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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Sir John Harington (1561–1612)

Of a Precise Tailor

A TAILOR, thought a man of upright dealing—

True, but for lying, honest, but for stealing—

Did fall one day extremely sick by chance,

And on the sudden was in wondrous trance.

The fiends of hell, mustering in fearful manner,

Of sundry coloured silks displayed a banner

Which he had stolen, and wished, as they did tell,

That he might find it all one day in hell.

The man, affrighted with this apparition,

Upon recovery grew a great precisian.

He bought a Bible of the best translation,

And in his life he showed great reformation;

He walked mannerly, he talked meekly,

He heard three lectures and two sermons weekly;

He vowed to shun all company unruly,

And in his speech he used no oath but “truly”;

And, zealously to keep the Sabbath’s rest,

His meat for that day on the eve was drest;

And, lest the custom which he had to steal

Might cause him sometimes to forget his zeal,

He gives his journeyman a special charge,

That if the stuff, allowance being large,

He found his fingers were to filch inclined,

Bid him to have the banner in his mind.

This done—I scant can tell the rest for laughter—

A captain of a ship came three days after,

And brought three yards of velvet and three-quarters,

To make Venetians down below the garters.

He, that precisely knew what was enough,

Soon slipt aside three-quarters of the stuff.

His man, espying it, said, in derision,

“Master, remember how you saw the vision!”

“Peace, knave!” quoth he; “I did not see one rag

Of such a coloured silk in all the flag.”