The song Singing the Travels is actually not so much about travelling as the merits of different occupations. It is supposed to be a duet between two brothers. One is a "servant man" and one is a "husbandman," and they have a friendly argument to decide whose is the better occupation. The husbandman wins out in the end, in spite of having none of the servant-man's material advantages. Why? Probably because he is a Free-Born Englishman; although he is poor, with only a groat, he takes his orders from nobody, unlike the obsequious servant-man. Note his bluff, manly scorn ("Don't you talk about your capons," etc.) The reference to "cocked hats" makes me suspect a late eighteenth-century/early nineteenth-century origin for the song's words. There is a rollicking tune that goes with this; a slight variation on it can be found in Michael Raven's One Thousand English Country Dance Tunes. Maddy Prior and June Tabor give a rousing version of this song on their album Silly Sisters, proving that it's not just for blokes.
Servant man: Well met, my brother dear, all along the highway riding So solemn I was walking along So pray come tell to me what calling yours may be And I'll have you for a servant man. Some serving men do eat the very best of meat Such as duck, goose, capon and swan But when lords and ladies dine, they drink strong beer, ale and wine That's some diet for a servant man. Husbandman: Don't you talk about your capons, let's have some rusty bacon And aye, a good piece of prickled pork That's always in my house, a crust of bread and cheese That's some diet for a husband man. Servant man: When next to church they go with their livery fine and gay And their cocked hats and gold lace all around With their shirts as white as milk, and stitched as fine as silk That's some habit for a servant man. Husbandman: Don't you talk about your livery nor all your silken garments That's not fit for to travel the bushes in Give me a leather coat, aye, and in my purse a groat That's some habit for a husband man. Servant man: So me must needs confess that your calling is the best And will give you the uppermost hand So now we won't delay but pray both day and night God bless the honest husband man.
Lines written upon being ambushed by a Wasp
A garden is a frightful place, and full of horrid things With yellow stripes around their chests and flutt'ring shiny wings And at the other end of them, a needle thing that STINGS! I do not care for nature much; would rather stay indoors Where there's nothing to hurt you, and no worms upon the floors And one can curl up with a book of Eighteenth-Century Bores. (Although sometimes it's nice to sit beneath a willow tree And watch the bobbing on the breeze of sun-drunk bumble-bee And from a distance hear the roar and clinking of the sea.) --Isabel Taylor
Although many English proverbs make eminent good sense, there are legions of others which have dropped out of use simply because they are baffling. Try this one:
As good be an addled egg as an idle bird.
I suppose this means that they are both equally useless, but what's the point of the observation? And what would be the reaction were one to use it? ("My son always breaks the dishes when he does them, which isn't often." "Yes, Mrs Smith--as good be an addled egg as an idle bird." Doesn't sound right, somehow).