MERRY SADDLER OF WALDEN
The Merry Pranks he played during his Apprenticeship,
and how he Tricked a rich Miser, etc.
Very diverting for a Winter Evening Fireside.
The birth of Poor Robin, how he was bound Apprentice to
a Saddler, and what a trick he served his Master.
Poor Robin was born in Saffron-Walden, in the county of
Essex, of honest, plain parents, who brought him up not as
our nice dames do now-a-days, by directing him how much
he should eat, but, as the fashion was then, full fed with
gross meat, so that in a few years he grew a sturdy lad;
and considering his growth and manners, a man might well
say better fed than taught. His father being willing he
should be able to live in the world another day, bound him
an apprentice to a Saddler, one who fitted poor Robin's
humour to a hair; for the master loving drink, he thought
it should go hard if the man likewise did not also wet his
lips with it. It fortuned one time his master had brewed a
barrel of beer stronger than ordinary, to the drinking of
which poor Robin one night invites five or six of his comrades,
who, before the next morning, drank it all up. Poor
Robin to excuse himself, draws the spiggot out, and throws
a pailful of small beer and two or three pails full of water
under the tap, and by a wile gets a great sow into the
cellar; so the next morning when his master arose all was
quiet, and the sow was blamed for what the boar pig had
How Poor Robin served his Master for sitting up late at
Poor Robin's master had gotten a custom that the man did
not at all like, which was, that after he had tippled all day,
sometimes till ten or eleven o'clock at night, he would then
come home and fall asleep in a chair, during which time his
man must not go to bed, but wait until his master awakened.
Poor Robin to break him of this evil custom, one night when
his master came home soundly fuddled, and falling asleep in
his chair as usual; so he made a great fire, and then drew
his master's legs so near thereto, that his toes touched some
of the coals; which being done, he sits him down in the
other corner to observe the sequel. He had not sat long till
his master's shoes began to fry, whereupon he suddenly
awakes, and jumps about as if he had been mad. The man
all the while counterfeits himself asleep, and seemed not to
awake for a good space. At last, seeming much to pity his
master's misfortune, they went to bed. But never after
that would his master sit up to sleep in his chair.
How Poor Robin served a rich Miser.
In the same town lived a rich miser who had wealth enough
to have been treasurer of the town, and wisdom answerable
to a beadle of a parish. This man, fuller of faith than good
works, would neither feast the poor nor relieve their wants,
nor hold brotherly unity with any. Poor Robin being
resolved to put a trick upon him, it being then Christmas,
made it fit for his purpose; and so counterfeiting himself to
be the gentleman's man, about ten or eleven o'clock at
night, just when people were in bed, he calls at sundry
men's doors, inviting them the next day to his master's
(naming the gentleman's name) to dinner. Whereupon the
next day appeared the number of two and twenty in their
roast-meat apparel; but, contrary to their expectations,
finding small preparations towards a dinner, they began to
wonder wherefore he had invited them; the gentleman as
much wondered wherefore they came. At last the truth
was cleared on both sides, some laughed, and some frowned;
and so they all departed home.
How Robin Married and set up for Himself.
Poor Robin having served out his apprenticeship would
needs set up for himself, and thereupon hires a house and
shop; yet thinking it inconvenient for him to live alone,
and that two heads were better than one, he resolved to do
as many others did, marry in haste though he should repent
at leisure. But his fortune was better than his deserts, for
though she was but a homely woman, with whom he joined
in matrimony, yet she was provident to live in the world,
and for his own part he stood not much on beauty, but had
rather have a fat purse than a fair wife, seeing there was
great profit in the one, and less danger of being made a
cuckold by the other. Never did a couple more lovingly
agree together than did this pair at first, insomuch that
duck and lamb were the ordinary terms he bestowed upon
her; whereupon a wit of the town hearing this loving
language betwixt them, made this epigram to be read by
any that can understand it.
Poor Robin thinks his wife excels most dames,
And calls her duck and lamb, with such kind names,
A duck's a bird, a lamb's a beast we know,
Poor Robin's wife's a foul beast then I trow.
How Poor Robin served one of his Companions a
Poor Robin having set up for himself (as you have heard),
he would oftentimes travel abroad in the country to get
acquaintance amongst the gentry. It happened one time,
being belated homeward, and his brain intoxicated with the
juice of Bacchus, that he took up his quarters in a country
ale-house, where notwithstanding he had gotten a lusty jug
before, yet fell he to drinking of beer and cider, as if his
belly was bottomless; at last growing sleepy he went to
bed, where it was his chance to be lodged in the same
chamber where one of his acquaintances was already in bed,
who as he lay down sooner than poor Robin, so the next
morning was he no sooner got up providing a pot and toast
ready against poor Robin arose, but a foul mischance befel
poor Robin in the meantime, for the wine, beer, and cider
not agreeing in his belly, he very mannerly, sir-reverence
vomited on the bed. Whereupon not knowing what to do,
and being loth to be discredited, a crotchet came into his
crown, which he presently put in execution. He takes
the dirty sheets from off his own bed, and lays them on his
friend's, and then takes his and lays them on his own bed,
so spreading the coverlet as if nothing was amiss, he makes
himself ready and downstairs he goes. No sooner was he
below but his friend arrests him at Mr. Fox's suit, and by
all means would make him pay his groat for being drunk.
Poor Robin excused himself as well as he could, and would
be judged by the landlord whether he was fuddled or no;
whilst they were wrangling about paying the groat, the maid
went up into the chamber to make the beds; but finding one
of them in a pitiful pickle, she came chafing down, calling
the man beastly fellow and nasty knave, with other Billingsgate
language, such as came first to her tongue's end. The
man thought her mad, thus to scold for nothing, till at last
she told him plainly he had vomited the bed. "Nay,"
quoth poor Robin, "I will be judged by my landlord which
of us was most fuddled last night." "Truly," said the host,
"I can judge no otherwise but that he was, or he would
not have played such a nasty trick." Whereupon it was
judged by all the company that the man should pay his
groat, and poor Robin got free.
Of a sad Disaster that befel Poor Robin.
It happened on a time, during the late unhappy wars, that
all the Essex Trainband were assembled at Walden, to
resist the king's forces, who, in a bravado, had made their
excursions as far as Huntingdon. Amongst other military
weapons of destruction, they brought a drake, which they
planted under poor Robin's chamber-window, to be shot off
at nine o'clock at night, for a warning for all people to
repair home. Poor Robin and his wife were at that time
newly gone to bed; now it is to be understood, the chamber
where they lay went out half over the room below, a rail of
about four feet high being set up by the side to keep them
from falling, close by the rail was poor Robin's bed. But
whilst they were going to sleep, the drake was shot off,
which poor Sarah, his wife, hearing, with the fright gave a
sudden start, and threw poor Robin quite over the rail into
the room below. Poor Robin was much bruised in body and
half dead. At length he got up, but his courage was so
cooled with the greatness of his fall that he had more need
of a doctor than a sleep.
How Poor Sarah was cheated of her Mutton Pie.
Poor Sarah on a time made a very great pie, into which
she had put a whole loin of mutton besides other things, so
that it was valued worth five or six shillings at least. This
pie she sent to the common oven to bake, which, being perceived
by three or four merry blades, they resolved, if they
could possibly, to cheat her of the pie, which at last they
brought to pass on this manner. At such time as the baker
used to draw, two of them went and held poor Sarah in a
tale, whilst the other sent one of her neighbour's boys to the
baker's with a pail, a napkin, and money to pay for the
baking. The baker mistrusting no knavery, delivered the
boy the pie, which was presently carried to the next ale-house,
whether inviting some more of their companions unto
them, with much mirth and laughter; and because the jest
should be publicly known they set the crier to work, who
published the same in every corner of the town.
How Poor Robin ate Dog-stones instead of Lamb-stones.
As Poor Robin was more addicted to flesh than fish, so of
all sorts of flesh he loved a dish of lamb-stones best. A
merry disposed companion knowing his appetite, resolved to
put a trick upon him. A gentleman of the town who kept
a pack of hounds, having gelt his dogs, he gets the stones,
and with a few sweet breads presents them to poor Robin as
a dainty dish. Poor Robin very thankful for so great kindness
would not stay, but presently had them dressed, making
all the haste he could, for fear any should come in to be
partakers with him in his dinner. But having eaten them,
and understood the truth, he fell a-spewing as if his gall
would come up with it. Poor Sarah, in like manner, disgorged
her stomach, so that who should have seen them,
would have concluded them drunk with eating.
A witty Jest that Poor Robin gave a Sergeant.
The Blue Regiment of Train-Soldiers being on a time at
Walden, one of the sergeants, to show his bravery, had
gotten a great blue scarf about his middle, being as much
or more than the ensign had in his colours. Poor Robin
thinking him too fine to fight, would venture to put a jeer
upon him, and calling him, asked if he wanted any work?
"Why," said the sergeant, "what makes you ask?" "Pray
your pardon," quoth poor Robin, "I was mistaken in you,
I took you for a shoemaker, because you had gotten your
blue apron before you."
How Poor Robin won Five Shillings by kissing his
Poor Robin, with some other of his mates, being drinking
in an ale-house, where was an exceeding tall hostess, one of
them offered to lay five shillings (because Poor Robin was
low) that he should not kiss her as he stood on the ground.
Poor Robin accepted the challenge, and covered the money.
But when he went to kiss her, his mouth would not reach
higher than her apron string. Whereupon dropping a
shilling on the ground he made her stoop to lift it, then he
clasped his arms round her neck, gave her a kiss, and so won
Poor Robin's sayings of Ambitious Men.
Poor Robin, being in company with some gentlemen who
were talking of the ambition of some men now-a-days, that
would venture the loss of their souls for the possession of a
kingdom: "Yea," quoth poor Robin, "but the success of
many of them is far different from King Saul's, for he
seeking asses found a kingdom, and they seeking a kingdom
find themselves to be asses."
Poor Robin's Journey to London.
Poor Robin having never been in London in his life, and
being very desirous to see the city whose fame rang so loud
in every man's mouth, he resolved to make a jonrney
thither, and spend some time in viewing the rarities of the
same; but because he was unacquainted with the city customs,
he got a companion of his to go along with him. No
sooner were they past Aldgate, but poor Robin seeing such
a number of signs, he whispered with his friend, "Certainly,"
quoth he, "they must needs be all drunkards that live in
this place. I never saw so many ale-houses together in my
life." And thereupon beckoning to his companion, enters
one of the shops and calls for a jug of beer; but they making
him acquainted with his error, how they sold no drink, but
if he wanted anything else they could furnish him with it.
He presently without any studying asks them to show him
a pair of hedging gloves, whereupon changing their opinion,
instead of a fool they took him for a jeering companion;
and to fit him for his gloves had him to the pump and
soundly bedrenched him from head to foot. And having
occasion to go through Birching Lane, and being asked by
the salesmen, "Countrymen, what lack you?" "Marry,"
quoth he, "that which I fear you cannot furnish me
withal," and being importuned of them to know what it was:
"Why," quoth he, "that which you have none of I want,
honesty." Night approaching, poor Robin and his walking
mate repaired to their inn, where, after they had supped and
drunk five or six jugs of beer with the host of the house,
and some of his men (for inn-keeper's servants drink most
of their beer at other men's cost), his friend loving no tobacco,
and poor Robin desiring the heathenish weed to pass away
the time, they agreed among themselves that every one of the
company should either tell a tale or sing a song. Poor Robin,
who first mentioned the same, beginning in this manner.
A Tale of a Pair of Cards.
Not many ages since a parson of a country village was
accused to a committee that he was a great gamester at
cards, being so addicted thereunto that he would ofttimes
play on Sundays. The committee thus informed, sent for
the parson to answer this accusation; who receiving the
warrant made no excuse nor delay, but with all haste made
his appearance before them; with him also came the informer
to justify his accusation. Being thus met together,
the committee began to reprove the parson for being
addicted to such a vice, as to be noted for a common player
at cards. "Indeed," said the parson, "I am so far from it,
that I know not what a pair of cards meaneth." "Sir,"
quoth the informer, "if you please to search his pockets, I
believe you will find a pair there at present, for he seldom
goeth without such tackling." Whereupon the committee
commanding his pocket to be searched, they found a pair of
cards there indeed, but the parson denied them to be cards,
saying, "They may be cards to you, but to me they are an
almanack." And being demanded how he could make it
appear, he answered thus: "First," quoth he, "here is
as many suits of cards as there be quarters in a year,
and as many court cards as there be months in a year, and
as many cards as there be weeks in a year, and as many
spots as there be days in a year. Then when I look upon
the king it puts me in mind of the allegiance that I owe to
my sovereign lord the king; looking upon the queen puts me
in mind of the allegiance that I owe to the queen; the ten
puts me in mind of the Ten Commandments; the nine, of
the nine muses; the eight, of the eight altitudes; the
seven, of the seven liberal sciences; the six, of six days
we ought to labour in; the five, of the five senses; the four,
of the four evangelists; the three, of the Trinity; the two,
of the two sacraments; and the ace, that we ought to worship
but one God." Quoth the committee, "If this be all
the use you make of them we can find no fault with you.
But Mr. Parson, of all the cards you have nominated, you
have forgot the knave; pray, what use make you of him?"
"O sir," said he (pointing to his accuser), "that is your
"Poor Robin having ended his tale," says his friend, "I
suppose that was the same parson that used to read his
litany every day of the week excepting Sunday, and I being
constant hearer of him, learnt it as perfectly as my pater
Poor Robin's Litany.
From being turned out of doors,
From town-rats, and ale-house scores,
From lowsie queans and pocky bores,
From tailors' bills and drapers' books,
From sluttish maids and nasty cooks,
From froward wives and crabbed looks,
From breaking pipes and broken glasses,
From drinking healths and drunken asses,
From lying lubbers and lisping lasses,
From paying of lawyers' fees,
From mouldy bread and musty cheese,
From trotting jades and scorning shes,
From fetters, chains, bolts, and gyves,
From pointless needles and broken knives,
From thievish servants and drunken wives,
From tailors' bodkins and butchers' pricks,
From tenpenny nails and headless spikes,
And from attorneys' knavish tricks,
From being taken in disguise,
From believing of a poet's lies,
And from the devil and the excise,
From brown bread and small beer,
From being taken stealing deer,
From all that hath been named here,
The litany being ended the tapster comes for his reckoning,
but poor Robin made answer that he should do as the
rest had done, either tell a tale or sing a song. Says he,
"Sing I cannot, but I will tell you how they marry in
Scotland, as a Scotch priest told me that lay here, and got
me to engage for him to my master for twenty shillings,
and he running away, I was forced to pay his score for him."
A Scotch Marriage.
We don't use to wad in Scotland as you wad in England.
Jockey comes to the kirk and takes Sir Donkyn by the rocket,
and says, "Good morn, Sir Donkyn." "What's the matter,
Jockey, what's the matter?" "A wadding, a wadding,"
says he, "don't you see the hoppers and the skippers, and
all the lads of the gang?" "I'se don't, I'se come to you
belyve." Then Sir Donkyn gangs to the kirk, "I spee and
I spee, wha a deil do you spee; Jockey of the high lane,
and Jenny of the long cliff; if any know why these twa
may not be wadded together, let them now speak or hold their
tongue in the deil's name. Jockey wilt thou ha'e Jenny to
thy wadded wife? I say, Jockey, say after me, Jockey
wilt thou ha'e Jenny to thy wadded wife, forsaking all
loons, lubberloons, swing-bellied calves, black lips, and blue
noses? Ay, forsooth. If these twa be not as well wadded
as e'er I wadded twa these seven years, the deil and St.
Andrew part them."
The wedding being ended, all the company went to bed,
where we will leave them till the next morning, to relate
poor Robin's perambulation about the city.
Poor Robin's perambulation about the City.
No sooner did Apollo begin to appear in the eastern horizon,
but poor Robin, shaking off melancholy sleep, roused his
companion to prepare himself for their intended perambulation;
and having armed themselves with a pot of nappy
ale, they took their first walk to see the Royal Exchange, a
most magnificent structure, built by Sir Thomas Gresham.
From thence they went to take a view of Leadenhall, but
the exceeding bravery of the Exchange had so dimmed the
beauty of the place, that it was nothing pleasing to poor
Robin's eye. He made no tarrying there, but went presently
down to the Tower, where having seen the lions, and from
the wharf taken a superficial view of the bridge, as also the
ships upon the river Thames, he became weary of beholding
so many surprising objects. He had, however, far more content
in seeing the ships, so admirably pleasing to his fancy
it was to see how these little pretty things hopped about.
But lest he should take a surfeit with such ravishing
delights, his friend persuaded him to go to see the ancient
cathedral of St. Paul's, being at present made a horse-guard
by the soldiers, which poor Robin beholding, "What a
blessed reformation," quoth he, "have we here! For in our
country we can scarce persuade men to go to church, but
here come men and horses too." Having satisfied himself
with the sight of St. Paul's, they would in the next place go
to visit Westminster, the rather because it was at term
time, where, beholding so great a number of lawyers in their
gowns, he cried out, "Oh, let us begone from this place, for
if two or three make such a quarrel in our town, certainly
there is no abiding here for men in their wit." A country
gentleman overhearing him, "I remember," quoth he, "once
I heard a story of a man that went down to hell, wherein he
beheld men of all professions, ages, and conditions, saving
only lawyers, which made him the more to wonder, because
he imagined them all there, and asking the devil the reason,
he made this reply, 'We have them here though you see
them not, but we are forced to keep them in a room by
themselves lest they should set all the devils in hell at
variance.'" Poor Robin laughed very heartily at this tale,
and having now satisfied his inn, and having discharged all
reckonings, his friend and he returned home.
Many odd Whimsies and Conceits of Poor Robin.
Poor Robin daily frequenting the tavern and ale-house had
learned of his companions many drunken whimsies and
other odd conceits, as the five properties that belong to an
host, that he must have the head of a stag, the bag of a
nag, the belly of a hog, skip up and down like a frog, and
fawn like a dog. As also the four ingredients whereof a
woman's tongue is made, viz.: The sound of a great bell, the
wagging of a dog's tail, the shaking of an aspen leaf tempered
with running water.
When poor Robin had gotten a cup in his crown, as it
oftentimes happened, he would then be playing the poet,
and nothing but rhymes could then come out of his mouth;
for as one writes:
Poet and pot doth differ but one letter,
And that makes poets love the pot the better.
Amongst other of his conceits, this following comparison
was much used by him:—
Like a purse that hath no chink in't,
Or a cellar and no drink in't,
Like a jewel never worn,
Or a child untimely born,
Like a song without a foot,
Or a bond and no hand to't,
Such doth she seem unto mine eyes,
That lives a virgin till she dies.
The money doth entice the purse,
The drink in the cellar quencheth thirst,
The jewel decks, if worn it is,
The child soon dies, abortive is;
The end o' the song doth sweetest sound,
The hand doth make the party bound.
So she that marries e'er death takes her,
Answers that for which Nature makes her.
"Women," said he, "are all extremes, either too willing,
or too wilful; too forward or too froward; too courteous or
too coy; too friendly or too fiendly." This made Arminius,
a ruler in Carthage, refuse to marry, saying, "If I marry a
wife, she will be wilful; if wealthy, then wanton; if poor,
then peevish; if beautiful, then proud; if deformed, then
loathsome; and the least of these is able to plague a thousand