This rather cheery poem about ‘jolly good ale’ was apparently written by a  clergyman born in 1530 or thereabouts, William Stevenson; he may also have been the author of a play,  Gammer Gurton’s Needle – although this may have been written by another man of the church, the Archbishop of Bath and Wells, John Still. Stevenson was born in Durham but studied at Cambridge at Christ’s College, where, by the age of thirty he had received a Bachelor of Arts degree, a Masters, and a Bachelor of Divinity degree. An archive from the college records is involvement in plays although they do not mention him actually writing one. He returned to Durham Cathedral where he became a prebend – which means he received an income from the cathedral.  He died in 1575.

Jolly Good Ale and Old

I cannot eat but little meat,
My stomach is not good;
But sure I think that I can drink
With him that wears a hood.
Though I go bare, take ye no care,
I nothing am a-cold;
I stuff my skin so full within
Of jolly good ale and old.
Back and side go bare, go bare;
Both foot and hand go cold;
But, belly, God send thee good ale enough,
Whether it be new or old.

I love no roast but a nut-brown toast,
And a crab laid in the fire;
A little bread shall do me stead;
Much bread I not desire.
No frost nor snow, no wind, I trow,
Can hurt me if I wold;
I am so wrapp’d and thoroughly lapp’d
Of jolly good ale and old.
Back and side go bare, go bare,
Both foot and hand go cold;
But, belly, God send thee good ale enough,
Whether it be new or old.

And Tib, my wife, that as her life
Loveth well good ale to seek,
Full oft drinks she till ye may see
The tears run down her cheek:
Then doth she trowl to me the bowl
Even as a maltworm should,
And saith, ‘Sweetheart, I took my part
Of this jolly good ale and old.’
Back and side go bare, go bare,
Both foot and hand go cold;
But, belly, God send thee good ale enough,
Whether it be new or old.

Now let them drink till they nod and wink,
Even as good fellows should do;
They shall not miss to have the bliss
Good ale doth bring men to;
And all poor souls that have scour’d bowls
Or have them lustily troll’d,
God save the lives of them and their wives,
Whether they be young or old.
Back and side go bare, go bare;
Both foot and hand go cold;
But, belly, God send thee good ale enough,
Whether it be new or old.

3 thoughts on “Of jolly good ale and old

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