparticular whence he got, or how he used, the material for his tracts and plays. The Belman of London Bringing to Light the Most Notorious Villanies that are now practised in the Kingdome (1608) of which three editions were published in one year, consists mainly of pilferings from Harman’s Caveat for Common Curselors first published in 1566-7. He did not escape conviction, however, for Samuel Rowlands showed him up in Martin Mark-All. Yet another instance of wholesale “conveyance” is mentioned in the Note to “Canting Rhymes” (ante). In spite of this shortcoming, however, and a certain recklessness of workmanship, the scholar of to-day owes Dekker a world of thanks: his information concerning the social life of his time is such as can be obtained nowhere else, and it is, therefore, now of sterling value.

Lanthorne and Candlelight is the second part of The Belman of London. Published also in 1608, it ran to two editions in 1609, a fourth appearing in 1612 under the title of O per se O, or a new Cryer of Lanthorne and Candlelight, Being an Addition or Lengthening of the Belman’s Second Night Walke. Eight or nine editions of this second part appeared between 1608 and 1648 all differing more or less from each other, another variation occurring when in 1637 Dekker republished Lanthorne and Candlelight under the title of English Villanies, shortly after which he is supposed to have died.

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

previous * next


Rhymes Of The Canting Crew.
The Beggar’s Curse
Towre Out Ben Morts
The Maunder’s Wooing
A Gage Of Ben Rom-Bouse
Bing Out, Bien Morts
The Song Of The Beggar
The Maunder’s Initiation
The High Pad’s Boast
The Merry Beggars
A Mort’s Drinking Song
A Beggar I’ll Be
. . .