“The Snipe”, Phanuel Bacon, 1765

Whiling the evening away and watching the snow pile up outside, a rare enough thing in the Willamette Valley, I stumbled across this very old and humorous song/verse by Phanuel Bacon.  In summary, it’s a song set to the tune of  “A Cobbler There Was” that tells the story of a friar and his friend out snipe hunting.  The friend shoots a  single snipe, then hides it away in his waistcoat pocket…and forgets about it.  Folk start wondering where the horrible smell is coming from, assuming he is sick. Three weeks later, he discovers the source!

While a bit of a long read, I am taking the liberty of including it in it’s entirety, with some background information on Bacon as available below the text:

I’ll tell you a story, a story that’s true,
A story that’s dismal, and comical too;
It is of a Friar, who some people think,
Tho’ as sweet as a nut, might have dy’d of a stink.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.

This Friar would often go out with his gun,
And tho’ no great marksman, he thought himself one;
For tho’ he for ever was wont to miss aim,
Still something but never himself was to blame.
Derry down, &c.

It happen’d young Peter, a friend of the Friar’s,
With legs arm’d with leather, for fear of the briars,
Went out with him once, tho’ it signifies not
Where he hired his gun, or who tick’d for the shot.
Derry down, &c.

Away these two trudg’d it, o’er hills and o’er dales,
They popt at the partridges, frighten’d the quails;
But, to tell you the truth, no great mischief was done,
Save spoiling the proverb, as sure as a gun.
Derry down, &c.

But at length a poor Snipe flew direct in the way,
In open defiance, as if he would say,
“If only the Friar and Peter are there,
“I’ll fly where I list, there’s no reason to fear.”
Derry down, &c.

Tho’ little thought he that his death was so nigh,
Yet Peter by chance fetch’d him down from on high;
His shot was ramm’d down with a journal, I wist,
The first Time he charg’d so improper with Mist.
Derry down, &c.

Then on both sides the speeches began to be made,
As-I beg your acceptance-O! no sir, indeed-
I beg that you would sir,-for both wisely knew,
That one Snipe could ne’er be a supper for two.
Derry down, &c.

What the Friar declin’d in a most civil sort,
Peter slipt in his pocket; the de’el take him for’t!
But were the truth known, ‘twould plainly appear,
He oft times had found a longer bill there.
Derry down, &c.


Hid in his pocket the Snipe safely lay,
While a week did pass over his head, and a day,
Till the ropes for a toast too offensive were grown,
And were smelt out by ev’ry nose but his own.
Derry down, &c.

The Friar look’d wholesome it must be agreed,
So no one could say, whence the stink should proceed;
Where the stink might be laid, tho’ no one could say,
‘Tis certain he brought it and took it away.
Derry down, &c.

At sight of the Friar began the perfume,
And scarce he appeared but he scented the room:
Snuff-boxes were held in the highest esteem,
And all the wry Faces were made where he came.
Derry down, &c.

As the place he was in it was call’d this and that;
In his room ’twas a close-stool, or else a dead rat;
In the fields where he walk’d for some carrion ’twas guest,
‘Twas a fart at the Angel and pass’d for a jest.
Derry down, &c.

At length the suspicion fell thick on poor Tray,
Till he took to his heels and with speed ran away;
Thought the Friar poor Tray I’ll remember thee soon,
If I live to grow sweet I’ll give thee a bone.
Derry down, &c.

For he knew that poor Tray was most highly abus’d,
And if any, himself, thus deserv’d to be us’d:
For ’twas certainly he, whom else could he think;
‘Twas certainly he that must make all the stink.
Derry down, &c.

So when he came home he sat down on his bed,
His elbow at distance supported his head;
His body long while like a pendulum went;
But all he could do did not alter the scent.
Derry down, &c.

Thus hipp’d he got up and pull’d off his cloaths,
He peep’d in his breeches and smelt to his hose,
And the very next morning fresh cloaths he put on,
All, all but a waistcoat, for he had but one.
Derry down, &c.

But changing his cloaths did not alter the case,
And so he stunk on for three weeks and three days;
‘Till to send for a doctor he thought it most meet;
For tho’ he was not, yet his life it was sweet.
Derry down, &c.

The doctor he came, felt his pulse in a trice;
Then crept at a distance to give his advice:
But sweating, nor bleeding, nor purging would do,
For instead of one stink this only made two.
Derry down, &c.

The friar oft-times to his glass would repair,
But to death he was frighten’d when e’er he came there;
His eyes were so sunk, and he look’d so aghast,
He verily thought he was stinking his last.
Derry down, &c.

So for credit he hastens to burn all his prose,
And into the fire his verses he throws;
When searching his pockets to make up the pile,
He found out the Snipe, that had stunk all the while.
Derry down, &c.

So he hopes you will now think him wholsome again,
Since his waistcoat discovers the cause of his pain:
To conclude, the poor Friar intreats you to note,
That you might have been sweet had you been in his coat.
Derry down, &c.

Printed and sold at the printing-office in Bow-Church-Yard, London, [1765?]

“Phanuel Bacon DD (13 October 1700 – 10 January 1783) was an English playwright, poet and author. He was the son of the Rev. Phanuel Bacon, vicar of St Laurence’s church, in Reading.

In his youth, Bacon attended Abingdon School and later entered St John’s College, Oxford. He became vicar of Bramber, Sussex, and rector of Marsh Baldon, Oxfordshire. Among his works are The Kite (1722), The Moral Quack, The Insignificants, The Tryal of the Timekillers, The Occulist and The Taxes, all written in 1757.”

(source: Wikipedia.  References:  Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1885). “Bacon, Phanuel”. Dictionary of National Biography. 2. London: Smith, Elder & Co.)