A Flyting in Cheapside: London, 1590
“Get thee from me, maggot-pouch, thou swag-bellied,
Pottle-deep canker-blossom, thou poxy, swollen
Pumpion, lest I cleave thy common-used futtocks
And carve them in gobbets to chink the wall
Of a jakes. Go home, and die, and stink.”
“Needs must I rush, lest I find thy good lady
There, swooning to chew loose my codpiece ties?
Rumour whispereth she hath had no joy
Of thee this twelvemonth and more, thou lank,
Egg-shriveled, drooping spongy pizzle thou.”
“Thou whoreson bum-bailey thou,
Thou’st milked thy shittard’s pizzle
Upon every beardless chorister at Paul’s.
What good lady here would find thee clean enough
To piss upon, thou reeky carbuncle, thou disease,
Thou goatish, pox-marked bung-hole lewdster?”
“Thou tickle-brained horn-porter, thou antlered hedge-pig,
Thy lady is a froward, infectious giglet,
A slubbering, unmuzzled, folly-fallen strumpet,
A wayward, ruttish, common-kissing flirt-gill scut
That hath gifted thee with crutch fleas and the pizzle-itch,
Pusy night-piss, one unmannerly bastard,
Two scrofulous stones and the bone-ache of Naples.”
“I bite my thumb at thee, thou lying,
Gleeking, paunchy puking malt-worm!”
“Foot-licking fly-bit wittol! Milk-livered stag’s-head toad!
Draw, and be damned!”
Potion Against Heart-Ache
Take thee nut of hickory, root of chicory,
Parsnip, purslane and thyme. Add salsify, samphire,
Parsely, and ramp, with posies of roses and rhubarb and dock,
Then roast it or toast it and steep it in brandy
With oris-root candy twelve hours straight by the clock.
Drain it and strain it as slowly it mellows
And chill it with bellows
To coat it with frosting of rime.
To keep the taste true, fine it with rue,
And age it in cellars like wine.
Then live thee by reason, at least for a season,
Keep thee from sin and wagering den,
And avoid all manner of ire, so to be worthy
To gift such a liquor, this magical ichor,
To good lady whose love you desire,
And her pure heart shall ever be true.
Thy babies need never fear rabies nor scabies,
Scrofula, glanders, nor pox,
If thou blend thee this potion into a lotion
And rub on their feeties each day.
Thy hens will all lay, thy lambkins shall play
And give thee gold nuggets for rocks,
Thy heifers give milk, thy worms make thee silk,
All creatures shall love thee at sight,
If one gill in water thou add to their fodder
And knead it and feed it each night.
Keep thou this potion, this magical lotion,
Ever beside thee no night-mare shall ride thee,
No ill fate betide thee, nor eye-worm trouble thy sight.
No wife shall beshrew thee no bailiff shall rue thee;
Only take care that thou muse thee and choose thee
Daily to use it aright.
Randel McCraw Helms is retired from Arizona State University’s English Department. Making poems is his lifelong vice, and his recent work has appeared in such places as “Blood & Bourbon,” “Dappled Things,” and “Tipton Poetry Journal.”