John Suckling (1640) "A Ballad upon a Wedding" by Sir John Suckling represents one of his best unified poems. Criticism of Suckling's poetry includes his shaping of carelessly fragmented and disjointed verses, but all 22 stanzas in this traditional ballad form hang together well. The speaker remains anonymous, telling his story in six-line stanzas with a rhyme scheme of aabccb. The persona makes clear that the Charing Cross wedding described is a special event, not one that took place in his part of town, where common laborers live. He addresses his friend Dick and begins by describing the event he witnessed as one of "the rarest things" he had ever seen. It occurred close to the place, he tells
Dick, where the two "sell our hay." The "Forty at least, in pairs" of folk he witnesses were "Such folk as are not in our town." He first describes the groom as one who, had he appeared in "Course-a-Park," would have been set upon by all the women. Then he describes the bride, noting
No grape, that's kindly ripe, could be So round, so plump, so soft as she, Nor half so full of juice.
As to be expected from a court poet, Suckling spends many more lines on the subject of the bride than the groom. She had a tiny finger that the ring "Would not stay on," and her feet looked "Like little mice," while her cheeks "so rare a white was on, / No daisy makes comparison." Her red lips appeared to have been bee stung, and her eyes were so guarded, perhaps by remaining downcast, that the speaker could not catch a good view of them. Her fragile nature is clear from the description of a tiny mouth that threatens to have its teeth broken from the spoken word. Suckling's hyperbole complements the "tall tale" nature of the ballad subject matter.
The bride's appearance did not dampen the celebration when the group sat to eat, served by a number of men carrying dishes. When "all the meat was on the table," no man "was able / To stay to be intreated." Instead, they ate with relish, dispatching the food. Later, "hats fly off, and youths carouse," as everyone toasts the health of the new couple. Suckling well captures the joy of the scene, concluding,
On the sudden up they rise and dance; Then sit again and sigh, and glance:
Then dance again and kiss: Thus several ways the time did pass, Whilst ev'ry woman wished her place, And every man wished his.
Suckling takes the reader on lyric flight through his ballad, its tone never losing its airy quality.
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