A version of this article was published in English Dance and Song volume 66, part 4
Published here by permission of the current editor, Derek Schofield

Bawdy Songs 3: Oh, you tease!

The final part in this trilogy of articles on the history of bawdy themes.  We have here another theme which very likely goes back beyond the invention of printing.  I have always referred to these songs as teasing songs, i.e. in which a bawdy word, made obvious by an earlier rhyme and the sense of the preceding words, is either omitted or replaced by an innocent word often starting with the same letter(s).  A simple example is the following which we sang in the playgrounds of my youth to a Spanish waltz tune.

There was a young farmer who sat on a rick,
Ranting and raving and waving his -
Arms to the people who sat on the walls,
Teaching their children to play with their -
Bowstrings and kite strings as in days of yore,
When along came a lady who looked like a -
Decent young lady who walked like a duck,
Who said she'd invented a new way to -
Educate children to read and to write,
While the parents in the farmyard were shovelling -
Refuse from the back garden round to the front,
While the maids in the tavern plucked hairs from their -
Pullovers and jumpers (just for their health),
If you want any more you can sing it yourself.
I had to fill in the bit in brackets as my memory failed me.  If you know any more please send it in to us and we will append it to the article. There are of course many more relatively modern examples; Lulu had a baby, My old man's a dustman, As I was going by St Paul's, Sweet Violets, etc.

The earliest example I can find is in Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscript of Loose and Humorous Songs, p.89, probably from the Elizabethan period, though had I access to the great manuscript collections in libraries around the country no doubt I could have found earlier examples.  The song is titled A Ffreinde of Mine. I omit the first two stanzas which merely serve as an intro, and the manuscript gives both the intended bawdy word, which I have omitted, and the substitute tease word.

It was my chance not long agoe, by a pleasant wood to walke,
Wheere I vnseen of any one did heare tow louers talke;
& as these louers forth did passe, hard by a pleasant shade,
Hard by a mighty Pine tree there, their resting place they made.

“Insooth,” then did this youngman say, “I thinke this ffragrant place
Was only made for louers true eche others to inbrace.”
Hee tooke her by the middle small, good sooth I doe not mocke,
Not meaning to doe any thing but to pull vpp her -blocke

Wheron she sate, poor silly soule, to rest her weary bones.
This maid shee was noe whitt affraiyd, but shee caught him ffast by the -thumbes;
Wheratt he vext & greiued was, soe that his fflesh did wrinkle;
This maid shee was noe whitt affrayd, but caught him fast hold by the -pimple (pintle)

Which hee had on his chin likewise; but let the pimple passe;
There is no man heare but he may supposse shee weere a merry lasse.
He boldly ventured, being tall, yet in his speech but blunt,
Hee neuer ceast, but tooke vpp all, & cacht her by the -plumpe

And red rose lipps he kisst full sweete: Quoth shee, “I craue no succour.”
Which made him to haue a mighty mind to clip, kisse, & to -plucke her
Into his armes. “Nay! Soft!” quoth shee, “What needeth all this doing?
Ffor if you wilbe ruled by me, you shall vse small time in wooinge.

“Ffor I will lay me downe,” quoth shee, “vpon the slippery seggs,
& all my clothes Ile trusse vp round, & spread abroad my -eggs,
Which I haue in my aperne heare vnder my girdle tuckt;
Soe shall I be most ffine & braue, most ready to be -ducket

“Vnto some pleasant springing well; ffor now itts time of the yeere
To decke, & bath, & trim ourselues both head, hands, ffeet & geere.”
There are several examples to be found in Pepys Collection of Broadside Ballads.  The first is A Ship-load of Waggery from Vol.4, p.177, printed by P Brooksby c.1683-4.  I give stanzas 5,6,7 and 10.
A ship must have a buntlin to hawl up her bunt,
And a maid must have a youngman to tickle her -
            Top and top gallant a ship she sails trimly,
            Maids, if they be not pleased they'll frown and look grimly.

A ship must have a mast; a long, strong, and strait stick,
And a maid must have a youngman with a lusty long -
            Top and top etc.

A ship must be well victuall'd with meat without bones,
And a maid would have a youngman with a stout pair of -
            Top and top etc.

When a ship is under sail we do wish her good luck,
And a maid under a youngman we wish her a good -
            Top and top etc.
The Helpless Maidens Call to the Batchellors is from Vol.5, p.195.  It has an answer in much the same vein on the following page, A New Song, Call'd The Batchellor's Answer to the Helpless Maiden.  They were both printed by T.M. in 1691 and both have the same tune printed on the sheet.  Just in case anyone notices the conspicuous metre of the song as possibly belonging to the Admiral Benbow/Captain Kidd/Jack Hall family, the tune given is nothing like this and has a very art-music look to it.  I give here stanzas 5, 6 and 7 from p195 and if anyone thinks I've selected the most salacious stanzas, I'm simply omitting those that use obscure words which would lose their effect to modern minds.
Come let us do then you know what, you know what, you know what,
Come let us do then you know what,
Why may not I endure the brunt, I know a younger girl has done't,
I'me sure I have as good a -
You know what, you know what, I'me sure I have as good a courage.

So fain wou'd I have that I love, that I love, that I love,
So fain wou'd I have that I love,
For if by chance I shou'd fall sick, he wou'd not fail me in the nick,
To give me proof of his good -
That I love, that I love, to give me proof of his good meaning.

Sweet if thou lov'st me there again, there again, there again,
Sweet if thou lov'st me there again'
Few maids have met with so good luck as to encounter the first pluck,
Oh this wou'd tempt young girls to -
There again, there again, oh! This would tempt young girls to marry.
Moving on to the 18th century, as one would expect, there are plenty of examples in D'Urfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy of 1719 (although some would have appeared in earlier editions of the late 17th century).  At p.196 of Vol.4 can be found The Country Wake from which I've selected stanza 4.  The frollicks/bollocks rhyme is also echoed in the more recent oral song The Molecatcher.
Then rustling Joan came brustling in
And said, “You are vull of your froliks;
If you will not let black Maggy alone,
Beshrew she will take you by th' bald-pate.”
In Vol.6, p.265 Tom Tinker has a full-blown use of the teasing style but we only have room for the first two stanzas and the last stanza (13th).
Tom Tinker's my true love, and I am his dear,
And I will go with him his budget to bear;
For of all the young men he has the best luck,
All the day he will fuddle, at night he will -
        This way, that way, which way you will,
        I am sure I say nothing that you can take ill.

With hammer on kettle he tabbers all day,
At night he will tumble on strumil or hay;
He calls me his jewel, his delicate duck,
And then he will take up my smicket to -
        This way etc.

I met with a fiddler, a fiddling aloud,
He told me he had lost the case of his croud;
I being good natur'd as I was wont,
Told him he should make a case of my -
        This way, and that way, and which way you can,
        For the fairest of women will lye with a man.
The popularity of these songs never seems to have waned as the nineteenth century also produced many of the type.  Most of the following examples can be found in the Madden Collection of broadsides in Cambridge University Library, (microfilm copy in the VWML).  In the 1840s John Harkness of Preston printed The Doctor (Madden 18, Country Printers 3, item 793) and in this we have one of the true teasing songs of the type we commenced with, in which the bawdy word is replaced immediately with the first word of the next line, starting with the same letter to prolong the tease. The first stanza will suffice.
I am a doctor just set up, to cure young ladies when they're sick,
And the best remedy I can find, is a good stiff standing -
Post to the tavern I went one night, to spend a little money;
I met with a girl that was kind and free, and she asked me to play with her
Come sit down and drink all round, with a free good will to werry,
And he who will not a cuckold be, should never intend to marry.
Similarly Love's Delight (no imprint) (Madden, Country Printers 4, item 72) has the mid stanza tease in the style of the previous song, but not all of the stanza end teases are continued into the next line. Again stanza one.
Of all delights that's in the town, give me a wanton lass;
For when with me she does lie down, she begins to wriggle her -
Articles between parties made, both sides must stand the blunt;
But of all the pleasing sights in town, give me a pretty maid's -
In Madam Sneak (printer, Sleath of Stony Stratford) (Madden, Country printers 4, item 195) we have a very common tease where the obvious tease, repeated at the end of each stanza, is immediately replaced by the chorus, often a nonsense one.  Similar songs such as Artichokes and Cauliflowers and Cock-a-doodle-do are quite common in oral tradition but not quite as ribald as some of the more explicit examples.
'Twas on a frosty night as Madam Sneak and I,
Went out to take a walk the country air to try,
I scarce had got ten yards when crossing o'er a pass,
Then went my wife's heels & the ice cut all her -
        Rum si, bum si, bay, & c.
A similar song, Wop she 'ad it-I-o, is in the Copper Family repertoire.  Another later example of which there are several different versions by different printers is Brighton Chain Pier (See for example madden 21, Country Printers 6, item 64, printed by Green of Birmingham) to the tune of Love's Ritornella. I give the first two stanzas of twelve.
I once know'd a gemman at Brighton last year,
His hobby was bathing close by the chain pier;
Every morning he'd go, when he felt rather sick,
To enjoy the salt water, and show people his -
Perfection in swimming, with grace so combined,
He was full of vigour before and behind.

He would dive like a dolphin, come up like a cod.
The ladies astonish'd, exclaiming, 'How odd!',
He would float on his back and for crabs he would hunt,
Then he'd imitate a woman washing her -
Clothes out so tidy-deny it who dare,
What a beautiful figure-what rough curly hair.
This song and its second part were in the repertoire of Henry Burstow, a prolific Sussex singer from the early 20th century, and a verse turns up in a book of Liverpool children's rhymes You know me Anty Nelly by Frank Shaw, 1970.

I finish with the whole of an excellent example from oral tradition in John Bell's Song Collection, edited by Dave Harker for The Surtees Society, p.253, Country Lasses Kisses Sweet.

Thine and mine for a pint of wine, we'll lay it up for supper,
And he is a fool if he does not fuf fuf -
Frown upon her countenance and make her for to grant.
“Aha,” said she, “you have tickled me a little below the cung, cung, cung
Country lasses kisses sweet and so does a frost in winter,
And bread and butter piping hot is a good bait for a tinker.”

Bragwell had as fine a dog as ever you did see,
And he sent him home to his mistress to bear her company.
Although it happened on a day he began for to hunt,
And round about his mistress' coats he laps into her cung, cung -
Country lasses kisses sweet when they lie all at length,
And before that they do rise again they will deprive you of your strength.

O how could you wish me so much harm and counted never a wrinkle,
For if she had not been more swifter than she she would have catched him by the pim, pim, pim, pim, pim -
Pinching goes by favour , boys, as it did ever still,
If that he hadn't been more swifter than she she might have got his will.

And some do wed for providence and other some for plucking,
But wiser's the lass that marries the lad for a belly full of fuf, fuf, fuf, fuf
Flumery is a dainty dish and it is as soon spent,
But fish and flesh is a far better dish for to feed a maid in lent.
And some do wed for providence and other some for riches,
But wise is the lass that marries the lad that rowes her in his brea, brea -
Bringing up of his children dear at schools the time of youth,
And when they come to perfect age they are declared a man of truth.
Here the tension is heightened by the stutter when the performer comes to the tease word.  Note the use of rhymes 'wrinkle' and 'pintle' in stanza three which can also be found in our earliest example stanza three.  I have taken the liberty of standardising some of the dialect words.  This was sung by Hugh Jameson, September 2nd 1761, and Dave adds, 'Interestingly, an attempt seems to have been made to scratch out the singer's name.'

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