In chapter IV of Thomas Deloney's "novel" Thomas of Reading, king Henry I of England is willing to grant the clothiers a few requests as a reward for their support during a military campaign in France. Hodgekins, a clothier from Halifax (Yorkshire), requests that the town of Halifax be allowed to hang thieves who steal "Clothes". While the king is saying he is willing to grant the request, Hodgekins interrupts him:

With that Hodgekins unmannerly interrupted the King, saying in broad Northerne speech, Yea gude faith, mai Liedge, the faule eule of mai saule, giff any thing will keepe them whiat, till the karles be hanged by the cragge. What the dule care they for boaring their eyne, sea lang as they mae gae groping up and down the Country like fause lizar lownes, begging and craking?

Most of this understandable, but not all of it (in bold):

(...) Yes, good faith, my liege, the foul eule of my soul, give anything [that] will keep them whiatt, till the karls/guys are hanged by the cragge (neck?). What the dule (or devil?) care they for boaring their eyes, so/as long as they may go groping up and down the country like false lizar lownes (i.e. loons), begging and craking (crying out loudly?).

"Boaring their eyne" posssibly means blinding them (the English verb bore is a cognate of German bohren), though I am not aware of this being a punishment for theft in medieval England. Who can fill in the gaps and confirm that my other guesses are correct?

  • 1
    Nice one! Even today a broad Northern England accent can be hard to understand for southerners; add a few centuries of time difference and you get a real challenge :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jun 17, 2019 at 6:02

1 Answer 1


eule: evil; it seems to have been spelled Evle in some editions.

whiatt: probably quiet, as pronounced in a Northern dialect. In Scottish speech, qu and wh were the same sound, /xw/. It was usually spelled qu in Scotland, though, but that spelling wouldn't have conveyed the Northern pronunciation. See this ELU.stackexchange answer.

karl: The OED has a bunch of definitions for carl, which range from fellow to something like penny-pincher. The most likely meaning, based on the date and the context, is "A fellow of low birth or rude manners; a base fellow; a churl. In later times, passing into a vague term of disparagement or contempt, and chiefly with appropriate epithets."

cragge: indeed, neck. (What else would you be hanged by?) The OED has "crag: The neck. (Chiefly Scottish, but also English regional (northern).)"

dule devil: the OED says that this spelling was used in the 1500s, particularly "in representations of Scottish speech".

boaring their eyes: indeed, putting out their eyes. From the OED "bore: To pierce, stab, run through with a weapon; to wound. Obsolete."

lizar: From the OED: lazar (adj.): Affected with a loathsome disease, esp. leprosy; leprous. Or maybe it's the noun lazar: somebody afflicted with a loathsome disease ..., since false leper louts (louts who pretend to be lepers) makes a little more sense.

craking: After some discussion—see the comments—it seems that craking means to make noise using a clapper (also called a crake) that lepers carried to warn people to keep away from them.

So translated into modern English, the passage reads

Yes, good faith, my liege, the foul evil of my soul, give anything [that] will keep them quiet, till the karles (oafs) be hanged by the cragge (neck). What the devil do they care for boaring (putting out) their eyes, so long as they may go groping up and down the Country like fause lizar lownes (false leper louts), begging and craking (rattling).

  • Thanks; +1. I hadn't made the connection between lizar and lazar. I now wonder whether craking can also refer to the noise that lepers were required to make to announce their presence (using a bell or a clapper or, in some countries apparently, a ratchet).
    – Tsundoku
    Jun 17, 2019 at 14:50
  • @ChristopheStrobbe: I think you must be right about crake. The Monthly Chronicle of North-Country Lore and Legend (1889, but describing the Middle Ages) has The wretched, but unfortunate, suppliants [begging lepers] ... carried in their hands a wooden clapper or crake, somewhat like that used by crow-herds to scare away rooks from the cornfields, with which they rattled so as to attract attention.
    – Peter Shor
    Jun 17, 2019 at 15:00
  • Excellent find :-)
    – Tsundoku
    Jun 17, 2019 at 15:03
  • Is "lazar" cognate with Lazarus, by any chance? Apparently Lazarus is sometimes called the patron saint of leprosy.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jun 17, 2019 at 15:48
  • @Rand al'Thor: indeed, lazar is derived from Lazarus.
    – Peter Shor
    Jun 17, 2019 at 15:49

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