Lay of the Hunted Pig (The)

England, (18th-19th cent.)

The Lay of the Hunted Pig

  1. “Vathers, muvvers, muvvers zons!
  2. You as loves yer little wuns!
  3. Happy pegs amongt the stubble,
  4. Listen to a tale of trouble;
  5. Listen, pegs in yeard and stye,
  6. How the Barkshire chaps zard I.
  7.  
  8. “I wur barn at Kingstone-Lisle,
  9. Wher I vrolicked var a while,
  10. As vine a peg as e’er wur zeen
  11. (One of a litter o’ thirteen)
  12. Till zome chaps wi’ cussed spite
  13. Aimed ov I to make a zite,
  14. And to ha’ a ‘bit o’ vun,’
  15. Took I up to Uffington.
  16.  
  17. “Up, vorights the Castle mound
  18. They did zet I on the ground;
  19. Then a thousand chaps, or nigh,
  20. Runned and hollered arter I —
  21. Ther, then, I, till I wur blowed,
  22. Runned and hollered all I knowed,
  23. When, zo zure as pegs is pegs,
  24. Eight chaps ketched I by the legs,
  25. Two to each — ‘t is truth I tell ‘ee —.
  26. Dree more clasped I round the belly!
  27. Under all they fellers lyin’ —
  28. Pegs! — I thought as I wur dyin’.
  29.  
  30. “But the Squire (I thenks I zee un),
  31. Varner Whitfield ridin’ wi’ un,
  32. Fot I out o’ all thuck caddle,
  33. Stretched athurt the varmer’s zaddle —
  34. Bless ’em, pegs in yeard and stye,
  35. Them two vrends as stuck to I.
  36.  
  37. “Barkshire men, vrom Hill and Vale,
  38. All as ever hears this tale,
  39. If to spwoort you be inclined,
  40. Plaze to bear this here in mind —
  41. Pegs beant made no race to win,
  42. Be zhart o’ wind, and tight o’ skin,
  43. “Dwont ‘ee hunt ’em, but instead
  44. At backswyrd break each other’s yead
  45. Cheezes down the Manger rawll —
  46. Or try and clim the greasy powl.
  47.  
  48. “Pegs! in stubble yeard and stye,
  49. May you be never zard like I,
  50. Nor druv wi greasy ears and tail,
  51. By men and bwoys drough White Horse Vale.”

This is a version of a popular anonymous 18th-19th century oral ballad or poem written in the dialect of the area of Berkshire, England.

A Partial Glossary:

I compiled a list of the more challenging words in the poem and included modern translations. Also as you read, understand that the standard English voiceless f and s sounds in this dialect usually become voiced v and z.

  • athurt – across
  • backswryd – a fencing contest with single sticks
  • barkshire – Berkshire
  • beant – aren’t
  • blowed – breathless
  • bwoys – boys
  • caddle – great confusion or rush
  • dwont – don’t
  • dree – three
  • drough – through (also: droo)
  • druv – drive
  • ketched – caught
  • knowed – knew
  • Manger -the steep sided valley in Uffington where White Horse horse was said to feed
  • muvvers – mothers
  • pegs – pigs
  • plaze – please
  • rawll – roll
  • runned – ran
  • spwoort – sport
  • stye – sty
  • thenks – thinks
  • thuck – this, that
  • un – him
  • varmer – farmer
  • vorights – ready; directly forward; going before
  • vrolicked – frollicked
  • wuns – ones
  • wur – was
  • yeard – yard
  • zard – served up
  • zeen – seen
  • zet – set
  • zite – sight
  • zure – sure

About the Poet:

The Lay of the Hunted Pig (18th-19th cent.) is a popular anonymous oral English ballad or poem in the dialect of the area of Berkshire, England. Similar specimens of this work have been collected and recorded in the later nineteenth century. While the ratio of dialect to contemporary words varies, the essential story line is the same.

The events in the poem are set at the time of the festival of the scouring of the White Horse of Uffington. This horse is a stylized representation of a horse that was carved into the white chalk bedrock. The horse figure is approximately 374 feet in length and is believed to date back to near 1000BC in the late Bronze Age.

The stones of the White Horse has been ritually scoured, or cleaned of overgrowth vegetation, under the jurisdiction of first local lords, then local government and now in current times by the members of English Heritage. In the nineteenth century a festival grew up around the scouring activity, probably as a way for the responsible parties to encourage and maintain the work involved.

The scouring was held approximately every seven years, and the festival grew into a three-day event and was highly anticipated by the local community. Events included many traditional activities mentioned in the poem – cheese rolling, greased pole climbing, backswryd (fencing with sticks) and a greased pig catching contest. [DES-03/12]

Additional Information:

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