George Ridler's Oven

Melody -

Traditional ballad from Gloucestershire

The stwons that built George Ridler's oven,
And thauy keam vrom the Bleakney quaar,
And George he wur a jolly old mon,
And his yead it grow'd above his yare.

2. One thing of George Ridler I must commend,
And that wur vor a notable thing;
He mead his brags avoore he died,
Wi' any dree brooders his zons zshould zing.

3. There's Dick the treble, and John the meean,
(Let every mon zing in his auwn pleace,)
And George he wur the elder brother,
And therevoor he would zing the beass.

4. Mine hostess's moid, (and her neaum 'twour Nell,)
A pretty wench, and I lov'd her well;
I lov'd her well, good reauzon why,
Because zshe loved my dog and I.

5. My dog is good to catch a hen;
A dug or goose is vood for men;
And where good company I spy,
O thether gwoes my dog and I.

6. My mwother told I, when I wur young,
If I did vollow the strong-beer pwoot,
That drenk would prov my awverdrow,
And meauk me wear a threadbare cwoat.

7. My dog has gotten zitch a trick,
To visit moids when thauy be zick;
When thauy be zick and like to die,
O thether gwoes my dog and I.

8. When I have dree zixpences under my thumb,
O then I be welcome wherever I come;
But when I have none, O, then I pass by,
'Tis poverty pearts good companie.

9. If I should die, as it may hap,
My greauve shall be under the good yeal tap;
In voulded yarms there wool us lie,
Cheek by jowl, my dog and I.

The words have a secret meaning, well known to the members of the Gloucestershire Society, which was founded in 1657, three years before the Restoration of Charles II. The Society consisted of Royalists, who combined together for the purpose of restoring the Stuarts. The Cavalier party was supported by all the old Roman Catholic families of the kingdom; and some of the Dissenters, who were disgusted with Cromwell, occasionally lent them a kind of passive aid.

FIRST VERSE. - By 'George Ridler' is meant King Charles I. The 'oven' was the Cavalier party. The 'stwons' that 'built the oven,' and that 'came out of the Bleakney quaar,' were the immediate followers of the Marquis of Worcester, who held out long and steadfastly for the Royal cause at Raglan Castle, which was not surrendered till 1646, and was in fact the last stronghold retained for the King. 'His head did grow above his hair,' is an allusion to the crown, the head of the State, which the King wore 'above his hair.'

SECOND VERSE. - This means that the King, 'before he died,' boasted that notwithstanding his present adversity, the ancient constitution of the kingdom was so good, and its vitality so great, that it would surpass and outlive every other form of government.

THIRD VERSE. - 'Dick the treble, Jack the mean, and George the bass,' mean King, Lords, and Commons. The injunction to 'let every man sing in his own place,' is a warning to each of the three estates of the realm to preserve its proper position, and not to encroach on each other's prerogative.

FOURTH VERSE. - 'Mine hostess's maid' is an allusion to the Queen, who was a Roman Catholic, and her maid, the Church. The singer we must suppose was one of the leaders of the party, and his 'dog' a companion, or faithful official of the Society, and the song was sung on occasions when the members met together socially; and thus, as the Roman Catholics were Royalists, the allusion to the mutual attachment between the 'maid' and 'my dog and I,' is plain and consistent.

FIFTH VERSE. - The 'dog' had a 'trick of visiting maids when they were sick.' The meaning is, that when any of the members were in distress or desponding, or likely to give up the Royal cause in despair, the officials, or active members visited, counselled, and assisted them.

SIXTH VERSE. - The 'dog' was 'good to catch a hen,' a 'duck,' or a 'goose.' - That is, to enlist as members of the Society any who were well affected to the Royal cause.

SEVENTH VERSE. - 'The good ale tap' is an allusion, under cover of the similarity in sound between the words ale and aisle, to the Church, of which it was dangerous at the time to be an avowed follower; and so the members were cautioned that indiscretion might lead to their discovery and 'overthrow.'

EIGHTH VERSE. - The allusion here is to those unfaithful supporters of the Royal cause, who 'welcomed' the members of the Society when it appeared to be prospering, but 'parted' from them in adversity.

NINTH VERSE. - An expression of the singer's wish that if he should die he may be buried with his faithful companion, as representing the principles of the Society, under the good aisles of the church.

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