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The cucking of a scold
Pepys, i, 454, B.L., one woodcut, three columns.
An amusing and a highly interesting description of how scolds were, after due process of law, ducked is given in this ballad. The cucking was no tame affair, but was instead an elaborate ceremonial involving a parade in which a hundred archers, a hundred armed men, and fifty parrots took part. There are ballads out of number on scolds, but most of them tell of the desperate remedies applied in more or less privacy by the martyred husbands, and none, I believe, deals with a public cucking such as befell this "dainty scold in grain." That her type still lingers would appear from the case of a woman who was tried and convicted of being a " common scold'' by the Criminal Court of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on February 18, 1921. There seventeen families testified that they were scandalized "when they left their houses for a minute and that such epithets as 'poor fish,' 'mountain of flesh' and 'dirty long legs' were hurled at them" by the scold in question. This scold was sentenced to pay the costs of the case and to move from the neighbourhood.
The printer G.P. could have been either George Purslowe or George Potter, who printed during the years 1614—1632 and 1599—1616 respectively. I suspect that the ballad dates at least as early as 161 5. Its first appearance was probably at an earlier date even than 1615. The tune, usually referred to as The Merchantman, comes from a ballad of Thomas Deloney's of the date March 22, 1594. The music is given in Chappell's Popular Music; 1, 381.
To the tune of, The Merchant of Emden.
I A Wedded wife there was, A I wis of yeeres but yong, But if you thinke she wanted wit, He sweare she lackt no tongue, lust seventeene yeeres of age, This woman1 was no more, 1 Text women.