A-Courting with the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò

In my previous post on the sources of Edward Lear’s “The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò” I forgot to mention William Wordsworth’s “The Blind Highland Boy,” noted by Michael Heyman in his Isles of Boshen; in the poem the boy escapes in a turtle-shell, but is ovetaken and saved by his good neighbours.

I have now found the Great Wolford text I mentioned online, and it is dated 1913 to 1916, a bit late to have had an influence on Lear, though I have not seen the printed text and cannot say for sure: it might well be that the Yonghy Bonghy-Bò is Fidler Wit’s predecessor.

The study of the sources of “The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò,” in any case, must include some mention of popular courting songs, often consisting of long lists of the lover’s properties, which often provide the comic element; e.g. see “The Clown’s Courtship” (Dixon, James Henry. Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England: Taken Down from Oral Recitation and Transcribed from Private Manuscripts, Rare Broadsides and Scarce Publications. Ed. Robert Bell. London: Charles Griffin and Co., 1864: 155):

Quoth John to Joan, wilt thou have me?
I prythee now, wilt? and I’ze marry with thee,
My cow, my calf, my house, my rents,
And all my lands and tenements:
            Oh, say, my Joan will not that do?
            I cannot come every day to woo.

I’ve corn and hay in the barn hard by,
And three fat hogs pent up in the sty:
I have a mare, and she is coal black,
I ride on her tail to save my back.
            Then say, &c.

I have a cheese upon the shelf,
And I cannot eat it all myself ;
I’ve three good marks that lie in a rag,
In the nook of the chimney, instead of a bag.
            Then say, &c.

To marry I would have thy consent,
But faith I never could compliment;
I can say nought but ‘hoy, gee, ho,’
Words that belong to the cart and the plow.
            Then say, &c.

The same anthology, which you can download from the recently released Live Book Search, includes more courting songs. For a more explicitly comic example, see “Harry’s Courtship” (pp. 155-6), which presents the same story, but as “modest Mary” protests that she is not going to “sit at my wheel a-spinning, / or rise in the morn to wash your linen; / I’ll lie in bed till the clock strikes eleven,” Harry is forced to reply: “Why then thou must marry some red-nosed squire.”

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