Special Sub-Topic: Anatomy of a Poem: 'A Smuggler's Song'
|In the first line of the poem 'A Smuggler's Song', the listener is exhorted not to look out of the window, should they hear hooves when they wake at what time? Hint: The witching hour.|
Midnight. "If you wake at Midnight, and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street."
The poem comes from Kipling's book 'Puck of Pook's Hill' a collection of short stories set in and around English history. Specifically, it comes from 'Hal o' the Draft', which involves the famous Italian explorer Sebastian Cabot and the High Admiral of Scotland, Andrew Barton, unfairly hanged as a pirate. The poem is about smugglers, who evaded high taxes and duties on luxury goods.
|The next line of 'A Smuggler's Song' is a paraphrase of an idiom. So,
"Them that asks no questions isn't told a ___"? |
Lie. "Them that ask no questions isn't told a lie"
Probably the first instance of this comes in 1773 from Oliver Goldsmith's 'She Stoops to Conquer', where the quote is "Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies". It means - don't ask me, and I won't have to lie to you!
Smuggling started in England in approximately 1300, when Edward I placed a duty on exporting wool. In the 1670s twenty thousand packs of wool were smuggled to Calais every year. That's a lot of wool! This went on until the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the French customers could buy wool from Ireland at about the same price.
|How many ponies were trotting though the dark in 'A Smuggler's Song'? Hint: Not trombones, dalmatians or a space odyssey.|
25. "Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark"
In the first third of the eighteenth century, duties on luxury goods from Europe meant that the smuggling began into England. A book by Richard Platt, 'Smuggling in the British Isles', details in the custom house letters the following goods and the horses that carried them:
"20 May 70 horses with dry goods landed at Sizewell
27 May 27 horses with wet goods and 36 loaded with tea landed at Sizewell
11 June 60 horses most with brandy, 53 with tea
2 July 83 horses with tea, 9 waggon loads wet goods
12 July 50 horses tea
17 Sept 120 horses - 100 smugglers
10 Nov 50 horses dry goods, 1 cart w/wet goods
23 Nov at least 40 horses, mostly dry goods"
|What were the smugglers in 'A Smuggler's Song' bringing for the parson? Hint: according to Numbers 6:3 (NIV) the parson should not be receiving this!|
Brandy. "Brandy for the Parson"
Up until the end of eighteenth century, it is believed that half a million gallons of brandy were being smuggled annually through Cornwall alone! The verse referenced in the hint is "he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins." Brandy is made by
distilling wine, which is made by fermenting grapes.
|What are they bringing for the clerk in 'A Smuggler's Song'? Hint and Warning: Overindulgence can lead to emphesyma, impotence and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) amongst other things.|
'Baccy. "'Baccy for the Clerk"
'Baccy is, of course, tobacco. Tobacco is of the genus Nicotiana - named after the French Ambassador to Portugal, Jean Nicot. He sent it as medicine to the court of Catherine de Medici at the end of the sixteenth century. Before you scoff at the idea of tobacco as medicine, scientists believe that genetically modified tobacco may be of use in treating diabetes and other inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
|In 'A Smuggler's Song', what are they bringing for 'a lady'? Hint: Could be Valenciennes, Nottingham or Chantilly.|
Lace. "Laces for a lady"
In 1773, the Customs men near Hythe, Kent, seized a valuable haul of French silks and laces worth £15,000 (approximately the value of the tea dumped into Boston harbour - and look what that led to!) - worth over £600,000 ($1,000,000) today.
|In 'A Smuggler's Song', who are they bringing letters for? |
Spy & a spy. "letters for a spy"
Following the French Revolution, espionage activity between France and England increased, and this continued through the Napoleonic wars. Although not smuggled, the story of the Queen's necklace shows how letters affected the start of the French Revolution.
|According to 'A Smuggler's Song'. you should watch the wall when who go by? Hint: Their name does not appear in the poem's title.|
The Gentlemen. "And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!"
Many regions of England are extremely proud of their smuggling past - including Cornwall, the Cinque Ports, East Yorkshire - in fact, virtually anywhere that has a coast! There are also famous books in literature about smuggling, including 'Jamaica Inn', the Doctor Syn books by Russell Thorndike and 'Moonfleet'.
|If you happen to be running around the woodlump, 'A Smuggler's Song' cautions you not to bother about something you might find, not to play with them and to put the "brishwood" (brushwood) back, and it'll be gone tomorrow. So, what do the little barrels contain?|
Brandy-wine. "Running round the woodlump if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine,
Don't you shout to come and look, nor use 'em for your play.
Put the brishwood back again - and they'll be gone next day!"
The original full name of brandy was brandy-wine, from the Dutch for 'burnt wine' - brandewijn. Of the wrong answers, chocolate, puppies and cacti, whilst very desirable, are unlikely to be transported in barrels of any size.
|According to 'A Smuggler's Song', what might you see if the stable door is open?|
A tired horse. "If you see the stable-door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside."
Horses were widely used by smugglers and often 'borrowed' from farmers - sometimes encouraged by practices that smack rather nastily of protection rackets - farmers who refused on the grounds that an exhausted horse was of little use for work often found mysteriously combusting hayricks, sick sheep or pieces of black line strung between trees at neck height. Farmers that acquiesced were rewarded with a keg of brandy. Smugglers shaved and soaped their horses to evade capture and sometimes taught horses to obey contrary instructions. Stopped by an exciseman, a smuggler's apparently innocent 'Whoah' would cause the horse to gallop into the distance!
|"If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining's wet and warm - don't you ask no more!"
In which series of novels by Winston Graham, set in Cornwall, does the main protagonist indulge in smuggling?
Poldark. In the Poldark series, Ross not only tries to protect his friends from the consequences of their wrongdoing, but is not averse to smuggling himself. The wrong answers are all series of books by Wilbur Smith. The Poldark books were made into a memorable TV series by the BBC, starring Ross Ellis and Angharad Rees.
|Which King's men is the girl in 'A Smuggler's Song' cautioned to beware of? |
George. "If you meet King George's men, dressed in blue and red,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you "pretty maid," and chuck you 'neath the chin,
Don't you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one's been!"
This probably refers to King George III, who was King during most of the Napoleonic Wars, during which duties became very high to pay for the wars. The British Army is known as 'the thin red line' because of their uniforms (before camouflage was considered a good idea). None of the wrong answers have been a King of England (especially Kalakaua, the last King of Hawaii).
|The girl in 'A Smuggler's Song' is warned that there might be strange noises in the night - which is not one of them?|
Beagle barks. "Knocks and footsteps round the house - whistles after dark"
Interestingly, "owl noises" is not one of the things that Kipling quotes, despite the fact that in Kent (at least) smugglers were known as 'owlers' - possibly because of the noises they used to communicate (although there are also theories that this may be a corruption of the word 'wooller' (wool smuggler) or referring to the fact that they worked at night).
|In 'A Smuggler's Song', what are the names of the house dogs that do not bark when the smugglers are about?|
Trusty and Pincher. "You've no call for running out till the house-dogs bark.
Trusty's here, and Pincher's here, and see how dumb they lie -
They don't fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by!"
It is no exaggeration to say that in many areas, nearly all the inhabitants were involved with or benefiting from smuggling. So even the dogs would be used to the smugglers. Hopefully none of you fell for cartoon mice, me or the Funtrivia.com creator!
|Should the young lady remember all that she is told in the poem 'A Smuggler's Song', what might she receive from the smugglers?|
A French doll wearing velvet and lace. "If you do as you've been told, 'likely there's a chance,
You'll be given a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood -
A present from the Gentlemen, along o' being good!"
The wrong answers, I am afraid, were not around then. I hope that you have enjoyed the quiz and have learnt a little, not only about the poem, but about the history of smuggling in England. If you have enjoyed this 'Anatomy of a Poem', please let me know. Further poems for the treatment welcomed!
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