Six fault ditty

An account of a Spanish jester which suggests a relaxed relationship with the aristocrats around him.   Here is Gabriel, possibly jester to Fadrique Enríquez II (c. 1465–1538), 4th Admiral of Castille, relaxedly playing chess with the Duke of Alba, and deciding how to get rid of the duke’s brother, commander-in-chief of León, who for some reason was pestering him (one wonders if he was interfering with the chess game). 

Quotation: Luis Zapata, Miscelánea, regarding the Spanish jester Gabriel

Gabriel threatened to sum up the commander’s faults in extempore verse if he didn’t leave them in peace, `Leave us, or I’ll tell you six things wrong with you’ (`Dejadnos, sino deciros he seis tachas que tenéis’).  Clearly intrigued, the commander said he would keep quiet if he could hear them.  Gabriel trotted out a six-line rhyme and won himself an equivalent number of ducats. 

In months to come we will share other examples of quick-witted ditty-spinning, including examples of ‘verse-capping’ in which the jester completes a rhyme begun by a pope or a king. 

One, you never stop demanding;

Two, you never give,

Three, you’re always reprimanding,

Four, you always persist.

Five, you happen to be wearing

A doublet all greasy,

Six, you’re now appearing

Like a thief stuck in pisé.


La primera que pedís;

La segunda que no dais,

La tercera que reñís,

La quarta que porfiais.

Y la quinta que traeis

El jubón lleno de grasa,

La sexta que pareceís

Pisada de gato en masa.


Source: Luis Zapata, Miscelánea (16th century), quoted in Diane Avalle-Arce, `La “Cronica de Carlos V” de Don Francesillo de Zuñiga: Según el Manuscrito 6193 de la Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid’ (doctoral thesis, Smith College, 1975), p. 35.

Photo & image credit: jplenio at pixabay


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