DTStudy: The Poor Whores' Complaint
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DTStudy: The Poor Whores' Complaint


Joe Offer 28 May 20 - 07:07 PM
Joe Offer 28 May 20 - 08:05 PM
Joe Offer 28 May 20 - 08:10 PM
and e 28 May 20 - 10:00 PM
Joe Offer 28 May 20 - 11:47 PM
Reinhard 29 May 20 - 08:41 AM
leeneia 29 May 20 - 09:09 AM
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Subject: DTStudy: The Poor Whores' Complaint
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 May 20 - 07:07 PM

This is an edited DTStudy thread, and all messages posted here are subject to editing and deletion.
This thread is intended to serve as a forum for corrections and annotations for the Digital Tradition song named in the title of this thread.

Search for other DTStudy threads

I came across this song today and knew nothing about it. I figured it might be worthy of exploration. Most reference to the song that I found on Google, lead right back to the version in the Digital Tradition. There's no listing for the song in the Traditional Ballad Index.


Come listen a while and you shall hear
How the poor whores fare in the winter.
They've hardly any rags to hide their wares
Indeed 'tis a desperate thing, sir.
With their draggel tails nine inches deep
And hardly a shoe or a stocking,
Yet if a cull they by chance should meet
At him they will be bobbing.

Says Molly, "I think my case very hard,
For I can get no money";
Says Nancy, "I think mine's as bad,
For last night I earned but a penny."
All night we freeze with our cull in the cold
Till the constable he comes early
Then he packs us away for being so bold
So we pay for whoring severely.
Says Sally, "I think I've the worst luck of all,
Since I have been a-whoring
I've never before been without a smock
Although it was ne'er such a poor one.
Though I trudge the streets all night in the cold
My rags men are pulling and haling.
Old Nick I'm sure would not be a whore
It's grown such a hell of a calling."

Then straightaway young Nell replied,
"What signifies complaining?
You know you're all poxed and so am I
And that indeed's our failing.
We swarm like bees at every street end
Catching at every fellow,
Let him be ever so poxed or clean
We 're always ready to follow. "

There's some that wears silk and satin gay,
'Tis them who gets the money;
With their next neighbour they slyly play
And call him their joy and their honey.
While he with money can supply
They're always ready to serve him,
While his poor wife and children left at home
For bread are almost starving.

Likewise all you men with handsome wives,
Take care they don't forsake you,
For if they want money, as sure as your life
They will a cuckold make you.
They'll graft such a pair of horns on your head
That you can hardly bear them,
They're such cunning jades if you don't take care
They'll force you for to wear them.

Before those privy whores were known
In town to be so plenty,
We common girls had better luck,
Then men were not so dainty.
They brought to us brave English quills
And we would bite and pinch them,
If we set them on fire at both ends at once
The devil he may quench them.

cull = man/customer; set them on fire = gave them the pox.
Words from a 17th century broadside; tune: Ladies of London

@bitching @English
filename[ POORWHOR

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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Poor Whores' Complaint
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 May 20 - 08:05 PM

(to the tune of "Ah! Cruel Bloody Fate! &c.)

Ah! Cruel Bloody Tom!
What canst thou hope for more,
Than to receive the Doom
Of all thy crimes before"
For all thy bold Conspiracies
Thy head must pay the score;
Thy Cheats and Lies,
They Box and Dice,
Will serve thy turn no more.

Ungrateful thankless wretch!
How couldst thou hope in vain,
(Without the reach of Ketch)
Thy treasons to maintain?
For murders long since done and past,
Thou pardons hast had store,
And yet wouldst still stab on, and kill,
As if thou hop'dst for more.

But Tom, ere he would starve,
More blood resolv'd to've spilt;
Thy flight did only serve
To justify thy guilt:
Whilst they, whose harmless innocence
Submit to chains at home,
Are each day freed; while traitors bleed,
And suffer in their room.

When Whigs a plot did vote,
What peer from justice fled?
In the Fanatic Plot
Tom durst not shew his head.
Now sacred justice rules above,
The guiltless are set free, -
And the napper's napt, and the clapper's clapt,
In his conspiracy.

Like Cain, thou hadst a mark
Of murder on thy brow;
Remote, and in the dark,
Black guilt thou didst still pursue:
Nor England, Holland, France, nor Spain,
The traitor can defend;
He will be found in fetters bound, |
To pay for't, in the end.

Tom might about the Town
Have bully'd, huff'd and roar'd
By every Venus known,
Been for a Mars ador'd:
By friendly Pimping and fake Dice
Thou might'st have longer liv'd,
Hectored and shamm'd
And swore and gam'd
Hadst thou no Plots contriv'd

Tom once was Cock-a hoop
Of all the Huffs in Town
But now his Pride must stoop
His Courage is pull'd down
So long his Spurs are grown, poor Tom
Can neither fly nor fight;
Ah Cruel Fate!
That at this rate
The Squire shou'd foil the Knight!

But now no remedy,
It being his just Rewards,
In his own trap, you see,
The tiger is ensnar'd.
So may all traitors fare, till all
Who for their guilt did fly,
With bully Tom, by timely doom,
Like him unpitied die.

Sold at the Entrance into the Old-Spring-Garden, 1684

And after I spent a considerable amount of time transcribing the text from Bodleian Ballads, I found, which has the lyrics all nicely type'd.

It also has this explanation, which shows that the "Tom" song has nothing to do with the song in the Digital Tradition:
    Sir Thomas Armstrong was implicated in the the Rye House Plot (1683), an alleged Whig conspiracy to assassinate or mount an insurrection against Charles II of England because of his pro-Roman Catholic policies. The plot drew its name from Rye House at Hoddeston, Hertfordshire, near which ran a narrow road where Charles was supposed to be killed as he traveled from a horse meet at Newmarket. After fleeing to Amsterdam Armstrong was kidnapped by the King's agents and brought back to London in chains. After being hung and quartered his head was stuck on a pike at the gates of St. James Palace. It was later judged by Parliament that Sir Thomas had been unjustly executed and his principal accuser was expelled from Parliament.

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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Poor Whores' Complaint
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 May 20 - 08:10 PM

I've seen several references online to a 1672 song titled The Poor Whores' Complaint to the Apprentices of London. Don't know if it's the same song.

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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Poor Whores' Complaint
From: and e
Date: 28 May 20 - 10:00 PM

Version you quote in the opening post is found in Bawdy Verse: A Pleasant Collection by E..J. Burford. Pg 172, song 66. Titled "The Ladies of London" (c. 1680).

Google books limited preview here:

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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Poor Whores' Complaint
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 May 20 - 11:47 PM

Good man, and e.

I swear I've got that book. I wonder where I put it.

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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Poor Whores' Complaint
From: Reinhard
Date: 29 May 20 - 08:41 AM

Roud V32296

I've got this in Holloway & Black, Later English Broadside Ballads (1975) pp.217-218. It hasn't much information on the song: "Possibly seventeenth-century, and a haunting realistic account on the whore's life."

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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Poor Whores' Complaint
From: leeneia
Date: 29 May 20 - 09:09 AM

A social worker writing in the Kansas City Star recently stated that the typical new prostitute here is a girl of color aged 13.

Something to keep in mind.

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