Home | Slavery | Places | Cornwall | Gamlingay | Guernsey | Bookshop | Contact | Site Index

Peter Pindar: "A Story"

Peter Pindar was the pen-name of John Wolcot (1738-1819) a doctor from Truro who achieved some fame in the 1780s through his gift for comic verse, in particular, verse that poked fun at the foibles of the court and royal family. Wolcot's lasting legacy is his observation that George III said 'what what' a lot. Very little of his verse mentions Cornwall: this is an exception. As well as the places mentioned (Launceston and Penzance) he addresses the 'country lasses' with the Cornish motto 'One and All'. His expansiveness is rejected, however, as the young ladies are less interested in being guided around the cathedral by an older compatriot, and more interested in shopping. The poem ends with a parody of the fashionable sentimental idiom, as we are asked to share a tear with the Cornishman-turned-Londoner who is unable to share his intellectual and aesthetic passions with his compatriots. The pastoral conventions of a virtuous rural life contrasted with corrupt city life are thus turned on their head, as the rural dwellers reject both art and religion in favour of commerce, while the urbanite weeps for the lost opportunity to escort young women around a house of worship. The impending darkness is not merely diurnal: it seems spiritual as well.


A Story

Walking one afternoon along the Strand,
My wondering eyes did suddenly expand
Upon a pretty leash of Country Lasses.
'Heavens! my dear beauteous Angels, how d'ye do?
Upon my soul I'm monstrous glad to see ye.'—
'Swinge! Peter, we are glad to meet with you;
We're just to London come: well pray how be ye?
'We're just a going, while 'tis dark.
Lord! come, for once be so polite,
And condescend to be our Spark.'—

'With all my heart, my Angels.'—On we walk'd,
And much of London, much of Cornwall, talk'd.
Now did I hug myself to think
How much that glorious Structure would surprise;
How much from its awful Grandeur they would shrink
With open mouths and marv'ling eyes

As near to Ludgate-Hill we drew,
Saint Paul's just opeing on our view;
Behold, my lovely Strangers, one and all,
Gave, all at once, a diabolical Squawl;
As if they had been tumbled on the stones,
And some confounded cart had crush'd their bones.

After well frightening people with their cries,
And sticking to a Ribbon-shop their eyes,
They all rush'd in, with sounds enough to stun,
And, clattering all together, thus begun:
'Swinge! here are Colours then, to please;
Delightful things, I vow to Heaven:
Why, not to see such things as these,
We never should have been forgiven.

'Here, here, are clever things: good Lord!
And, Sister, here, upon my word;
Here, here, look; here are beauties to delight:
Why, how a body's heels might dance
Along from Launceston to Penzance,
Before that one might meet with such a sight!'—

'Come, Ladies, 'twill be dark,' cried I, 'I fear:
Pray let us view St Paul's, it is so near.'—
'Lord! Peter,' cried the Girls, 'don't mind Saint Paul;
Sure you're a most incurious soul:
Why, we can see the Church another day;
Don't be afraid; Saint Paul's can't run away.'

If e'er thy bosom felt a thought sublime,
Drop tears of pity with the Man of Rhyme.


Cornish Poetry Index Page | Main Cornwall and the Cornish Page