Friday, December 7, 2007
The famous Ratketcher, with his trauels into France, and of his returne to London, 1616
This ballad (sung to the tune of "the Joviall Tinker"--man I love that song) is actually pretty funny at first. The ratketcher walks around carrying
"Full fourty fulsome Vermine" on a pole to advertise his trade, and sings "Rat tat tat." He also seems to be interested in various poisons from around the world, and is lauded for his work. It reminded me of the famous Victorian ratter Jack Black, until I got to this stanza:
"But on a time, a Damosell,
did him so farre intice,
That for her a Baite he layd straight,
would kill no Rats nor Mice...
And on the Baite she nibled,
so pleasing in her taste,
She lickt so long, that the Poyson strong,
did make her swell i'th waste."
That's right, he tries to poison a woman. Ha Ha Ha! Although the "poison" might be semen. Either way, it seems he has to leave town for some reason.
But you know, now that I look at the kitty, maybe it's supposed to be a terrier? And flowers, milk baths, and ringing bells were all real plague "remedies" throughout the 15th-18th centuries.
On the subject of ratcatching, I just saw maybe the most terribly depressing (read: wonderful in every way) movie called Ratcatcher. It's set in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1970s, during a garbagemen strike. Urban poverty? Check. Familial breakdown? Check. Childhood cut short due to tragedy? Double check. It was pretty much perfect in every way. Watch it.