: Popular Rhymes And Nursery Tales

The subject of rural charms, many of which are lineal descendants from

those used by our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, is one of great interest and

curiosity; and it were much to be wished that a complete collection of

them were formed. The following one is taken from a manuscript of the

time of Queen Elizabeth; the others are for the most part still in use.

This charme shall be said at night, or against

night, about the place or feild, or about beasts

without feild, and whosoever cometh in, he goeth

not out for certaine.

On three crosses of a tree,

Three dead bodyes did hang;

Two were theeves,

The third was Christ,

On whom our beleife is.

Dismas and Gesmas;

Christ amidst them was;

Dismas to heaven went,

Gesmas to heaven was sent.

Christ that died on the roode,

For Marie's love that by him stood,

And through the vertue of his blood,

Jesus save us and our good,

Within and without,

And all this place about!

And through the vertue of his might,

Lett noe theefe enter in this night

Noe foote further in this place

That I upon goe,

But at my bidding there be bound

To do all things that I bid them do!

Starke be their sinewes therewith,

And their lives mightles,

And their eyes sightles!

Dread and doubt

Them enclose about,

As a wall wrought of stone;

So be the crampe in the ton (toes):

Crampe and crookeing,

And tault in their tooting,

The might of the Trinity

Save these goods and me,

In the name of Jesus, holy benedicite,

All about our goods bee,

Within and without,

And all place about!

Warts.--Whoever will charm away a wart must take a pin and go to an

ash-tree. He then crosses the wart with the pin three times, and,

after each crossing, repeats:

Ash-tree, ashen-tree,

Pray buy this wart of me!

After which he sticks the pin in the tree, and the wart soon disappears,

and grows on the tree instead. This must be done secretly. I need

scarcely observe that the ash is sacred amongst all the Teutonic and

Scandinavian nations.

Another.--Take a bean-shell, and rub the wart with it; then bring the

bean-shell under an ash-tree, and repeat:

As this bean-shell rots away,

So my wart shall soon decay!

This also must be done secretly.

The Hiccup.

Hickup, hickup, go away,

Come again another day:

Hickup, hickup, when I bake,

I'll give to you a butter-cake.

The Ague.--Said on St. Agnes's eve, sometimes up the chimney, by the

oldest female in the family:

Tremble and go!

First day shiver and burn:

Tremble and quake!

Second day shiver and learn:

Tremble and die!

Third day never return.

Cattle.--Reginald Scot relates that an old woman who cured the

diseases of cattle, and who always required a penny and a loaf for her

services, used these lines for the purpose:

My loaf in my lap,

My penny in my purse;

Thou art never the better,

And I am never the worse.

The same writer gives a curious anecdote of a priest who, on one

occasion, went out a-nights with his companions, and stole all the eels

from a miller's weir. The poor miller made his complaint to the same

priest, who desired him to be quiet, for he would so denounce the thief

and his confederates by bell, book, and candle, they should have small

joy of their fish. Accordingly, on the following Sunday, during the

service, he pronounced the following sentences to the congregation:

All you that have stol'n the miller's eels,

Laudate Dominum de caelis;

And all they that have consented thereto,

Benedicamus Domino.

"So," says he, "there is sauce for your eels, my masters!"

"An old woman came into an house at a time whenas the maid was churning

of butter, and having laboured long, and could not make her butter come,

the old woman told the maid what was wont to be done when she was a

maid, and also in her mother's young time, that if it happened their

butter would not come readily, they used a charm to be said over it

whilst yet it was in beating, and it would come straightways, and that

was this:

Come, butter, come,

Come, butter, come;

Peter stands at the gate,

Waiting for a buttered cake;

Come, butter, come!

This, said the old woman, being said three times, will make your butter

come, for it was taught my mother by a learned churchman in Queen

Marie's days; whenas churchmen had more cunning, and could teach people

many a trick that our ministers now-a-days know not."--Ady's Candle in

the Dark, 1656, p. 59.

"There be twenty several ways," says Scot, 1584, "to make your butter

come, which for brevity I omit, as to bind your churn with a rope, to

thrust therein a red-hot spit, &c.; but your best remedy and surest way

is to look well to your dairy-maid or wife, that she neither eat up the

cream, nor sell away your butter."

Effusion of Blood.--From Worcestershire.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem,

Baptized in the river Jordan;

The water was wild and wood,

But he was just and good;

God spake, and the water stood,

And so shall now thy blood.

Charms were formerly always used when wounds were attempted to be cured.

So in the old ballad of Tommy Potts:

Tom Potts was but a serving-man,

But yet he was a doctor good;

He bound his handkerchief on the wound,

And with some words he staunched the blood.

Bed-charm.--The following is one of the most common rural charms that

are in vogue. Boys are taught to repeat it instead of a prayer:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,

Bless the bed that I lay on;

Four corners to my bed,

Four angels round my head,

One at head and one at feet,

And two to keep my soul asleep!

There are many variations of it. Ady, in his Candle in the Dark, 1656,

p. 58, gives the first two lines as having been used by an old woman in

the time of Queen Mary.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,

Bless the bed that I lie on!

All the four corners round about,

When I get in, when I get out!

The two following distiches were obtained from Lancashire, but I cannot

profess to explain them, unless indeed they were written by the Puritans

to ridicule the above:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,

Hold the horse that I leap on!

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,

Take a stick and lay upon!

Burn.--The following charm, repeated three times, was used by an old

woman in Sussex, within the last forty years:

Two angels from the North,

One brought fire, the other brought frost:

Out fire!

In frost!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Pepys has recorded this, with a slight variation, in his Diary, vol. ii.

p. 416.

Thorn.--This rural charm for a thorn was obtained from Yorkshire:

Unto the Virgin Mary our Saviour was born,

And on his head he wore a crown of thorn;

If you believe this true and mind it well,

This hurt will never fester nor swell!

The following one is given by Lord Northampton in his Defensative

against the Poyson of supposed Prophecies, 1583, as having been used by

Mother Joane of Stowe:

Our Lord was the fyrst man

That ever thorne prickt upon;

It never blysted, nor it never belted,

And I pray God nor this not may.

And Pepys, ii. 415, gives another:

Christ was of a virgin born,

And he was pricked with a thorn;

And it did neither bell nor swell,

And I trust in Jesus this never will.

Toothache.--A very common one in the North of England, but I do not

remember to have seen it in print.

Peter was sitting on a marble-stone,

And Jesus passed by;

Peter said, "my Lord, my God,

How my tooth doth ache!"

Jesus said, "Peter art whole!

And whoever keeps these words for my sake

Shall never have the tooth-ache!"[46]

[Footnote 46: It is a fact that within the last

few years the following ignorant copy of this

charm was used by a native of Craven, recorded by

Carr, ii. 264, and I have been informed on

credible authority that the trade of selling

efficacies of this kind is far from obsolete in

the remote rural districts:

"Ass Sant Petter Sat at the Geats of Jerusalem

our blesed Lord and Sevour Jesus Crist Pased

by and Sead, What Eleth thee hee Sead Lord My

Teeth Ecketh he Sead arise and folow Mee and

Thy Teeth shall Never Eake Eney Moor. fiat

+ fiat + fiat +."]

Aubrey gives another charm for this complaint, copied out of one of

Ashmole's manuscripts:

Mars, hurs, abursa, aburse;

Jesu Christ, for Mary's sake,

Take away this tooth-ache!

Against an evil tongue. From Aubrey, 1696, p. 111.--"Take unguentum

populeum and vervain, and hypericon, and put a red-hot iron into it.

You must anoint the backbone, or wear it on your breast. This is printed

in Mr. W. Lilly's Astrology. Mr. H. C. hath try'd this receipt with good


"Vervain and dill

Hinders witches from their will."

Cramp.--From Pepys' Diary, ii. 415:

Cramp, be thou faintless,

As our Lady was sinless,

When she bare Jesus.

Sciatica.--The patient must lie on his back on the bank of a river or

brook of water, with a straight staff by his side between him and the

water, and must have the following words repeated over him--

Bone-shave right,

Bone-shave straight;

As the water runs by the stave,

Good for bone-shave.

The bone-shave is a Devonshire term for the sciatica. See the Exmoor

Scolding, ed. 1839, p. 2.

Night-mare.--The following charm is taken from Scot's Discoverie of

Witchcraft, 1584, p. 87:

S. George, S. George, our ladies knight,

He walkt by daie, so did he by night.

Untill such time as he her found,

He hir beat and he hir bound,

Untill hir troth she to him plight,

She would not come to hir that night.

Sore eyes.--From the same work, p. 246:

The diuell pull out both thine eies,

And etish in the holes likewise.

For rest.--From the same work, p. 260:

In nomine Patris, up and downe,

Et Filii et Spiritus Sancti upon my crowne,

Crux Christi upon my brest;

Sweete ladie, send me eternall rest.

Stopping of Blood.--From the same work, p. 273:

In the bloud of Adam death was taken +

In the bloud of Christ it was all to-shaken +

And by the same bloud I doo thee charge

That thou doo runne no longer at large.

This charm continued in use long after the publication of Scot's work. A

version of it, slightly altered, is given in the Athenian Oracle, 1728,

i. 158, as having been used by a country empyryc.

Evil Spirits.--"When I was a boy," says Aubrey, MS. Lansd. 231, "a

charme was used for (I thinke) keeping away evill spirits, which was to

say thrice in a breath--

"Three blew beanes in a blew bladder,

Rattle, bladder, rattle."

These lines are quoted by Zantippa in Peele's Old Wives Tale, 1595.