L'allegro "Then To The Spicy Nut-brown Ale"

John Milton

"Then To The Spicy Nut-brown Ale"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: John Milton gives a picture of the joys of village life, with bells ringing and rebecks–three-stringed fiddles–summoning the youths and maidens to dance in the shade. Both young and old come forth on sunny holidays and play until evening falls. Then they go indoors and drink wellseasoned ale as they tell stories of remarkable matters. A girl tells about how Mab, queen of the fairies, does the housework in return for something to eat. The teller admits having been pinched and jostled by Mab as punishment for her bad housekeeping but also tells how the queen rewards tidy housekeepers by putting a penny in their shoe. A youth who had once been led astray by a will-of-the-wisp, or fairy lantern, tells how Robin Goodfellow, or Hobgoblin, in one night threshes the grain and receives a bowl of cream as reward for his labors. The account is as follows:

And young and old come forth to play
On a sunshine holiday,
Till the livelong daylight fail;
Then to the spicy nut-brown ale,
With stories told of many a feat,
How fairy Mab the junkets eat;
She was pinched and pulled, she said,
And he by Friar's lantern led
Tells how the drudging goblin sweat . . .