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Piskie Led Verse

Piskie Led Verse

Thomas Parker came of a Devonshire strain ;
His habits were simple ; his habit was plain ;
A long-skirted coat he was wont to wear,
Which gave him rather a rustified air ;
Thanks to his wife’s needle, it always look’d neat,
Although of a pattern quite obsolete.
It had long flapp’d pockets, wherein he stow’d
Of household stores the requisite load,
Whene’er, by a footpath much cumber’d with stiles,
He went from his house to the town—full two miles.

One afternoon—’twas in September,
As many a gossip could long remember.
He started on his accustom’d route—
‘Twas the shortest one could go by foot.
The path lay close along a brook,
Which flow’d in many a pleasing nook ;

Here, beneath knots of alders, darkling-.
There, in a deep eddy gushing and sparkling;
Here, babbling ‘gainst a stony beach ;
There, shining in an open reach,
Dimpled by spotted trout that rise
Eager to take the gauze-wing’d flies.
With here and there upon its brink
A flush of flowers, purple or pink ;

Splendour of lythrum and pale willow-herb
In their autumnal bloom superb;
Water-flags, kexes, and netdes, and thistles
With leaves terminating in sharp-pointed bristles ;
Reeds, rushes, and carnation-grass,

Imaged within the lucent glass;

Broad-leaved docks, and mint, and mallows,
And cresses that love to run into the shallows ;
And plants which I can’t well describe, having not any
Very extensive acquaintance with botany.
This fringe the mower’s scythe had left.
When of its crop the field it reft.

He reach’d the town, and the requisites bought.
With which his coat-pockets were duly fraught.
It is not needful to my story
That I should give an inventory
Of all his stock—’tis my intention
Of but one article to make mention,
Viz., a pound of candles call’d dips,
Which he usually fetch’d in these afternoon trips.

This parcel, moreover, I’d have you take note,
He placed in a poke of the long-skirted coat.
Then he went to the Crown, where for some time he stay’d.
By which his return was a little delay’d.
Ere the clock had struck nine he set out on his way,
But, somehow, he did not reach home till next day ;
Nor did he return by the way that he came ;
For which, ever after, the Piskies he’d blame—
An excuse which some folks would denominate ‘ lame.’
‘Twas strange that a man who most times acted warily,
Should out of his way have gone involuntarily,
And taken a course in great measure contrarily.
But to solve this enigma ’twill doubtless avail
To hear Thomas Parker relate his own tale.

Piskie Led Verse

Thomas Parker’s Version of Events

Presented in Devonshire Dialect



I done mee arrands at the town.
An’ vor an hour or zo zot down,
And drink’d a pint o’ ale at the Crown ;
An whan I leaved, ’twere jist about nine ;
The night simm’d likely to be vine.
It warnt auver dark nor ‘twarnt auver light.
An’ I took’d the sdtile, as I dthought, quit right.
Zo I guess’d I wur in the reglar track
That ‘ud bring me to mee huome striaght back.
Zo on I goed, till the way simm’d queare;
An’ I couldn’t vine I wur gitting neare
Mee journey’s eend ; but I sdtill walk’d spry,
Thof the way simm’d straange-like ; and bime-bye

Mee ‘ead wur all ov a zweamy zwim,
And mee eyes bekimm’d inkimminly dim.
Zumow, vor sartin, mee way I’d a-lost ;
An’ I can’t a bit zay what viels I cross’d,
Clamb’ring droo adges, auver vences,
Lik wan vorzaken ov ‘is zenses.

Zo many a weary hour I ‘vared,

Dizzy-eaded, a-tired, and a-skear’d ;

Till I recauver’d zense to dthink

That I warn’t the wuss vor a drap o’ drink,
Whik voke mid zay ‘ad got in mee ‘ead,
But that I wur sartinly Piskie-led.
Zo I turn’d mee pocket inzide-out.
An’ immadiately know’d mee where about :
In Edge coort-yard meezelf I persayved ;
I wur rayther zurprised, but mee mind wur ralayved ;
Vive long mile an’ a ‘alf I’d a-come;
Jist as var vrom the town as I wur from mee huome.
Zo I turn’d about, an’ walk’d quit striaght
Untill I comm’d to mee awn coort-giate,
As well ‘s a ever zince I began
To walk ; or any other man.
Well ! ‘twur a pracious rig I rah,
Whan I wur thic evenin’ Piskie-led,
And wan holl night kep out o’ mee bed :
And I gueess ‘twur a most partiklar thing.
That arter this here wandering,
Mee passel wur zafe within mee poke.
And not a zingle candle a-brok

Piskie Led Verse

Moral of the Story:

Without harshly judging this Devonshire yeoman,

It should ne’ertheless be forgotten by no man,

That the sprites who the spirit-king, Alcohol, serve,

Do oft from his path make the way-farer swerve.

Then let all honest swains who would keep the right way,

Beware how they bring themselves under their sway;

For the legs will be prone to take any direction.

When the head is deprived of its power of reflection.

G. G. B. Byron. 1878. Fabellae Mostellariae, London: Hamilton Publishers

 In other words, when out on the lash, don’t blame the piskies for what can only be the fault of the wallop you have consumed, especially as now-a-days ‘er indoors no longer believes in the moorland tradition of being ‘Piskie Led’ – ‘Whisky Led’ maybe!


About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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