Smuggler's Song (Watch the Wall While the Gentlemen Go By)
DESCRIPTION: "If you wake at midnight, and hear a horses's feet, Don't go drawing back the blind or looking in the street..." The child is assured that all is well, and told not to repeat what she hears. If she keeps quiet, she may be rewarded and will hear no lies
AUTHOR: Words: Rudyard Kipling?
EARLIEST DATE: 1906 (Puck of Pook's Hill)
KEYWORDS: nonballad horse animal police
REFERENCES (1 citation):
SHenry (introduction to) H494, p. 127, "Hugh Hill, the Ramoan Smuggler" (1 text, 1 tune)
NOTES: There is something peculiar going on here. On its face, this was published by Rudyard Kipling as "Smuggler's Song" in Puck of Pook's Hill (1906). It occurs at the end of the chapter "Hal o' the Daft" (which, curiously, is tied up with Sir Andrew Barton). The text from Puck was set to music by Peter Bellamy, and has been recorded, e.g., by John Roberts and Tony Barrand.
But Lani Herrmann reports that Isla Cameron also recorded the song -- presumably well before Bellamy set a tune. Sam Henry, in 1933, quoted the first stanza without attribution, as if it were a folk song. Could Kipling have taken a traditional scrap and turned it into a full poem? If ever he did such a thing, the most likely place for him to publish it would have been in Puck.
Internal evidence of the poem isn't much help. There is a reference to "King George's Men," but of course one George or another was on the English throne from 1714 to 1830.
It does remind me a bit of the situation in Ireland in the eighteenth century, as groups such as the Whiteboys tried to control oppression by the landlords. Robert Kee, on p. 26 of The Most Distressful Country (being Volume I of The Green Flag), wrote that "At times these secret societies held certain areas of Ireland largely at their mercy. The warning to children: 'The fairies will get you' once had sinister undertones.'" - RBW
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