Villon’s Straight Tip To All Cross Coves

Villon’s Straight Tip To All Cross Coves

Tout aux tavernes et aux filles


Suppose you screeve, or go cheap-jack? 1 See Notes for translation
  Or fake the broads? or fig a nag?
Or thimble-rig? or knap a yack?
  Or pitch a snide? or smash a rag?
  Suppose you duff? or nose and lag?
Or get the straight, and land your pot?
  How do you melt the multy swag?
Booze and the blowens cop the lot.


Fiddle, or fence, or mace, or mack;
  Or moskeneer, or flash the drag;
Dead-lurk a crib, or do a crack;
  Pad with a slang, or chuck a fag;
  Bonnet, or tout, or mump and gag;
Rattle the tats, or mark the spot
  You cannot bank a single stag:
Booze and the blowens cop the lot.


Suppose you try a different tack,
  And on the square you flash your flag?
At penny-a-lining make your whack,
  Or with the mummers mug and gag?
  For nix, for nix the dibbs you bag
At any graft, no matter what!
  Your merry goblins soon stravag:
Booze and the blowens cop the lot.

The Moral.

It’s up-the-spout and Charley-Wag
  With wipes and tickers and what not!
Until the squeezer nips your scrag,
  Booze and the blowens cop the lot.


William Ernest Henley, poet, critic, dramatist, and editor was born at Gloucester in 1849, and educated at the same city. In his early years (says Men of the Time) he suffered much from ill-health, and the first section of his Book of Verses (1888: 4th ed. 1893), In Hospital: Rhymes and Rhythms, was a record of experiences in the Old Infirmary, Edinburgh, in 1873-5. In 1875 he began writing for the London magazines, and in 1877 was one of the founders as well as the editor of London. In this journal much of his early verse appeared. He was afterwards appointed editor of The Magazine of Art, and in 1889 of The Scots, afterwards The National Observer. To these journals, as well as to The Athenaeum and Saturday Review he has contributed many critical articles, a selection of which was published in 1890 under the title of Views and Reviews. In collaboration with Robert Louis Stevenson he has published a volume of plays, one of which, Beau Austin, was produced at the Haymarket Theatre in 1892. His second volume of verses—The Song of the Sword—marks a new departure in style. He has edited a fine collection of verses, Lyra Heroica, and, with Mr. Charles Whibley, an anthology of English prose. In 1893 Mr. Henley received the honour of an L.L.D. degree of St. Andrew’s university. At the present time he is also editing The New Review, a series of Tudor Translations, a new Byron, a new Burns, and collaborating with Mr. J. S. Farmer in Slang and its Analogues; an historical dictionary of slang.


Stanza I, line I. Screeve = provide (or work with) begging-letters. Line 2. Fake the broads = pack the cards. Fig a nag = play the coper with an old horse and a fig of ginger. Line 3. Knap a yack = steal a watch. Line 4. Pitch a snide = pass a false coin. Smash a rag = change a false note. Line 5. Duff = sell sham smugglings. Nose and lag = collect evidence for the police. Line 6. Get the straight = get the office, and back a winner. Line 7. Multy (expletive) = “bloody”. Line 8. Booze and the blowens cop the lot: cf. “’Tis all to taverns and to lasses.” (A. Lang).

Stanza II, line 1. Fiddle = swindle. Fence = deal in stolen goods. Mace = welsh. Mack = pimp. Line 2. Moskeneer = to pawn for more than the pledge is worth. Flash the drag = wear women’s clothes for an improper purpose. Line 3. Dead-lurk a crib = house-break in church time. Do a crack—burgle with violence. Line 4. Pad with a slang = tramp with a show. Line 5. Mump and gag = beg and talk. Line 6. Tats = dice. Spot, (at billiards). Line 7. Stag = shilling.

Stanza III, line 2. Flash your flag = sport your apron. Line 4. Mug = make faces. Line 5. Nix = nothing. Line 6. Graft = trade. Line 7. Goblins = sovereigns. Stravag = go astray.

The Moral.: Up the spout and Charley Wag = expressions of dispersal. Line 2. Wipes = handkerchiefs. Tickers = watches. Line 3. Squeezer = halter. Scrag = neck.

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

previous * next


. . .
The By-Blow Of The Jug
The Cadger’s Ball
Dear Bill, This Stone-Jug
The Leary Man
A Hundred Stretches Hence
The Chickaleary Cove
Blooming Æsthetic
’Arry at a Political Picnic
Rum Coves that Relieve us
Villon’s Good-Night
Villon’s Straight Tip To All Cross Coves
Culture in the Slums
A Plank-Bed Ballad
The Rondeau of the Knock
The Rhyme of the Rusher
Wot Cher!
Our Little Nipper
The Coster’s Serenade