A Gage Of Ben Rom-Bouse

A Gage Of Ben Rom-Bouse
By MIDDLETON and DEKKER in “The Roaring Girl” V, 1. Sung by Moll-Cut-purse and Tearcat a bullying rogue..

Moll. Come you rogue, sing with me:—

A gage of ben Rom-bouse,1 A pot of strong ale (or wine)
In a bousing-ken of Rom-vile2 London ale-house

Tearcat. Is benar than a Caster,3 better than a cloak
Peck, pennam, lap, or popler,4 meat, bread, drink, or porridge
Which we mill in deuse a vile.5 steal on the country-side.

Moll. Oh, I wud lib all the lightmans,6 lie all day
Oh, I woud lib all the darkemans,7 night
By the Salomon, under the Ruffemans8 By the mass! in the woods
By the Salomon in the Hartmans9 stocks

Tearcat. And scoure the queer cramp ring10 in fetters
And couch till a palliard dock’d my dell,11 Notes
So my bousy nab might skew rome bouse well12 addle-pate may swill strong drink
Avast to the pad, let us bing;13 Let us be off on the road.
Avast to the pad, let us bing.


Thomas Middleton, another of the galaxy of Elizabethan writers contributing so many sidelights on Shakspeare’s life and times, is supposed to have been of gentle birth. He entered Gray’s Inn about 1593 and was associated with Dekker in the production of The Roaring Girl, probably having the larger share in the composition. Authorities concur in tracing Dekker’s hand in the canting scenes, but less certainly elsewhere. The original of Moll Cut-purse was a Mary Frith (1584—1659), the daughter of a shoemaker in the Barbican. Though carefully brought up she was particularly restive under discipline, and finally became launched as a “bully, pickpurse, fortune-teller, receiver and forger” in all of which capacities she achieved considerable notoriety. As the heroine of The Roaring Girl Moll is presented in a much more favorable light than the facts warrant.

Line 11. And couch till a palliard docked my dell = (literally) ‘And lie quiet while a beggar deflowered my girl’, but here probably = while a beggar fornicates with my mistress.

Taken from Musa Pedestris, Three Centuries of Canting Songs and Slang Rhymes [1536―1896], collected and annotated by John S. Farmer.

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Rhymes Of The Canting Crew.
The Beggar’s Curse
Towre Out Ben Morts
The Maunder’s Wooing
A Gage Of Ben Rom-Bouse
Bing Out, Bien Morts
The Song Of The Beggar
The Maunder’s Initiation
The High Pad’s Boast
The Merry Beggars
A Mort’s Drinking Song
A Beggar I’ll Be
A Budg And Snudg Song
The Maunder’s Praise Of His Strowling Mort
The Rum-Mort’s Praise Of Her Faithless Maunder
. . .