Goody Blake and Harry Gill: A True Story by William Wordsworth

Updated: Dec 14, 2019




Why do we cease to teach through the medium of verse? In children we happily sing songs and tell stories to convey moral tales and even astronomy, math, and economics.

We know how effective this is in teaching young children ("My Very Evil Mother Just Swatted Uncle's Nose" -- for the planets) and yet why not teach the theory of evolution in metre and rhyme?


Great poets, in fact, do teach in this manner.  In this very simple ballad, Wordsworth conveys a complex theoretical proposition from Erasmus Darwin's Zoonomia: The Laws of Organic Life."



Goody Blake and Harry Gill.,

A True Story


by William Wordsworth


Oh! what's the matter? what's the matter?

What is't that ails young Harry Gill?

That evermore his teeth they chatter,

Chatter, chatter, chatter still!

Of waistcoats Harry has no lack,

Good duffle grey, and flannel fine;

He has a blanket on his back,

And coats enough to smother nine.


In March, December, and in July,

'Tis all the same with Harry Gill;

The neighbours tell, and tell you truly,

His teeth they chatter, chatter still.

At night, at morning, and at noon,

'Tis all the same with Harry Gill;

Beneath the sun, beneath the moon,

His teeth they chatter, chatter still!


Young Harry was a lusty drover,

And who so stout of limb as he?

His cheeks were red as ruddy clover;

His voice was like the voice of three.

Old Goody Blake was old and poor;

Ill fed she was, and thinly clad;

And any man who passed her door

Might see how poor a hut she had.


All day she spun in her poor dwelling:

And then her three hours' work at night,

Alas! 'twas hardly worth the telling,

It would not pay for candle-light.

Remote from sheltered village-green,

On a hill's northern side she dwelt,

Where from sea-blasts the hawthorns lean,

And hoary dews are slow to melt.


By the same fire to boil their pottage,

Two poor old Dames, as I have known,

Will often live in one small cottage;

But she, poor Woman! housed alone.

'Twas well enough when summer came,

The long, warm, lightsome summer-day,

Then at her door the 'canty' Dame

Would sit, as any linnet, gay.


But when the ice our streams did fetter,

Oh then how her old bones would shake!

You would have said, if you had met her,

'Twas a hard time for Goody Blake.

Her evenings then were dull and dead:

Sad case it was, as you may think,

For very cold to go to bed;

And then for cold not sleep a wink.


O joy for her! whene'er in winter

The winds at night had made a rout;