Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Joan Who Crawled Across London With a Candle Up Her Butt

A badass 17th century lady named Joan won a bet.

Shameless Joan
Or, the
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.

* Butt
** The best word

Courtesy the English Broadside Ballad Archive; image of Gustus (Taste), from George Glover's The Seven Deadly Sins, pub. circa 1635.

Previously: Seventeenth-Century Preparation H.

Lili Loofbourow writes about 17th-century ideas of reading and digestion, cognitive science, Chile, and femscularity. She blogs for Ms. Magazine and as Millicent over at Millicent and Carla Fran.

25 Comments / Post A Comment


To be fair, this is exactly the sort of thing you see everyday on the tube.


This may very well be the best thing I read all week.

Tragically Ludicrous

Well, I know what I'm going to be for Halloween!


Where do you find these things?! Love, love, love.




I mean maybe you could get like four good comments out of "On Apple-Picking," one or two people who got dumped by a tree or abandoned by their poverty-stricken peasant parents in a witch's orchard, but that is like ten, TOPS.


@melis Right!?! This is AMAZING.


I am pretty sure this is the most fantastic thing ever to be posted on the internet.


When I was trying to picture it, I thought: "She must have been crawling backwards" So I'm glad they confirmed that for me.

I will give $1 to whoever does this and posts it on YouTube. You only need to go one block.


@punkahontas I don't think I have enough butt to make it out of my apartment.


So, wait, she won the bet by doing this? What did she win? I mean, besides immortality?


@carolita The candle.

no way

@carolita The crown.


@no way Ohhh, I thought she just won *a* crown. As in five shillings. Which, I mean, for five shillings, who wouldn't...


Brawny cheeks! To the tune of "Jealous Lover"! That might be the best part. Thanks, Lili!



Funny, the tune that went through my head was "Like a candle in the wind...."


o/~ and it seems to me
you lived your life
with a candle up your bum... o/~

(does anyone actually know the rest of the lyrics? i vote no)


"...never knowing who to cling to
when the rain should come*

And I would have liked to have known you,
but I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
your legend ever did!"

*should be "when the rain set in," but I changed it to rhyme with bum. The rest is actually pretty apropos!

And no, I didn't have to google the lyrics. I could sing the entire song for you. I had a slight childhood obsession with that Elton John album.

Two-Headed Girl

Amazing. ALSO I am taking a class right now on 17th century print culture and get to read this stuff all the time and it's the best thing ever.


She blew out the candle? Without taking it out of her butt? That's... I want to say that's amazing, but clearly everything about this lady was amazing.


One dramatic reading later, it's not just my new favorite but the new favorite of the lucky folks I live with. Explosing!


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