At Se'noke so fam'd for Virginity old

First Line At Se'noke so fam'd for Virginity old
Author Elizabeth Amherst Thomas
Date 1749

Song; Narrative [Women; Courtship, marriage; Satire - social].

Transcribed from "Se'noke Nunnery. To the Tune of Packington's Pound." Poems on several occasions, from genuine manuscripts of Dean Swift..., 1749, pp. 36–45. Eighteenth Century Collections Online, GALE|CW0111602085.



At Se'noke so fam'd for Virginity old

A Scheme was on foot, as we're credibly told,

That Maidens, who now had no Chance to be Wives,

Shou'd retire from the World, for the rest of their Lives.

Sir Thomas well knew

What Good would accrue

Unto their Souls, and to the Community too,

In a Nunn'ry far from Temptation and Strife,

To lead both a frugal, and innocent Life.


The Magistrate urg'd, "Since Times were so bad

"That Money or Men they are scarce to be had,

"What Pity these Damsels the Town idly tramp,

"They had better be praying for Friends in the Camp;

"For the Busy and Gay,

"Have no Time to pray,

"Therefore I think well of a rummaging Day,

"And those who've refus'd any Offer shall troop,

"Th' unoffer'd a Twelve-month shall live upon Hope.


This Project was kept, and not known to a Mouse

Till Officers sent were from House unto House,

To collect all the Virgins who turn'd were of Twenty;

"Hey Day! what's the Matter! and pray Sirs, who sent ye!

"Nay, I'll not go I swear,

"Till I've new curl'd my Hair;—

Pray Ladies, quoth they, you must go as you are,

His Worship is waiting this Hour at the Crown,

And orders you instantly all to come down.


O did you ne'er meet with a Flock of wild Geese,

For then you might guess at the Musick of these?

They made a full Stop when they came to the Crown:

And court'sying all stood in the midst of the Town:

"Nay I will not go first,

"If I stand till I burst;

"Cry'd the Justice, "Why Rat ye, come in and be curst,"

"But Ladies, I beg you wou'd cease all this Noise,

"You make a worse Riot than Westminster Boys.


"I own to you all I've no Pow'r to compel,

"But if you'll oblige me, you'll surely do well;

"'Tis wiser by far, now all Hopes are in vain,—

"Make Necessity Choice,—need I farther explain?

"A Cloister I mean;

"As meet shall be seen,

"And surely you'll live there the Life of a Queen:

"But first if you've any Objections, pray say?

"Some Examination comes in by the Way."


Then first was call'd forth a fair Damsel of Size,

Who'll quickly see forty, or the Register lies;

Says the Justice, "there need be no Trial of you,

"The Offers you've slighted we know are not few;

"The Abbess's Place,

"You'll fill with good Grace.

And pray now, good Sir, what d'ye see in my Face

To fancy I'd relish a Nunnery Life?

No, I'd condescend rather to be a tame Wife.


'Tis true of good Offers I've really had Plenty;

I believe I could tell you of a Dozen or Twenty;

But this I assure you, I've not forsworn Men,

And so you shall see, when I'm offer'd again,

Thro' erroneous Comment

On my good Intent,

A very good Offer which lately was sent;

To my great Surprize a Denial has ta'en,

But this I'm resolv'd next Time to speak plain.


Then step'd forth a Maid not so meek as her Name,

For at married Folks dancing she maketh her Game.

"'Tis your Wives who have hinder'd our Market I'm sure,

"For Dancing and Musick what more can allure?

"But when at a Ball

"We shine away all,

'The best of our Beaux to your Trumpery fall:

'No Nunn'ry for me, pray send your own Spouse,

'Or keep her at Home, to look after her House.


Two Sisters appear'd, not wonderful tall,

One Virgin and Widow by Fame yclep'd small;

The eldest declar'd she was going to Town,

With pious Intent to bring a Man down:

The Widow so sly,

Of speaking was shy,

But with a grave Face made this pithy Reply,

'That she was as much of a Nun as the best,

'And wou'd follow Example when they were profess'd.


Next came a slim Damsel, so trimly demure,

'Oh! Ho! quoth the Justice, of one I am sure,

'My fair one I see, you will make a good Saint.

If you take me fore one, Sir, I assure you ben't;

Ne'er mind a coy Look,

No Nunn'ry I brook,

To catch a good Husband I'm baiting my Hook,

Some Admirers 'tis true have beg'd hard for my Person,

But Black-coats you know are my utter Aversion.


Then came in a Maiden of Aspect full mild,

And over her Head peep'd a Giggler most wild;

The eldest with calmest Civility said,

It was not her Fault, that she yet was a Maid,

And 'twould really be hard

In a Grate to be bar'd,

But she'd be content if like others she far'd.

T'other turn'd on her Heel, and baul'd out as she ran,

A Cloister! mine A—se! catch me there if you can.


A couple of Sisters I erst shou'd have said,

Were told they must shortly turn Nuns or be wed,

They answer'd they really would do all they could,

And hop'd he believ'd their Intentions were good.

But as for this Whim,

It was nothing to them,

They came but to visit their Brother, and him

They intended to leave, when he brought home his Spouse,

So cou'd have no Right in this Nunn'ry House.


A twain more of Sisters unwilling appear'd,

They colour'd, look'd frightned, and beg'd to be heard,

They surely cou'd not be Parishioners deem'd,

And the Nunn'ry was only for Natives it seem'd;

"They vow'd and declar'd,

"As they hop'd to be pair'd,

"They ne'er in their Lives were so terribly scar'd;

"That they'd rather be smuggling with Curteis and Grey,

"And run home thro' the Dirt, than to here fast and pray.


A Man who was sent with a Pillion and Horse,

From a Mile out of Town brought a fat clumsey Lass;

She star'd at the Justice; from red she turn'd pale,

And pretended to laugh, tho' her Courage did fail;

Cry'd she if 'tis so,

I think I will go,

If you'll let some conservable Men be there too,

But on hearing the Indulgence, she pleaded her Right,

And so for a Year got repriev'd from her Fright.


But now that 'twas hinted, the Justice began

To lay all ill Success to the Want of a Man;

He sent for the Curate and ask'd him if he

Wou'd be Father-Confessor to this Nunnery?

But he made his Excuse,

It was what he shou'd chuse,

Except for a Reason he beg'd to produce;

That he knew it a Task much beyond his poor Skill

To please so many Women, perform it who will.


And now were examin'd a Dozen Maids more,

From Forty to Fifty and so to Threescore;

'Twere endless to tell the Excuses they made,

But the Nunnery ev'ry one chose to evade,

'Twas too soon,—or too late—

One engag'd to a Mate,—

And thirty Years Courtship, had Patience to wait.—

So finding his Project wou'd never prevail,

The Justice desisted, and here ends my Tale.