Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome | Annotated Tale

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Seven Clodhoppers, The


SEVEN clodhoppers went to confession.

               'Father, I stole something,' said the first.

               'What was it you stole?' asked the priest.

               'Some mistuanza, [2] because I was starving,' replied the country bumpkin.

               That the poor fellow, who really looked as if he might have been starving, should have stolen some herbs did not seem such a very grave offence; so with due advice to keep his hands from picking and stealing, and a psalm to say for his penance, the priest sent him to communion.

               Then came the second, and there was the same dialogue. Then the third and the fourth, till all the seven had been up.

               At last the priest began to think it was a very odd circumstance that such a number of full-grown men should all of a sudden have taken into their heads to go stealing salad herbs; and when the seventh had had his say he rejoined,--

               'But what do you mean by mistuanza?'

               'Oh, any mixture of things,' replied the countryman.

               'Nay; that's not the way we use the word,' responded the priest; 'so tell me what "things" you mean.'

               'Oh, some cow, some pig, and some fowl.' [3]

               'You men of the mistuanza!' shouted the priest in righteous indignation, starting out of the confessional; 'Come back! come back! you can't go to communion like that.'

               The seven clodhoppers, finding themselves discovered, began to fear the rigour of justice, and decamped as fast as they could.


Next to gossiping jokes on subjects kindred to religion are jokes about domestic disputes, the greater blame being generally ascribed to the wife.


[1] 'I sette Villani.'

[2] 'Un po' di mistuanza.' 'Mistuanza' is a word in use among the poor for a mixture of herbs of which they make a kind of poor salad.

[3] 'Un po' di bove, un po' di porchi, un po' di galline.'

               'Un po' (un poco) a little. The effect of the story depended a good deal on the tones of voice in which it was told. The deprecatory tone of the penitent as he says, 'un po' di bove,' &c., and the horror of the priest as he cries out, 'Signori della mistuanza!'

               This same story in quite another dress was told me one evening in Aldershot Camp; and as it is a very curious instance of the migration of myths, I give the home version.

               It would seem that in Aldershot lingo, or in the lingo of a certain regiment once stationed there, to 'kill a fox' means to get drunk. Possibly the expression was acquired during the Peninsular war, as 'tomar una zorrilla' has an equivalent meaning in Spanish. The story was this. Once during the brief holiday of the chaplain of the regiment, a French priest who knew a little English took his place. At confession the chief fault of which, according to the story, the men accused themselves was that they had 'killed a fox,' an expression perfectly well understood by their own pastor. The good French priest, however, instead of being shocked at finding how often men got drunk, was highly edified at the angelic simplicity of these Angles, who showed so much contrition for having indulged in the innocent pastime--in France, not even an offence among sportsmen--of having killed a fox.

               At last there came one of a more humorous turn of mind than the rest, and the surnois air with which he pronounced the expression revealed to the good Frenchman that the words meant something more than they said.

               'Vat mean you ven you say, "kill de fox?"' now inquired the Frenchman of his penitent with fear and trembling. And the blunt soldier had no sooner expounded the slang than the bewildered foreigner threw open the front wicket of the confessional and cried aloud:

               'Come back! all you dat have killed de foxes! Come back! come back!'

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Seven Clodhoppers, The
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Estes and Lauriat
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1877
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: unclassified

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