1787 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ann Yearsley

Anonymous, "Verses said to be written by an old Washer-woman to a young Milk-woman" Bath Chronicle (13 September 1787).



For BRISTOL MILK of old 'tis said,
Were Bristol Cits well known;
Imported — from the fam'd Nag's Head,
Consign'd — unto their own.

But milk — their Helicon of late,
Loth from its source to part;
Still springs from PEGASUS' own pate,
And flows — to ev'ry heart.

So, hap'ly flow'd — the smitten rock,
In HOREB'S barren land;
So drank old Israel's wond'ring flock,
Thirsting — to understand.

No more the tasteless TOLZEY shows
Base Traffick's anxious crew,
But like a land of promise flows
With milk and honey too.

From trips to port Parnassus made
Arriv'd new merchandize;
And op'd that sweetest Sugar Trade,
"Commercing with the skies."

As PHOEBUS sipp'd LACTILLA'S strain,
Thus smack'd his lips divine:
"Thy hand no mortal teats shou'd drain,
'Twas form'd to milk — MY NINE.

"True taste must still thy dish enjoy,
Thy measures all must please;
Nor thou, like BRISTOL'S bardish Boy,
Put off old fusty cheese.

"Safe from the mumbling swinish herd,
Who 'mid stale garbage prey;
Who grunt around OLD ROWLIE'S curd,
Eke whine about his whey.

"Unchilled shall flow thy silver stream,
Nor taint in sultry hour;
No cloying flatt'ry clout thy Cream,
Nor Satyr turn thee sour.

"Pure as thy pail each thought appear,
Nor shall it e'er be said,
Tho' sweet thy milk through all the year,
'Twas ever kept — in lead.

"Thy draught shall VINCENT'S FOUNT surpass,
Yet not thy cup convey
The meagre froth of moping ass,
Nor CAMBRIA'S rank Goat's Whey.

"Thy paps shall pour Pierian streams,
For Wisdom's urchin race;
Her sucklings skim thy virt'ous themes,
And thrive like Babes of Grace.

"Roll'd with the Tribe of Heav'nly Hue,
To Fame's proud buskin rise;
In stockings of immortal blue,
Trudge onward to the skies.

"From pail, from stool, from bestial race,
Thy milk-white soul shall stray;
And shine our brightest star, to grace
The Heav'ns' own milky way."