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Jim Dixon DTStudy: Cutty Wren (43) Lyr Add THE CUTTY WREN (from Tenby, Pembrokeshire 24 May 20


From an article titled "Manners and Customs of the People of Tenby in the Eighteenth Century" by L. P. Barnaschone, in The Cambrian Journal, Volume 4, London: Longmans & Co., et al., 1857.

Another mode of levying contributions was by means of the "cutty[1] wren."

Having procured a wren, and placed it in a small ornamented box, or paper house, with a square of glass at either end, two or four men would carry it about, elevated on four poles fixed to the corners, singing the while a long ditty. The words, though rough and unpolished, will serve to describe three great divisions of the human family—the fault-finding inquisitives, the know-nothings, and the know-alls. Annexed are the verses, which were sung to the following tune:—

THE CUTTY WREN

1. O where are you going? says Milder to Melder,[2]
O where are you going? says the younger to the elder;
O I cannot tell says Festel to Fose;
We're going to the woods said John the Red Nose,
We're going to the woods said John the Red Nose.

2. O what will you do there? says Milder to Melder,
O what will you do there? says the younger to the elder;
O I do not know, says Festel to Fose;
To shoot the Cutty Wren, said John the Red Nose,
To shoot the Cutty Wren, said John the Red Nose.

[SIMILARLY;]

3. O what will you shoot her with? ...
O I cannot tell, ...
With bows and with arrows, ...

4. O that will not do, ...
O what will do then? ...
With great guns and cannons, ...

5. O what will you bring her home in? ...
O I cannot tell, ...
On four strong men's shoulders, ...

6. O that will not do, ...
O what will do then? ...
On big carts and waggons, ...

7. What will you cut her up with? ...
O I do not know, ...
With knives and with forks, ...

8. O that will not do, ...
O what will do then? ...
With hatchets and cleavers, ...

9. What will you boil her in? ...
O I cannot tell, ...
In pots and in kettles, ...

10. O that will not do, ...
O what will do then? ...
In brass pans and cauldrons, ...

The four men would then enter the doorway, groaning under the weight of their burden, and looking as if they had just relieved Atlas of his shoulder-piece.[3]

[References]

1. Cutty, diminutive; and in Somerset, a wren.—See Wright's Provincial Dictionary.

2. Sometimes pronounced " Molder."

3. The superstitions connected with the wren are very singular, and certainly very curious. Pliny (book x. c. 95) has preserved an ancient popular tradition that there was a perpetual feud between the wren and the eagle, and that the cause was a dispute as to which had the superior right to the title of king of the birds; and, in most European languages, the wren is popularly known by a name signifying king. It had also the general reputation of being a vain-glorious bird. A story, which was current in this island as far back as the twelfth century, represents the wren sitting upon the sprig of a tree, and boasting that he was so strong and powerful that if the sky should fall he had no apprehension; but, at that moment, the actual fall of a small leaf threw him into a paroxysm of terror. The common custom of wren hunting has no doubt some connection with these fables; but it must also, from the circumstance of its being restricted to the period of the Christmas festivities, have been connected with other popular superstitions now forgotten. The hunting of the wren, in most parts, takes place on St. Stephen's-day. It is, or was, practised in the South of France, as well as in Ireland, and in different parts of England.—T[homas]. W[right].


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