Wednesday 18 May 2011

Irriguous Poetry

Much of the time this blog is merely an excuse to quote poetry. It's like a money laundering joint, with etymology at the front and stacks of used verses in the back room. So today's word is irriguous which means moistened, and comes from the same root as irrigated. I came across the irriguous in an obscure eighteenth century poem by a chap called Lord Dreghorn who was hopelessly in love with his housemaid.

He writes so sweetly of how she won't have sex with him even for money, of how she's hit him with a broom, a mop and a frying pan, of how he spies on her when she's bathing, and of how love has made him loathe his greenhouse.

Lord Dreghorn is also very good with his compound adjectives: tub-enclosed, coal-fraught, turf-kindled, heiress-married, art-created and fortune-hunting.

In fact, I shall copy out the whole thing, just for you, dear reader, just for you.

Nor Hammond's love, nor Shenstone's was sincere,
For, they, though poor, to high-born maids laid claim;
A handsome house-maid causes my despair,
And Nelly, not Neaera, is her name.

What though devoid of all coquettish care,
Bare-footed she, except on Sundays, goes,
To wash her hands forgets, and comb her hair,
Nor with her fingers scorns to blow her nose?

On ev'ry feature and on ev'ry limb,
Beauty and strength have lavished all their care;
A food too rich is skim-milk cheese for him
That would with her the city-flirt compare.

In vain, to win her, proffered oft have I
The gaudy ribbon, and the curious lace,
In vain displayed, to her relentless eye
The guinea's seldom unsuccessful face.

Repulsed, I often have indignant sworn;
Some freedoms often struggled hard to force;
But soon, too soon, severely checked forbore,
She more enraged, and my reception worse.

The brimful milking-pail, the empty can,
Th' unwieldy besom, big with prickly fate;
The nauseous mop, and hissing frying-pan,
Have fall'n, vindictive, on my guardless pate.

Yet I, infatuate! pursue her still;
Happy to lurk, insidious, and unseen,
Among the willows, nurslings of the rill,
That winds irriguous, through the washing-green;

For there, with forcible alternate tread,
From the soaked linen ev'ry stain to press,
The tub-enclosed, and unsuspecting maid,
Furls, unashamed, th' impediments of dress.

This scene augments my ardour to proceed,
Nor from the heart her cruelty to me;
Nay, she acknowledged once it did proceed,
Not from dislike, but difference of degree.

‘Tis true, for though she spurns my fond address,
Yet to her equals is no coyness shown;
She, unconstrained, will Tom the gard’ner kiss,
Toy, romp and wanton with the ploughman John.

Heav’n knows, for thee, sole mistress of my heart!
I to the meanest station would descend,
Drive whistling cheerfully the coal-fraught cart,
Or buttered milk from unscoured barrels vend.

With scanty wages and with weekly meal,
A thatch-roofed cottage and turf-kindled fire,
Content and happy, I through life would steal,
Nor envy once the heiress-married squire.

By thee rejected me my fields no more,
No more, my art-created gardens please;
I loathe my greenhouse, so admired before,
And undelighted wander through my trees.

Since I in grief must pine my youth away,
If disappointed of this virtuous maid,
How weak, how foolish, is it to delay,
The low, but lovely villager to wed.

What would my parents, what my kindred say?
What defamation would I undergo,
At rout, ball, concert, opera and play,
The jest of ev’ry fortune-hunting beau!

No four-wheel chaise, of nice new-fashioned shape,
Would ever stop at my dishonoured house;
No well-dressed footman, with tremendous rap,
Announce a visit to my humble spouse.

Fond youth, t’indulge the mean idea cease,
A flame disgraceful to extinguish strive,
And bear resigned, when, of the jolly piece,
A country-wedding shall they hopes deprive.

The besom filled with prickly fate is, by the way, a broom (here used by Nell as a weapon). I looked up Lord Dreghorn in the Dictionary of National Biography. I hoped desperately to find that he had married an Eleanor, but no. Two years after that poem was written Lord Dreghorn married a woman called Esther Cunninghame and had ten children.

The guinea's seldom unsuccessful face

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