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The Hornet and the Beetle

[ Roud 12624 ; Full English RVW1/1/1 ; Wiltshire Roud 12624 ; trad.]

The Hornet and the Beetle is a poem in Charles Gardiner's article The Old Cotswold Dialect: Birds, Beasts and Flowers, published on February 12, 1960 in the Evesham Journal, and later included in the book The Old Cotswold Dialect: Selected Article by Charles Gardiner (Evesham: Vale of Evesham Historical Society, 2008, p.18). Gardiner noted that these are “verses written eighty years ago in the local dialect”, i.e. around 1880.

Fay Hield learned The Hornet and the Beetle from a version collected from the singing of W.H. Daws by Ralph Vaughan Williams. She sang it on her 2016 album Old Adam and commented in her sleeve notes:

The Hornet and the Beetle shows us the folly of our justice system, though who'd have thought we'd need a woodpecker to do it?

Lyrics

Charles Gardiner's The Hornet and the Beetle Fay Hield sings The Hornet and the Beetle

The Hornet set in an 'oller tree,
And a proper spiteful toad were he;
And he merrily sung while he set,
His sting was as sharp as a bayonet.
“Now who's so bold and fierce as I?
I fears not bee nor wopse nor fly.”

A hornet sat in an old elm tree,
A regular spiteful toad was he;
He merrily sang as he did sit,
His sting so sharp as a bayonet,
Saying, “Who so bold and fierce as I?
I tell thee, bee nor wasp nor fly.”

A Beetle up thick tree did climb,
And scornfully did look at him.
Sez he, “Sir Hornet, who gave thee
A right to set in thick thur tree?
Although thee sings so nation fine,
I tell 'ee—'tis a house of mine.”

A beetle up that tree did climb,
And scornfully did cast his eye.
Says he, “Sir hornet, who gived thee
The right to sit in that there tree?
For though tha stings so rare and fine,
I tell thee—there's a house o' mine.”

The Hornet's conscience felt a twinge,
But growing bold with his long sting,
He said, “'Tis plain for all to see,
I'm finer far than wopse of bee:
Be off, and leave the tree to me.
The mixen's goot enow for thee.”

The hornet's conscience feeled a smart,
But growing bold with his long dart,
Says he, “Possession makes the law,
Here thee shouldna put tha claw.
Be off, and leave the tree to me.
The muck looks good enough for thee.”

Just the a Yoffle passing by
Was axed by them their cause to try.
“Ha! Ha! It's nation plain,“ seez he,
“They'll make a famous munch for me.”
His bill was sharp, his stummick lear,
So up he snapped the caddling pair.

Just then a woodpecker passing by
Was asked by both their cause to try.
Says he, “'Tis very plain to see,
Tha'll make a famous lunch for me.”
His beak was sharp, his stomach lear,
So up he snapped the quarrelling pair.

All you as be to law inclined,
This little story bear in mind,
For if to law you ever go
You'll find they allus serve 'ee so.
You'll meet the fate of these yur two:
They'll take your coat and carcass too.

So you that be to law inclined,
This little story bear in mind,
If to law you ever do go
You'll find they always serve you so.
You'll meet the fate of these here two:
They'll take your coat and carcass too
And make a meal right out of you.