Modern Street Ballads

There is a great deal of superstition, and folk-lore, contained in


Draw near, and give attention,
And you shall hear my rhyme,
The old women’s sayings, in the olden times
High and low, rich and poor,
By daylight or dark,
Are sure to make
Some curious remark;
With some foolish idea
Your brains they will bother,
For some believe one thing
And some believe another.

These are odds and ends
Of superstitious ways,
The signs and the tokens,
Of my grandmother’s days.

The first thing you will see,
At the house of rich or poor,
To keep the witches out,
A horse shoe’s o’er the door.
Bellows on the table,
Cause a row both day and night,
If there’s two knives across,
You are sure to have a fight.
There’s a stranger* in the grate,
Or, if the cat should sneeze,
Or lay before the fire,
It will rain or freeze.

A cinder with a hole
In the middle is a purse,
But a long one, from the fire,
Is a coffin, which is worse;
A spider, ticking in the wall,
Is the death watch at night,
A spark in a candle,
Is a letter sure as life.
If your right eye itches,
You’ll cry till out of breath,
A winding sheet in the candle
Is a sure sign of death.

If your left eye itches,
You will laugh outright,
But the left or the right,
Is very good at night,
If your elbow itch,
A strange bed fellow found,
If the bottom of your foot itch,
You’ll tread on fresh ground:
If your knee itch, you’ll kneel.
In a church, that’s a good’un,
And if your belly itch,
You’ll get a lot of pudden.

If your back should itch,
I do declare,
Butter will be cheap,
When the grass grows there:
If the dog howl at night,
Or mournfully cry,
Or if the cock should crow,
Some one will die.
If you stumble upstairs,
Indeed, I’m no railer,
You’ll be married to a snob,
Or else to a tailor.

A speck on your finger nail,
Is a gift that’s funny,
If your hand itch in the middle,
You will get some money.
Spilling of the salt
Is anger outright,
You’ll see a ghost, if the door
Should rattle in the night.
If your sweetheart
Dreams of bacon and eggs,
She’ll have a little boy
That has got three legs.

The cat washing her face,
The wind will blow,
If the cat licks her foot
It is sure to snow.
Put your gown, or your jacket,
On inside out,
You will change your luck,
And be put to the rout.
If your nose itches,
You’ll get vexed till you jump;
If your great toe itches,
You’ll get kicked on the rump.

If a girl snaps one finger,
She’ll have a child it deems,
And if she snaps two,
She’s sure to have twins;
And if she snaps eight,
Nine, ten, or eleven,
It’s a chance if she don’t
Have twenty and seven.
If you lay with your head
Underneath the clothes,
You’ll have an ugly old man,
What has got no nose.

If you see a star shoot,
You’ll get what you wish,
If a hair get’s in your mouth,
You’ll get drunk as a fish.
If your little toe itch,
You’ll be lost in a wave,
If you shiver, there’s somebody
Going over your grave.
If you go under a ladder,
You’ll have bad luck and fall,
And some say that bad luck
Is better than none at all.
So to please all outright,
I have told you in rhyme,
The great superstitions
Of the olden time.

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