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The Ballad of Sally in our Alley -- Henry Carey

       
(Poem #959) The Ballad of Sally in our Alley
   Of all the Girls that are so smart
       There's none like pretty SALLY,
   She is the Darling of my Heart,
       And she lives in our Alley.
   There is no Lady in the Land
       Is half so sweet as SALLY,
   She is the Darling of my Heart,
       And she lives in our Alley.

   Her Father he makes Cabbage-nets,
       And through the Streets does cry 'em;
   Her Mother she sells Laces long,
       To such as please to buy 'em:
   But sure such Folks could ne'er beget
       So sweet a Girl as SALLY!
   She is the Darling of my Heart,
       And she lives in our Alley.

   When she is by I leave my Work,
       (I love her so sincerely)
   My Master comes like any Turk,
       And bangs me most severely;
   But, let him bang his Belly full,
       I'll bear it all for SALLY;
   She is the Darling of my Heart,
       And she lives in our Alley.

   Of all the Days that's in the Week,
       I dearly love but one Day,
   And that's the Day that comes betwixt
       A Saturday and Monday;
   For then I'm drest, all in my best,
       To walk abroad with SALLY;
   She is the Darling of my Heart,
       And she lives in our Alley.

   My Master carries me to Church,
       And often am I blamed,
   Because I leave him in the lurch,
       As soon as Text is named:
   I leave the Church in Sermon time,
       And slink away to SALLY;
   She is the Darling of my Heart,
       And she lives in our Alley.

   When Christmas comes about again,
       O then I shall have Money;
   I'll hoard it up, and Box and all
       I'll give it to my Honey:
   And, would it were ten thousand Pounds;
       I'd give it all to SALLY;
   She is the Darling of my Heart,
       And she lives in our Alley.

   My Master and the Neighbours all,
       Make game of me and SALLY;
   And (but for her) I'd better be
       A Slave and row a Galley:
   But when my seven long Years are out,
       O then I'll marry SALLY!
   O then we'll wed and then we'll bed,
       But not in our Alley.
-- Henry Carey
Notes: First published, 1715
       cabbage-nets: nets to boil cabbages in.
       There's an extensive set of notes on the UToronto site, see the links

At first glance, this poem is mere doggerel - indistinguishable from a
thousand others that with their rather myopic use of ballad metre and their
'perfect' but contrived rhymes have "amateur" stamped firmly across their
every verse. However, "Sally in our Alley" has a charm that shines through the
rough versification, raising it several notches above the common herd and
ensuring its immortality.

It is this indefinable charm that transforms the effusions of the narrator
into something we smile with rather than laugh at, that makes him endearingly
rather than annoyingly naive, and that makes the chorus,

         She is the Darling of my Heart,
         And she lives in our Alley.

work, when it could so easily have ruined the poem instead.

Why 'indefinable'? Well, because this is truly one of those poems that has to
be enjoyed rather than analysed - it would not, I think, stand up well to
being picked apart, but it is a lovely poem for all of that, and enjoy it I
certainly did. Go you and do likewise.

Links:

  http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/poems/careyhenry3.html has a lengthy
  note on the identity of Sally.

  There's also a biography of Carey on the site:
  http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/authors/careyhenry.html#notes

-martin

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