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Broadside ballad entitled 'The Rime of the Ancient Harridan'
THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT HARRIDAN,
OR THE PROVOST'S TAX.
(Apologizing to the shade of Coleridge.)
It is an ancient harridan,
A Provost stoppeth she;
"There is a tax"?At that dread word,
"Let go thy hold, thou beldam old,
"I consort not with witches vile,
She clutched him closer than before,
He cannot choose but stand;
The red haired harridan.
"I am the State, your mistress dear,
To whom you once did pay,
The homage of your youthful vows.
"Unhand me, ancicnt Harridan,
Uncleek thy filthy claws !
Am I not rich? therefore immune
She grinned a hideous grin,
And clutched him closer than before,
"There is a tax, a golden fee,
Which all my lovers pay,
A hundred times a day.
The law rests lightly on the rich,
Who dwell in gilded hall,
May flout my statutes all.
The law bears heavy on the poor,
A thing of daily dread.
And tears and scanty bread ;
And weighs it down like lead.
A hungry workman takes a hare
My sharp clutch closes on him and
To prison straight he's ta'en.
When he has given me gold,
Can any day go forth and slay.
Strong drink it is the poor man's bane,
A demon stark and fell,
It binds his soul with a burning chain,
I have decreed, to sell strong drink
Is crime and mortal sin ;
The sin may wailow in.
It is a crime with love to sit
At nature's altar feast.
But fee the state and you may sate
For gold it is my greatest need.
It gives me magic power,
And eke from hour to hour. '
With gold I arm the workman poor.
Aud pay him wretched fee,
In lands accross the sea:
While you for whom 'tis done may loll
In case and luxury:
With gold I bribe the hireling scribe
The parson, eke, so smug and sleek,
To blind the workers' eyes,
In a future paradise.
And thus divert their minds inert
From present ills and pains,
Asunder burst their chains ;
The causeway with our brains.
My craft and guile alone preserve
I stand between the worthless drones
Then grudge no more to give me gold,
But curb your stupid greed,
Sees your own doom decreed,
Aud human labour stand upright,
He gave the gruesome harlot gold.
And to his home was borne,
He rose the morrow morn.
Dundee; Lowden Macartney, Publisher, the Poets' Box, 184 Overgate,
Probable period of publication:
1880-1900 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(54)