Christmas Rhymers

John Johnson Marshall
Chapter XIV (4) - Start of Chapter

Christmas Rhymers.—In the north of Ireland as Christmas drew near it was customary to get up a company of Rhymers who went round the shops and private dwellings reciting their rhymes and collecting money. These were the latter day descendants of the mummers of olden times, who at times of festivity played their pranks for the amusement of their fellows as well as their own. They dressed up in such fantastic costumes as they could manage, and represented various characters, such as St. George, Oliver Cromwell. Beelzebub, Devil Doubt, the Doctor, etc. Each had a rhyme to recite about himself, which he did with such intonation and gestures as he considered appropriate.


Room, room, brave gallant boys—

Give us room to rhyme;

We have come to show our activity

At this Christmas time.

Active youth and active age,

The like was never acted on a stage;

And if you don’t believe what I say,

Enter in, St. George, and clear the way.

St. George.—

Here comes I, St. George, from England have I sprung,

One of those noble deeds of valour to begin.

Seven long years in a close cave have I been kept,

And out of that in to a prison leapt,

And out of that into a block of stone,

Where I made many a sad and grievous moan.

Many a giant did I subdue,

I ran the fiery dragon through and through—

I fought them all courageously,

And still will always fight for liberty,

Here I draw my bloody weapon;

Show me the man that dare me stand,

I’ll cut him down with my courageous hand.

A youth with blackened face here steps forward, St. George says to him:

“Who are you but a poor silly lad?”

The nigger replies:

“I am a Turkey champion from Turkey land I came,

To fight you, great George by name;

I’ll cut you and slash you, and sent you to Turkey

To make mince pies baked in an oven,

And after I have done I’ll fight e’er a champion in Christendom.”

Here St. George sticks him with his sword. Having done this he shouts:

“A doctor, a doctor! Ten pounds for a doctor!

Is there never a doctor to be found who can

Cure this man of his deep and mortal wound?”

A doctor dressed up in a top hat, and with a bottle of medicine in his hand comes forward and recites:—

“Here comes I, old Doctor Brown,

The best old doctor in the town;

I am a doctor pure and good,

And with my sword I’ll staunch his blood.

If you’ve a mind his life to save

Full fifty guineas I must have.”

St. George tests him. He says:

“What can you cure, doctor?”

The Doctor answers:

“I can cure the plague within the plague without,

The palsy or the gout,

Moreover than that,” sez he

“If you bring me an old woman of threescore and ten,

And the knuckle bone of her toe be broken,

I can fix it again.

And if you don’t believe what I say,

Enter St. Patrick and clear the way.”

St. Patrick:

“Here comes I, St. Patrick, in shining armour bright,

A famous champion and a worthy knight.

“What was St. George?” says he. “but St. Patrick’s boy,

Who fed his horse with oats and hay,

And afterwards he ran away.”

This annoys St. George. They dispute:

G.—I say by St. George, you lie, sir,

P.—Pull out your sword and try, sir,

G.—Pull out your purse and pay, sir,

P.—I’ll run my sword through your body,

And make you run away sir.

In the middle of the squabble in comes Oliver Cromwell.

Oliver (loq.):

“Here comes I, Oliver Cromwell, as you may suppose,

I’ve conquered many nations with my long copper nose,

I’ve made my foes to tremble and my enemies for to quake,

And I’ve beat my opposers till I’ve made their hearts to ache;

And if you don’t believe what I say,

Enter Beelzebub and clear the way.”


“Here comes I, Beelzebub,

And over my shoulder I carry my club,

And in my hand a dripping pan,

I think myself a jolly old man;

And if you don’t believe what I say,

Enter Devil Doubt and clear the way.”

Divil Doubt:

“Here comes I, wee Divil Doubt,

If you don’t give me money I’ll sweep you all out—

Money I want, and money I crave,

If you don’t give me money I’ll sweep you all to your grave.”

The Whole Company:

“Ladies and Gentlemen,—Since our sport is ended,

Our box must now be recommended;

Our box would speak if it had a tongue—

Nine or ten shillings would do it no wrong,

All silver, no brass; bad ha’ pence won’t pass.”

Exit the Company.