Love, Engineering Style

Or, as the t-shirts have it, “Engineers Do It with Precision.”

In honor of the impending Valentine’s Day holiday, I present you with an early modern love story. I’m not a Romantic (ask my wife); I much prefer the Enlightenment over the Romantic age. So I offer this ditty of “vulgar humor” (as the EBBA catalog categorizes it) from late in the 17C. Yes, it’s shocking to learn that late-17C Englishmen and women thought about sex. But they also thought about sieges, and the parallels (get it?) were obvious, as Christopher Duffy noted thirty-five years ago (see Siege Warfare, 256-257). The fortress as an unconquered maiden was a not uncommon trope, the French memoirist Jean De La Colonie, for example, referred to Namur as la pucelle, a stronghold whose defenses had never been breached. So here we have yet one more example of how war got all mixed up with contemporary sexual concerns, in the guise of that age-old ‘siege of the sexes.’

[Source: English Broadside Ballad Archive. Ballad dated between 1672-1696.]

Jenny Crack: or, A brisk Encounter between two Lov[er]s. Shewing the brave behaviour of a young Gallant, that storm’d his Mistris’s outworks, gained her Half-Moo[n], entred her Fort-Royal; but she at last rallying her Forces, baffled his Sentinells, made him draw off his men, and himself was forced to sneak out of her Sally-port sadly disabled. To a new Tune much in request, call’d, I told young Jenny, etc.

I Told young Jenny I lov’d her well,

With a zeal that I thought wou’d have mov’d her,

For I gave her earnest in hand to boot,

And I knew by the bargain I tould stand to’t:

But the Gypsie cunningly taught by her sire,

Cry’d mar[r]y or else forsake me;

When you’ve fill’d my belly, and your desire,

You’l be d[a]mn’d before you will take me.

But her old Dad of his own accord,

Did make himself as Drunk as a Lord,

An hopes to find it a Wedding-day,

S[o] I took up my Jenny and cary’d her away.

Let her scratch and bite, let her kick and wince,

Now i’ve got her into my Clutches:

She’s witty and fair, she’s a Gem for a Prince,

And in time she may be a Dutchess.

We took a Lodging and went to bed,

And I thought to have met with a Maiden-head;

Within her quarters no sooner I got,

But the Jade in merriment cry’d you Sot,

Thou’rt as great a bubble as ever was seen,

so idly thy self to Cozen:

Thou look’st for a Maiden-head at fifteen,

which thou’lt hardly find at a dozen.

For Women so forward of late are grown,

That their fruit is ripe as soon as ’tis blown,

Some marry their daughters at half a score,

Or else at eleven they’d play the Whore:

If a girl be wise: as soon as she can,

she’l be rid of her troublesome jewel,

And certainly nothing but oyl of man,

can allay the heat of her fuel.

She made me laugh, and I could not forbear,

To think she had fitted my Cock to a hair,

And yet you must know I was vext at the heart,

To find an old bull[y] out-done in his art:

For when so modest her looks I found,

i’de have ventur’d my life to a shilling,

If a man would have given a thousand pound,

Young Jenny would ne’r ha, been billing.


The second Part, To the same Tune.

WHen first I knew her she made me stand,

And wait a while for a kiss of her hand;

But when I came to a touch of her Lip,

‘Twas so cloying a favour I must but sip:

When I felt her breast she cry’d I was bold,

And checkt me for being uncivil:

But when I came to her Coppy-hold,

I found her as mad as the Devil.

Then since I saw she was right for the sport,

I resolv’d to beleager and enter the fort,

As soon as my Centinel came to the gate,

I put him a nocking because it was late.

And the Garrison readily spoke within,

Your party may safely adventure,

For I am as willing to let you in,

As ever you was to enter.

No sooner within the gates had I got,

But I thought it convenient to give her a shot,

And she from a morter-piece that she had,

Let fly a Granado I thought her mad.

But when I gave her a fresh alarm,

She told me I did but vapour,

For the bullets I shot would do her no harm,

No more than pellets of paper.

So oft we charg’d that she baffled my men,

Till they sneak’d at her sally-port out agen,

My ammunition I found was spent,

So I put on my cloaths and away I went.

Ah Jenny said I, I must bid thee adieu,

‘Tis a folly to stay any longer,

For still I found that the weaker I grew,

Young Jenny grew stronger and stronger.

Thus you have heard me fully relate,

The tricks that Jenny and I have been at:

But what will be the event of our blows,

I think O’my conscience no body knows.

But if my tackling shou’d be spoil’d,

I faith I shall look like a Ninny:

And if my Mistriss should prove with child,

The worst will fall upon Jenny.



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