Grasshopper and a Fly, A

DESCRIPTION: A grasshopper and a fly argue about priority. The fly claims a royal father. Grasshopper responds, "But your mother was a Turd." "Rebel Jemmy Scot, That did to Empire soar, His Father might be the Lord knows what But his mother we knew was a whore"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1719 (_Pills to Purge Melancholy_)
KEYWORDS: nonballad political bastard royalty bug
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South))
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Williams-Thames, p. 304, "The Fly and the Grasshopper" (1 text) (also Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 369)
ADDITIONAL: Wit and Mirth, or, Pills to Purge Melancholy (London, 1719 ("Digitized by Google")), Vol II, pp. 275-277, "An Allegory" ("A grasshopper, and a Fly") (1 text, 1 tune)
John Stephen Farmer, editor, Merry Songs and Ballads, Prior to the Year 1800 (1897 ("Digitized by Microsoft")), Vol III, pp. 212-213, "A Grasshopper and a Fly" (1 text)

Roud #1326
NOTES: According to WitandMirth:"set to Musick by Mr Henry Purcell [c.1659-1695]."
The Williams-Thames text is complete enough to not be considered a fragment but it cleans up the text ("And, let thy father be what he will, Thy mother was never a king [sic]" instead of "Your Father might be of high Degree, But your Mother was but a Turd") and altogether omits the chorus referring to "Rebel Jemmy Scot." In the Williams-Thames text the political symbols are changed, if they survive at all, and the fly returns the grasshopper's insult by saying, "And let thy mother be what she will, Thy father sprang from a frog"; there is no such comeback in the older text and it is not clear whom the grasshopper is meant to represent.
This is apparently about James, Duke of Monmouth (1649-1685), contender for the crown, whose mother was Lucy Walter, mistress of Charles II. Fraser writes, "Lucy Walter was not a whore. But she did belong to that restless and inevitably light-moralled generations of young ladies who grew up in the untrallelled times of the Civil War.... Charles himself never questioned Monmouth's parentage. He assumed responsibility for the child from his birth and was inclined rather to remove him from his unsuitable mother's care than to consign him to a limbo of doubtful bastardy" (source: Antonia Fraser, Royal Charles: Charles II and the Restoration (New York, 1979), p. 64-65). - BS
For a bit more about Monmouth, see the notes on "The Battle of the Boyne (I)." - RBW
Last updated in version 2.6
File: WT304A

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