When Joan’s Ale Was New
Yetminster is one of those old villages of golden stone that sit above the valley of the Yeo. There’s a few farms gathered around the church, looking out to the levels, a few cottages for labourers, and some more prosperous with wool workers and the like. An inn, and a smithy, and even a dame school. It’s seen a few changes, but it’s not particularly on the road to anywhere, except itself, and if you hadn’t thought to go there, you may be lost, as William was. My new life, he thought as he sat at the cross roads, I’ve given it a poor beginning. But there’s no going back: I have put my hand to the plough.
Near three hours it had taken him to limp up the hill from Sherborne Bridge to the safety of this other parish. We all have dreams that cling to us long after waking, and he found himself constantly probing as you do a bad tooth the nightmare of blows and tumult he had woken to in the dark. At a washing place beside the road he had cleaned off the blood that had dried from a cut on his forehead, but his sides ached and his ankle felt swollen. Worse, in his head too he felt marked, besmirched, like he had had some sort of fall, a falling out. It was maybe from the high place he had always learned to set himself. He was in a different world now, he told himself, stranger, more tangled, than he expected. He thought he might have much to learn.
The rain had passed on in the night. The wind that had come with it was still fretting, but to the west there was growing a line of blue. Among the little stone farms William found a maid who sold him some bread and cheese and a cup of milk. He learned that he was miles from his road and she tried to set him right. He had thought to go to Yeovil, but from this point on the hill, for all that the storm had washed the air clear, he could only just make out the town and its roofs. They looked a long way to the north, with the river and pastures in between. Plymouth was west, he knew. The high road south the old Romans built is the seam of two counties; when he came to it he crossed straight over, and took the lane ahead. Unawares, he was free of Dorset, for good or ill.
He came wearily in to a straggle of freestone cottages among orchard gardens and roses and pea sticks. A man told him this was East Coker. It was a few miles yet to the main road he looked for. He cast himself on the grass where an avenue leads steeply up to the church tower. The sun had arrived and it warmed through his painful limbs. He didn’t think he could walk much further. He wanted to sleep. In fact, with his hat pulled over his face he may have dozed a bit, but then he was hearing a clinking, clanking and rattling and rumbling. It was coming along the road from the direction of the ale house he had passed earlier. Lifting his hat he found it was a pony cart making the racket, a small box van, brightly painted. Jeremy Clarke, it announced on the side, Whitesmith. As it slowly went by William could see that the clatter was made by a rack of kettles and pots and buckets of all sorts, Mr Clarke’s wares, dangling in ticklish display from the rear. The noise doubled each time one of the two wheels took a jolt, though the driver seemed to pay no heed. The few folks there were about looked up from their gardens and out of windows to see him pass. Then after one particularly large pot-hole, the whole rack detached itself from the van. Tinware and ironmongery rolled around the street in a clamour of metalwork like a peal from hell’s own bells. The cart stopped. A profound silence followed.
William thought the driver would descend to investigate. When after a few moments there had been no movement, William prised himself from the grass and hobbled over. The pony looked at him unmoved and flicked his tail. Its reins were in the driver’s hands, but the man’s head was on his chest. He was asleep. Or dead.
William reached up and prodded the man’s leg. The man opened his eyes, squinted at William, and closed them again.
-Mr Clarke, said William, You’ve lost your stock. I said, you’ve lost your stock.
The driver looked at him again. He could only say –eh?
-I said you’ve lost your stock. Off the back of the cart.
-No, it’s all made good.
-It’s all over the road.
The man glared at him, but roused himself enough to climb with slow care down to the ground. He looked about. Good Jesus, he said, but didn’t move, apart from to lean back against the cart’s wheel. Two small boys came up, holding a kettle. He stared at them. Thank you boys, he said, but didn’t take it from them.
William saw the man was beyond helping himself. With the aid of the two children, he went around the street and gathered up the metal work. There was a door in the back of the van and he threw the stock inside, where there was already a jumble of tools and tinware and bedding. He threw the wooden rack in after, and closed the door. The man was trying to present the children with a coin.
-That’s a sixpence, Mr Clarke, said William. He took a penny from the coins in the man’s hand and gave that to them. They went off happy enough. William was surprised from the state of the man that the alehouse had not taken all of his money. Where are you going? he asked. There was a long mumbled reply, which William took to include West Coker. As that was likely further west than east, he thought he might go along too, and save his legs. He heaved Mr Clarke back up to the seat and climbed up next to him. The man was instantly asleep. They set off.
As you leave the village, the lane takes a turn to the right and climbs a little hill under trees, where it is narrow, and dark even in the bright day. William took directions there from a woman who had to lean against the bank to make room. When she had finished, she asked:
-Is that Jemmy Clarke next to you?
-I believe so, madam.
-The sot, was her only remark.
It was late afternoon when they reached West Coker. The village sprawls along the chiefest road heading west across Somerset, where it begins to climb out of the flat pastures of the wandering Yeo into a different country. Behind the tidy houses there are barns and sheds of all sorts, because far from the sea though it is, they make sails there, cordage too, from the flax that grows in the meadowlands. So it’s a place quite full of business, and like all those sort of places well supplied with ale-houses. At the start of the village William drew up the cart. The tinker beside him woke up with a snort. He did not seem surprised to find himself in a new location. He looked at William for a moment, then said:
-Joan’s ale is new.
-Is that a good idea? asked William.
-She is a lovely lady with the sweetest of daughters and the most comfortable lodgement this side of Honiton. I know ‘cause I get about. The Barley Mow, tout suite. The man seemed almost sober.
William hesitated. The previous night had not left him. But he could not relish another night on hard ground, and needed some ease for his smarts. He stirred the pony forward.
The Barley Mow stood back a measure from the street. It was of a good size, but too near to Yeovil to be a posting inn, and needed some attention. A casement window hung awry, and green weeds had sprung among the eaves and a crack in the chimney. The tinker’s pony seemed happy to stand there, and leaving it to its owner, William went inside. A large woman of a certain age was squatting on her hams, struggling to make the fire take. She was huffing and puffing on the old ashes under a heap of tinder. When she stood up at last to face William she was breathless from her exertions. Yes? she said. Her grey hair straggled down from the confines of a big mobcap.
-I might like a bed, said William.
-Might you? I might have got one. Two shillings. She saw his face turn down. One if you‘ll top and tail. Or there’s clean straw in the stable for a tuppence, if you’re in a pinch.
- I’ve no one to share with.
-So who’s that outside? she asked.
-It’s a tinker who kindly let me ride with him.
-The landlady looked out. Oh my Lord, she said, it’s old Clarke. Well you wouldn’t want to top and tail with him, not to judge by the state of my bed when last he stayed. He can sleep outside. Has he a drink taken? Don’t tell me. Anyway someone will happen along for you, they usually do. There’ll be some supper if that damned fire ever stirs itself.
The time had come, thought William, to see what he could make of his skill. He said: I suppose you have a lot of custom on a Saturday?
-They’ll all be along in a while, and with luck they’ll bring their thirst with them. I am not brewing for nothing. She regarded him with a questioning look.
-It’s just that I have my old fiddle with me, and I could play for my supper if you’d allow.
The landlady thought a moment. She asked, Will they like all that scritchin’ snd scratchin’?
William shrugged. Enough to buy more ale, I would hazard. I could play something now , if you want to hear.
-No time to test your mettle. My customers will say straight out if they can’t take it, and at this rate there’ll be supper for no-one. Here, give the fire a poke while I get some dry sticks would you? She hurried her girt frame out the back.
Sometime later William went back to the tinker. He was stood on the cobbles beside his pony, which hadn’t moved. They conducted it round to the yard at the rear and William helped the man unhitch the cart and see the pony stabled. There seemed to be no ostler to attend them. The tinker had the false assurance of a man who was trying not to be drunk. He led the way back to the taproom, where there were now two men sitting by the window with pots of ale. They greeted him noisily: heigh-ho, it’s our Jemmy! How’s trade, buye?
-I’ll tell ‘ee all when I have a pot in front of me. He yelled through the far door for the drawer. I need a pint of your very best. Oh, it’s little Miss Ellen.
A maid of maybe fourteen came in. She had rosy cheeks and a fetching dimple in her chin. She was wearing a greasy apron. Mother told me I should sell you a pint, but no more, she said. The other men laughed. She’s got you measured, they said.
-Let’s be having it then, said the tinker, and none of the bleddy small. I need a proper drink. He turned to William. Now young master, what will you?
-I’ve scarce enough money for my bed, said William.
-That don’t answer, said the tinker, I’m shouting here. Another pot of the best, Ellen, for the young man. William watched the miss bend prettily to the barrel. As she passed the beer round, the tinker said to her: you just tell your ma that I’m here to mend her kettle for her again, and I’ll rattle her pans, and she won’t be so mean spirited to a generous customer. The two men snickered as the girl blushed and hurried out.
-So that’s how you are trading now, Jemmy?
-I gets by one way or t’other, the tinker said. But it’s ten years since I bought the rights on this patch though, and I’ve not known it so thin. And there’s always some bugger thinks he can push himself in. The tinker took a large draught from his pot, and smacked his lips. By Christ, that’s a good drop. I would a gallon o’ that. The man that drinks strong ale lives as he ought to live, ain’t that so?
-It’s hoppy, said one of the men. And clear already, said the other. Joan brews a good drop still.
-What she learned from poor old Purchase. The tinker turned to William. This was a good house when her husband had it, he said.
-Is she struggling then? asked William. He thought of the pretty little daughter.
-She must make out. Widow with an ale-house, you think there’d be lots of takers, but she don’t seem partial.
There was a settle against the wall near the fire. William perched on the corner, and stowed his knapsack underneath. The cauldron hung on the crane above the flames was beginning to bubble and giving off a rich gamey smell. After the last two days William thought he might not be able to resist such coaxing, thin purse or no. The room began to fill, men on their way from the fields and from the workshops round too, and slowly a hubbub began to build. The talk was all of cordage, and the flax mills, and he paid it no mind, sipping from his beer in genial expectation of the supper to come. At last the dread of that morning was beginning to ease its hold.
As William sat staring into the flames another man came to squeeze himself before the fire. Tall, thin, sharp featured, he stood with his coat tails raised to warm his backside. William was slightly bemused at the intrusion, but then the man said: I think I have taken a chill. Would you be affronted if I share this seat to get the warmth?
William moved over. The man, he was about twenty-five, said: Joan told me I could sit here and dye my own face if I chose. It’s her little joke, because that’s my trade you see, dyeing.
It was now, sitting close, William could detect an acrid smell given off by the dyer, either his clothes or his person. It was the faint but manifest smell of piss. That’s what they use in the dyeing trade, gallons of piss, mostly men’s. They dissolve the dyes in it to fix the colours, boil it all up and let the wool soak. The yarn doesn’t smell after a while, but a dyer never quite rids himself of the smell – women too, I suppose – working with it day in and day out. The dyer said:
-Foul weather yesterday. I come over from Crewkerne, got a soaking on Barrows Hill – do you know it? It’s bare as a baby’s bum – and was wet through when I at last got here. I just came from my bed.
The young maid came in with a glass and a bottle of sherry for the dyer. A good start had already been made on the bottle, William could see. The dyer said: This is my cousin Ellen. The girl gave a little curtsy to William and departed. She really was a charmer. The dyer went on: I am never wanting of an excuse to visit my Aunt Joan, but it happens I have some business with a sail maker here Monday. William was remembering the brown sails seen in the Solent long ago, how they swelled in the wind on the grey sea.
The dyer touched William’s sleeve. He said: That’s a fine piece of cloth, now. They finished it with cudbear, is my guess, to get that bloom. You paid a gentleman’s price for that once.
-My father told me as much, William said. His father had been wroth. William ignored the implication that he was not a gentleman: he was, after all, a yeoman’s son.
-The coat needs more care, said the dyer, it looks like it has travelled with you; and if I may, you look in need of some repair yourself.
-I have had some strife on the way here. I will be glad of a night’s sleep in a good bed. William was feeling he was maybe not the campaigner he had thought himself.
-We may have some good company first, said the dyer. He took a girt handkerchief from his pocket, and loudly blew his long nose, before applying himself to his bottle. There’s a jovial crew gathers in here of a Saturday, he then continued. It’s as good as a mustard poultice and a letting, I declare, for setting you on your feet. My aunt sees to that, and my cousin, well she’s a dear now, wouldn’t you say? She’ll take to the trade like her mother afore her. With the right hand they could have this old inn back and prospering soon enough. The dyer raised his glass to the light. That’s a fine tawny, he said.
The landlady and her daughter bustled to and fro to supply the customers and keep the pot stirred and the fire hot; too hot for a summer’s day. The air began to thicken with pipe smoke. William moved to the door to scent the evening.
There was nothing moving on the road now. It climbed up the hill under trees in the direction of Crewkerne. The air was still, and the sky clear of cloud quite. It was as if the last days of storm had never been, save that the fields and hedges were revived and fresh. A blackbird sang from the ivy bush on a wall opposite. It would pause, as if to judge its effect, then pick up in a new refrain. William listened a while: the sound was of home. Then:
-Left right, left right, left, left, left… A curious figure was approaching, or rather, marching himself, from the opposite direction. He had a thick stave sloped upon his shoulder like a firelock, and his head was set unwaveringly front. He was wearing a tunic that might once have been red hung out over his ragged breeches, and fastened with a belt. There was a dull broadsword hanging from it without a scabbard, and it swung perilously round his legs as he walked. He stopped beside William at the entrance to the inn, and snapped to attention. Sergeant Thynn reporting for duty, Sir! he said, eyes still front.
William gave the man the inspection that seemed to be required of him. For all his upright carriage, the Sergeant was at least sixty and rheumy about the eyes. His little remaining hair was cropped to his skull. Do go in, said William, I can commend the ale, and it’s newly brewed.
-I’ll take that as an order, young fellow, said the Sergeant unsloping the stave and laying it against the wall. Cornwallis could not have been clearer. Are there many ranged against us?
-There’s a good few inside now.
-Then I’ll be in the van. Let’s make a path to the refreshment. The Sergeant pulled out the sword before William could reply and stepped through the door. There was an ironic cheer from the drinkers inside. The Sergeant was clearly well known to them. Right, you dolts, William heard him shout, everyone’s to spend a pound.
-Treats all round then, Sergeant Thynn, cried a voice, and a general hubbub broke out. While William was watching through the doorway, another man arrived from the road. He stood looking over William’s shoulder at the scene. Strong drink’s a-raging, then, he said in William’s ear.
William turned around. The man threw a large bag against the wall, where it came heavily to rest. That’s it, I’m done, he said, and plumped down on the bench outside the door.
-A long day? William asked, to be polite.
-Two, the man replied. From Bath to Bruton, and thence to Yeovil, and then of course there’s no travel tomorrow with it being Sunday, so I thought to walk a way. There’s a mischief of my own making, if you like.
He was about forty. Working clothes, the breeches and boots, like William’s, spattered with mud and dust, his dark hair tied back with black ribbon. Big hands, that had seen some work, and the tips of two fingers missing. Is this a good house? he asked William.
-I’m a stranger too, William replied, but the ale is new, and the smell of supper promises well.
In a while the two were seated at table outside the taproom. The man introduced himself as Kitt, but whether this was his surname or his christened name was not revealed. The landlady’s daughter served Kitt the stew brought from the fire and he called for more beer for himself and pressed William to eat.
-I’ll eat later, said William, in hope, though his stomach loudly betrayed him, so that Kitt raised an eyebrow and shrugged. As the man ate, William learned he was a stonemason, sent by a master to choose stone at the quarries on the coast.
-It’s a fool’s errand, said Kitt. Mr Baldwin, that’s the surveyor in Bath, has a notion for some detail in the new Pump House, but good Bath stone would be as well, and half the price of carting from Devon. But then it’s not his money, so what cares he? The mason looked up from his trencher. That’s an evil cut you have on your head.
-I met with an accident as I was leaving Dorset, said William. It will heal, and now I’ve learned a thing or two by that. He did not feel like elaborating, and fortunately, the mason only commented:
-I hope the lesson was worth its score then. Kitt took a swallow from his jar, then resumed: Not been to Bath, I suppose? It’s a grand but godless place. Oh, there are some fine churches, fine preaching too of its kind, but that’s not what draws the Fashion there. You see them all in Bath, Lord Carnal Delight, Sir Having Greedy…
-I took you for a reader. Yes, just like the great pilgrim writ. They go there to purge their bodies, and their purses too, and their souls are the least of their concerns. And the money they spend is reaped from the toil of their labourers in the vineyard, or cornfields or mills as you like. Sugar fields too, if you count in the blackamoors.
-They toil not, and neither do they spin?
-Oh, you’re sharp as my rondel! And Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like some of them, that’s true, though I think the Our Lord had some other moral in mind. Kitt took another drink. William asked:
-But some of their money must go to masons too?
-I think I’m worthy of my hire, if that’s what you mean. You need a satchel of tools for this work, and I have some over there. Kitt indicated his bag. Pitching chisels, toothed chisels, every sort of chisel, splitters. Mallets, sinking squares and bobs, I could go on. Hammers: mine needs refacing, but it serves. But you know what is the mason’s best tool? His eye. You need an eye for the stone when you choose it, and the same eye has to choose where you bone into it, where it will split, how to live with the grain. Or against it if you must. I’m an honourable tradesman, twenty years at the trade, more. I think heaven gave me the eye a mason needs. You could ask the hewers down in Beer, where I’m off tomorrow: they all know me.
-Them Hessians, buyes, came the voice of the Sergeant from the next room, they lack the British pluck. Half asleep that Christmas, and old Washington made them pay. Good drill and roast beef, that’s the stuff for the fighting man.
The mason pulled a face. He said: Oatmeal cakes more like: and a lot of good it did them. Then he returned to his theme. All these trades now, so many want the work as can’t begin to do it, but the Fashion don’t know quality, they just see the chance to oppress the hireling in his wages. I’ve got a family to keep – grandson now too – and I’m sick with it. It sounds sour, don’t it? But are you just starting out? You might find otherwise.
-I have a long way to go, and it’s only partly my choosing. But people keep telling me it’s the times are to blame.
-But when were they different? Like to St.John: how can these things be? is what he asks.
-As do I, said William.
Kitt called out for another pot for himself. When the young maid put it down, he went back to his theme:
-Mr Bunyan would call it the Valley of Humiliation, where we are lost. And that great Apollyon squatting on the path?
There were more cheers from the taproom. You show ‘em, Sergeant, someone shouted, and then the Sergeant: Charge bayonets! Musket into the palm of the hand, turn both heels to the right, the right hand grasping the piece at the small behind the barrel. Stand firm against the shock lads! Huzzah for King George!
Kitt waited for the noise to die down, taking time to consider his own question. He cleared the last of his meal. Then he continued: The Elect, that would be my answer, or them as think they are the Elect, whether of God or Mammon. There’s the many, who struggle to find their place in the world and maybe their place in heaven, and then there’s the few, who know they are justified, as can’t even think they are not. It suits them to think it. But we all come naked into the world, and naked leave it.
William was thinking about the beggar carried off that morning. He asked: Has not God ordered it that way?
-I fear to offend you.
-I might be well armoured.
-Ha! Very well. These pretended elects of God, they would have you believe it is so. They whore after the elects of Mammon. Churches and chapels, they are as one, they accommodate themselves for the sake of worldly power.
-Do you not belong to any such body then? William asked. He had never heard the like, never met a Radical.
-Once I did, but now I find the Lord’s work in the trees and the hills. He intended it thus. The churches and chapels may fall and it would be one to me. Kitt grinned wryly. Then there’d be work for masons all, sure enough! But as the psalmist saith, except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain who build it.
For a moment the noise in the taproom had abated, quiet enough for them to hear the landlady taking orders for more drink amid chaff and banter. William glanced in. The dyer was still alone on the settle and warming his hands, the others gathered around a table of pots and trenchers where the Sergeant stood taking a light for his pipe. The tinker was squeezed into a corner, William noticed. His head was again on his chest.
The mason took another drink, and looked at William. I found no joy in the chapel, he said. William wondered if he now took joy in drink in its stead, but Kitt went on: We remember the life to come, but I cannot believe that our Creator intended to set up the few to riches. Why should some take their rewards in this life, while they beat the people to pieces?
-St Paul says those that are strong ought to bear the infirmity of the weak, William ventured.
-I travel the West Country, I look about me, and I don’t see much sign.
The clamour in the taproom had risen again. Above it, the Sergeant’s voice resounded: Buyes, I give you, Church and King!
There was a noisy acclamation. The mason shook his head. Fools! he said. And there you have it, young man, the blind shall lead the blind.
Kitt lifted his jar. I would as well toast the French, he said, and finished his beer in one great gulp. They know how to stand up for liberty, if you like. First they burn their prisons down, and now, it’s said, the churches shall go too. Their King may not be long in following. The rich there will be a portion for foxes. You should read Dr Price.
But before William could enquire more about that militant old non-conformist, there was a shout from the taproom: A song, a song! Where’s that fiddler to?
Kitt was becoming flushed, with his talk or his drink or both and William grew discomfited. He was glad of an excuse to stand and take his instrument into the next room, where it was greeted by a burst of applause, though the talk loudly resumed immediately. He took up a place in the middle of the room, and tuned the old strings as best he could. He struck a first furrow with a good jig, which got their attention, so when he began on John Barleycorn it was quickly picked up and the drinkers were soon on a roar. Hard upon the dying chord some man began on what sounded like The Leathern Bottel, and William picked that up and so it went on. The young maid came in and lit candles as the room grew dark, and among the shadows a pot of ale found its way to William. Kitt had joined the throng, and was stood at the door with another pot in his hand.
-Let’s hear The British Grenadiers for the Sergeant! cried someone, and as William did his best with that, for it was some time coming to his mind, the Sergeant swept up the broadsword from the table and was brandishing it over his head. Row, row, row, row! went the company in chorus, row, row, row! before subsiding into cheers.
The Sergeant had prompted in William’s memory The Hessian Camp. He was well along with that jig when a farmer got up from the corner, and making room for himself on the floor, began to dance on the spot in his clumsy boots, but neatly, his hands stiffly at his side above the clopping rattling feet. The crowd gathered about with rude encouragement, the dyer stood up from the settle, clapping out time, and indeed the farmer made a good show of his stepping, for all he was a big and heavy man.
-What about young Ellen! they called next, till someone pulled her into the room. She stood abashed on the flagstones, staring at her feet as if they might take off without her. I dursn't, she said. Go on, they cried. The maid looked over at her mother, who shrugged and nodded at William.
He started another jig, slowly at first, but soon speeding as it grew clear the girl knew what she was about. And a fine display it was too, as her feet made cross steps and doubles beneath her raised apron, with hardly a miss till William laid the fiddle down. As she ran from the room to applause, the dyer stayed her by the hand at the door and kissed her firmly betwixt cheek and chin. She did not seem affronted, William saw. Her mother was busy serving and could not have noticed. He did not think the maid would kiss and tell. He was surprised to find he thought it a shame.
He had done enough playing. He discovered his wrist ached from some blow previously unnoticed, and even tapping his foot had pained his ankle. Finally exhausted by the day, and longing for supper and a bed, he squeezed into the corner beside the sleeping tinker to gobble down the stew that the landlady put in front of him. Just call when you are needing more, she said. It was the first square meal since home, and all the richer for it. He sat with his drink, and the mirth around him, content for a bit. The tinker opened one eye, and looked at him over the jugs ranged across the table. The man started to sing, in a low voice:
-In Bibberley town there dwelt a maid…
The song stopped there. Above the racket round them, he said to William: Eating and drinking. Fucking too. Then we’re done, all of us. You do your best, but you can’t have more, there ain’t none. What d’yer think? But before William could reply, the tinker’s eyes were closed again.
The room he was given was scarce the size of a cupboard, and almost entirely filled with its bed. It was directly over the taproom. He stuck the candle on the bedhead and stripped to his shirt. He did not want to look too closely at the bruises he expected to find, and he anticipated dampness in the bedding. Ragged singing and raucous shouting continued below. The mattress was of straw. It mattered not at all, as he would sleep, he thought, like the churchyard dead. As he doused the candle there came the sound of a breaking crock from below, more cheering, and the landlady’s shout: So you can take yourselves off you buggers! There was some row outside, but William was long past caring.
That wasn’t quite the end though, because he had hardly slept a minute, though maybe it was an hour, when there came a crash on the stairs. As he raised his head above the blankets, the door was thrown open. Here ‘tis, said the voice of Sergeant Thynn, we’ve climbed the Heights of Abraham, General, but you can storm Quebec by yerself.
-This ain’t it, said the voice of the mason.
-Well it will have to do, buye. Young Ellen wants her bed, and I’m off home. This here’s the old taptoe call.
Ellen was behind them holding the candle on the landing. She said: Ma told me he was sharing with the young fiddleman.
-And so he shall, said the Sergeant, and Kitt fell heavily onto the bed. Do ‘ee want to take his boots off maid? No, quite right, let him shift for himself now. Or the young musicker can aid him.
The candlelight crept away, and the door banged shut on the darkness.
When Joan's Ale was New
There are numerous versions of this song, with a variety of different tradesmen, of whom I have included a selection. The earliest broadside though refers to Joan's Ale, and so I have it. A classic version, as Johnson's Ale, is by A.L.Lloyd at https://youtu.be/kNRIaJETnNk, but I rather like the intriguing short clip at https://youtu.be/QBAejmeye10
The best known version is probably by 60's band Traffic, and their Stevie Winwood has a nice acoustic version at https://youtu.be/t8878chOvfI Steeleye Span sound far too pretty and dated now, but The Imagined Village manage to be modern and appropriately moody at https://youtu.be/4vFj_jPG_TU And then there's The Young Tradition at https://youtu.be/aJTxDqzqPlU But then I would, wouldn't I?
The Leathern Bottel
From that Seventeenth Century best-seller Pills to Purge Melancholy. The ever-lovely Maddy Prior has a classic version at https://youtu.be/6zAXNREwGbg but it was probably taken faster in Joan's alehouse!