Non-Standard conjoined subject noun phrases

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton2 at BTINTERNET.COM
Thu Feb 25 03:14:25 UTC 2010

... at least I think that's what I'm asking about.

Specifically, what (if anything) can be said about the relation of five
texts located sometime in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
The linkage may be purely chance, but it seems possible that some sort of
correspondence lies behind them.

Possibly the earliest, and the one which interests me most, is "A New Flash
Song" (early to mid-eighteenth century) [1], beginning:

            Me and five more we all set up,
            To rob and plunder without doubt,
            Away to Hyde Park we did steer
            To light on the culls and rattlers there.

-- the text continues with the activities of these six young men, concluding
with their eventual hanging at Tyburn.

"Me and five more ..." seems to have survived only in a single broadside
text.  Much more widespread, and dateable from c. 1775, is "The Lincolnshire

            When I was bound apprentice in famous Lincolnshire
            Full well I served my master for nigh on seven years
            Till I took up to poaching as you shall quickly hear
            Oh, 'tis my delight on a shiny night in the season of the year.

            As me and my companions was setting out a snare
            'Twas then we spied the gamekeeper, for him we didn't care
            For we can wrestle and fight, my boys, and jump from anywhere
            Oh, 'tis my delight on a shiny night in the season of the year.

            As me and my companions was setting four or five
            And taking them all up again, we caught a hare alive
            We caught a hare alive, my boys, and through the woods did steer
            Oh, 'tis my delight on a shiny night in the season of the year.

Here, the "me and my companions" at the beginning of the second and third
stanzas seem to parallel the "Me and five more" of the earlier ballad.

(Later versions sometimes normalise slightly to "were setting of a snare,"
but retain "me and my companions" as subject.)

Probably later, but possibly still in the eighteenth century, we have "The
Gallant Poachers," in 9-line stanzas, beginning, "Now come all you lads of
high renown / That like to drink strong ale that's brown ..." with the
second verse:

            Now me and five more a-poaching went
            To get some game was our intent
            Our goods were gone and our money all spent
            We had nothing left to try.
            Now the moon shone bright, not a cloud in sight,
            Oh, the keeper heard us fire a gun,
            To the spot he quickly run,
            He swore, before the rising sun
            That one of us should die.

Naturally, one of them does die, to the chagrin of the keeper who killed

            Now the murderous man that did him kill,
            Caused his precious blood to spill,
            Must wander far against his will
            And find no resting place.

Not all poachers went in groups of six -- one at least was accompanied only
by his trusty dogs.  Thus "Hares in the Old Plantation," where we have in
stanza two (again):

            Oh me and my dogs we went out one night
            To view a habitation
            Up jumped one and away she run
            Right away into my plantation.

No survey of poaching ballads would be complete without someone trepanned or
transported, which is of course what occurs in "Van Diemen's Land", where
'you gallant poachers that ramble void of care' take the wrong turning at
(where else?) the beginning of stanza 2:

            Me and five more went out one night into Squire Duncan's park
            To see if we could catch some game, the night it being dark
            But to our great misfortune we got dropped on with speed
            And they took us off to Warwick gaol which made our hearts to

(Some later versions normalise the first line above to, "I and five more
a-poaching went.")

Things change -- the me and five more who went on the high pad lay in Hyde
Park in the (possibly early) eighteenth century and ended up at Tyburn
transform into the six who poach on Squire Duncan's land (possibly in the
early nineteenth century) and only (only!) have to endure being shipped off
to Australia.

Perhaps all this is simple coincidence -- there are after all about twenty
poaching texts from this period which are different enough to constitute
distinct (if more or less heavily related) texts, and only four of them,
together with the cant gallows ballad with which I began, have the specific
nexus of words that I'm noticing.

On the other hand ...  Perhaps the similar use of a particular non-standard
set of words points to ... something.

But just what?


[1] V. A. C. Gatrell, _The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People
1770-1868_, p 154: "The illustration and the typography point to an early-
to mid-eighteenth century provenance."

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list