[originally posted on thehairpin.com]
A badass 17th century lady named Joan won a bet.
Old Woman of Finsbury,
Went through the City upon all four, with a lighted Candle in
her Back-side, and scared the Watch who was amaz’d at that dismal sight.
To the Tune of, Jealous Lover.
You that in merriment delight,
Pray listen well to what I write,
It is a pleasant Jest you’ll find,
To cure a melancholy mind:
As I upon the Watch did stand,
With staff and lantern in my hand
A frightful Creature there I see,
Which fore amazed and startled me.
It seem’d to have four sprawling feet,
On which it crawled along the street,
And towards me at length it came,
Breathing as ’twere, a burning-flame.
This Creature was array’d in clothes,
A huge broad Face, but ne’er a Nose,
Nor any Eyes could I behold,
The heart within my breast was cold.
The brawny Cheeks did me surprise,
They being of the larger size,
Then I had seen in all my days,
I for a while did stand and gaze.
What course to take I could not tell,
Thought I “It is some Fiend of Hell,
That came to scare and frighten us,”
With courage then I answer’d thus:
“I am a Watchman at my Post,
Therefore if thou art Hag or Ghost,
Or a Hobgoblin, or Night-mare,
Speak up,” quoth I, “Friend, who comes there?”
“Shameless,” the Apparition cried,
Immediately I then replied,
“I’ll quit my Post since it is so,
E’en shameless come, and shameless go.”
Me thought a humane Voice I heard,
Although an ill shap’d thing appeared.
Therefore to the main Watch I run,
Crying out, “Friends, we’re all undone.”
The Watch cried out, “What do you mean?”
Saith I, “Old Satan I have seen,
He is approaching to this place,
With flaming fire in his face.”
This said we went to meet him then,
With staves and clubs full twenty Men;
At length this Devil proved to be,
Old drunken Joan of Finsbury.
Who being in an Ale-house late,
Not very far from Bishops-gate,
Had laid a Wager of a Crown,
That she would cross fair London-town.
When each was sleeping fast in Bed,
Her Coats and Smock thrown o’re her head,
She backward was obliged to crawl,
Upon her hands nay feet and all:
Accordingly away she went,
And in her brawny Fundament*,
A lighted Candle plac’d must be,
Which was a dreadful sight to see.
Joan won the Wager, for she passed
Across the City, and at last
Meeting the Watch, she turned about
And fairly blew her Candle out.
Home she return’d without delay,
There was good laughing the next day
At the poor Watchman, who declared
He ne’er before had been so scared.
Upon her Hands and Feet she come,
Explosing** of her naked Bum,
In which there stuck a Candle lighted,
This would the hardest Man affrighted.
Kind Neighbours, this was William Green
By whom this dismal sight was seen;
The Woman’s Name is known to be,
Old Shameless Joan of Finsbury.
** The best word
Courtesy the English Broadside Ballad Archive