Woodstock, by Walter Scott

Appendix No. I.

The Woodstock Scuffle;


Most dreadfull apparitions that were lately seene in the Mannor-house of Woodstock, neere Oxford, to the great terror and the wonderful amazement of all there that did behold them.

It were a wonder if one unites,

And not of wonders and strange sights;

For ev’ry where such things affrights

Poore people,

That men are ev’n at their wits’ end;

God judgments ev’ry where doth send,

And yet we don’t our lives amend,

But tipple,

And sweare, and lie, and cheat, and  —

Because the world shall drown no more,

As if no judgments were in store

But water;

But by the stories which I tell,

You’ll heare of terrors come from hell,

And fires, and shapes most terrible

For matter.

It is not long since that a child

Spake from the ground in a large field,

And made the people almost wild

That heard it,

Of which there is a printed book,

Wherein each man the truth may look,

If children speak, the matter’s took

For verdict.

But this is stranger than that voice,

The wonder’s greater, and the noyse;

And things appeare to men, not boyes,

At Woodstock;

Where Rosamond had once a bower,

To keep her from Queen Elinour,

And had escap’d her poys’nous power

By good-luck,

But fate had otherwise decreed,

And Woodstock Manner saw a deed,

Which is in Hollinshed or Speed


But neither Hollinshed nor Stow,

Nor no historians such things show,

Though in them wonders we well know

Are pickled;

For nothing else is history

But pickle of antiquity,

Where things are kept in memory

From stinking;

Which otherwise would have lain dead,

As in oblivion buried,

Which now you may call into head

With thinking.

The dreadfull story, which is true,

And now committed unto view,

By better pen, had it its due,

Should see light.

But I, contented, do indite,

Not things of wit, but things of right;

You can’t expect that things that fright

Should delight.

O hearken, therefore, hark and shake!

My very pen and hand doth quake!

While I the true relation make

O’ th’ wonder,

Which hath long time, and still appeares

Unto the State’s Commissioners,

And puts them in their beds to feares

From under.

They come, good men, imploi’d by th’ State

To sell the lands of Charles the late.

And there they lay, and long did waite

For chapmen.

You may have easy pen’worths, woods,

Lands, ven’son, householdstuf, and goods,

They little thought of dogs that wou’d

There snap-men.

But when they’d sup’d, and fully fed,

They set up remnants and to bed.

Where scarce they had laid down a head

To slumber,

But that their beds were heav’d on high;

They thought some dog under did lie,

And meant i’ th’ chamber (fie, fie, fie)

To scumber.

Some thought the cunning cur did mean

To eat their mutton (which was lean)

Reserv’d for breakfast, for the men

Were thrifty.

And up one rises in his shirt,

Intending the slie cur to hurt,

And forty thrusts made at him for’t,

Or fifty.

But empty came his sword again.

He found he thrust but all in vain;

An the mutton safe, hee went amain

To’s fellow.

And now (assured all was well)

The bed again began to swell,

The men were frighted, and did smell

O’ th’ yellow.

From heaving, now the cloaths it pluckt

The men, for feare, together stuck,

And in their sweat each other duck’t.

They wished

A thousand times that it were day;

’Tis sure the divell! Let us pray.

They pray’d amain; and, as they say,


Approach of day did cleere the doubt,

For all devotions were run out,

They now waxt strong and something stout,

One peaked

Under the bed, but nought was there;

He view’d the chamber ev’ry where,

Nothing apear’d but what, for feare.

They leaked.

Their stomachs then return’d apace,

They found the mutton in the place,

And fell unto it with a grace.

They laughed

Each at the other’s pannick feare,

And each his bed-fellow did jeere,

And having sent for ale and beere,

They quaffed.

And then abroad the summons went,

Who’ll buy king’s-land o’ th’ Parliament?

A paper-book contein’d the rent,

Which lay there;

That did contein the severall farmes,

Quit-rents, knight services, and armes;

But that they came not in by swarmes

To pay there.

Night doth invite to bed again,

The grand Commissioners were lain,

But then the thing did heave amain,

It busled,

And with great clamor fil’d their eares,

The noyse was doubled, and their feares;

Nothing was standing but their haires,

They nuzled.

Oft were the blankets pul’d, the sheete

Was closely twin’d betwixt their feete,

It seems the spirit was discreete

And civill.

Which makes the poore Commissioners

Feare they shall get but small arreares,

And that there’s yet for cavaliers

One divell.

They cast about what best to doe;

Next day they would to wisemen goe,

To neighb’ring towns some cours to know;

For schollars

Come not to Woodstock, as before,

And Allen’s dead as a nayle-doore,

And so’s old John (eclep’d the poore)

His follower;

Rake Oxford o’re, there’s not a man

That rayse or lay a spirit can,

Or use the circle, or the wand,

Or conjure;

Or can say (Boh!) unto a divell,

Or to a goose that is uncivill,

Nor where Keimbolton purg’d out evill,

’Tis sin sure.

There were two villages hard by,

With teachers of presbytery,

Who knew the house was hidiously


But ‘lasse! their new divinity

Is not so deep, or not so high;

Their witts doe (as their meanes did) lie


But Master Joffman was the wight

Which was to exorcise the spright;

Hee’ll preach and pray you day and night

At pleasure.

And by that painfull gainfull trade,

He hath himselfe full wealthy made;

Great store of guilt he hath, ’tis said,

And treasure.

But no intreaty of his friends

Could get him to the house of fiends,

He came not over for such ends

From Dutch-land,

But worse divinity hee brought,

And hath us reformation taught,

And, with our money, he hath bought

Him much land.

Had the old parsons preached still,

The div’l should nev’r have had his wil;

But those that had or art or skill

Are outed;

And those to whom the pow’r was giv’n

Of driving spirits, are out-driv’n;

Their colledges dispos’d, and livings,

To grout-heads.

There was a justice who did boast,

Hee had as great a gift almost,

Who did desire him to accost

This evill.

But hee would not employ his gifts.

But found out many sleights and shifts;

Hee had no prayers, nor no snifts,

For th’ divell.

Some other way they cast about,

These brought him in, they throw not out;

A woman, great with child, will do’t;

They got one.

And she i’ th’ room that night must lie;

But when the thing about did flie,

And broke the windows furiously

And hot one

Of the contractors o’re the head,

Who lay securely in his bed,

The woman, shee-affrighted, fled


And now they lay the cause on her.

That e’re that night the thing did stir,

Because her selfe and grandfather

Were Papists;

They must be barnes-regenerate,

(A Hans en Kelder of the state,

Which was in reformation gatt,)

They said, which

Doth make the divell stand in awe,

Pull in his hornes, his hoof, his claw;

But having none, they did in draw


But in the night there was such worke,

The spirit swaggered like a Turke;

The bitch had spi’d where it did lurke,

And howled

In such a wofull manner that

Their very hearts went pit a pat;

* * * * *


The stately rooms, where kings once lay

But the contractors show’d the way.

But mark what now I tell you, pray,

’Tis worth it.

That book I told you of before,

Wherein were tenants written store,

A register for many more

Not forth yet,

That very book, as it did lie,

Took of a flame, no mortall eye

Seeing one jot of fire thereby,

Or taper;

For all the candles about flew,

And those that burned, burned blew,

Never kept soldiers such a doe

Or vaper.

The book thus burnt and none knew how

The poore contractors made a vow

To work no more; this spoil’d their plow

In that place.

Some other part o’ th’ house they’ll find,

To which the divell hath no mind,

But hee, it seems, is not inclin’d

With that grace;

But other pranks it plaid elsewhere.

An oake there was stood many a yeere,

Of goodly growth as any where,

Was hewn down,

Which into fewell-wood was cut,

And some into a wood-pile put,

But it was hurled all about

And thrown down.

In sundry formes it doth appeare;

Now like a grasping claw to teare;

Now like a dog; anon a beare

It tumbles;

And all the windows battered are,

No man the quarter enter dare;

All men (except the glasier)

Doe grumble.

Once in the likenesse of woman,

Of stature much above the common,

’Twas seene, but spak a word to no man,

And vanish’d.

’Tis thought the ghost of some good wife

Whose husband was depriv’d of life,

Her children cheated, land in strife

She banist.

No man can tell the cause of these

So wondrous dreadful outrages;

Yet if upon your sinne you please

To discant,

You’le find our actions out-doe hell’s;

O wring your hands and cease the bells,

Repentance must, or nothing else

Appease can’t.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00