There was a jovial Beggar, he had a wooden Leg;
Lame from his Cradle, and forced for to Beg:
Chorus: And a Begging we will go, we'll go, we'll go,
And a begging we will go.
A Bag for my Oatmeal, another for my Salt,
A little pair of Crutches, to see how I can Halt:
A Bag for my Bread, another for my Cheese,
A Little dog to follow me to gather what I leese (lose):
A Bag for my Wheat, another for my Rye,
A little Bottle by my side, to drink when I am dry:
To Pimlico we'll go, where merry we shall be,
With ev'ry Man a Can in's Hand, and a Wench upon his Knee:
And when that we're disposed, we ramble on the Grass,
With long patch'd Coats for to hide a pretty Lass:
Seven years I served, my old Master Wild;
Seven years I begged whilst I was but a Child:
I had the pretty knack, for to wheedle and to cry;
By young and by old, much pitied e'er was I.
Fatherless and Motherless still was my complaint,
And none that ever saw me, but took me for a Saint:
I begg'd for my Master and got him store of Pelf;
But Jove now be praised, I now beg for myself;
Within a hollow Tree, I live and pay no Rent;
Providence provides for me, and I am well content,
Of all Occupations, a Beggar is the best,
For when he is weary, he'll lie him down and rest:
I fear no Plots against me, but live in open Cell:
Why who would be a King, when a Beggar lives so well?
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Source: Palmer, R (1988),The Sound of History, Oxford, OUP
Palmer notes are as follows:
Songs celebrating beggars enjoyed a considerable vogue [in Tudor and Stuart times - DMG]. Richard Brome's play Jovial Crew; or, The Merry Beggars of 1641 had several such pieces. A later edition (of 1684) introduced what is perhaps the most famous of all beggar songs which also appeared as a street ballad.
The tune and metre were taken up and widely used in other songs, and versions of "The Beggar's Chorus" remained in oral tradition until at least 1952.
Roud: 286 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six
Related Songs: A Beggin' I Will Go (thematic)