The following old poem was long ascribed, on apparently

sufficient grounds, to the Rev. Ralph Erskine, or, as he

designated himself, "Ralph Erskine, V.D.M." The peasantry

throughout the North of England always called it "Erskine

Song;" and not only is his name given as the author in

numerous chap-books, but in his own volume of "Gospel

Sonnets," from an early copy of which this version is
br /> transcribed. The discovery, however, by Mr. Collier of the

First Part in a MSS. temp. James I., with the initials "G.W."

affixed to it, has disposed of Erskine's claim to the honor of

the entire authorship. G.W. is supposed to be George

Wither; but this is purely conjectural, and it is not at

all improbable that G.W. really stands for W.G., as it was

a common practice among anonymous writers to reverse their


The history, then, of the poem seems to be this: that the

First Part, as it is now printed, originally constituted the

whole production, being complete in itself; that the Second

Part was afterwards added by the Rev. Ralph Erskine, and that

both parts came subsequently to be ascribed to him, as his

was the only name published in connection with the song. See

"Ballads of the Peasantry," Bell's edition. Variants of

this song will be found on pages 86 and 150 of the present

collection; the first is ascribed to George Wither, and

the other is taken from the first volume of "Pills to purge



This Indian weed, now withered quite.

Tho' green at noon, cut down at night,

Shows thy decay,

All flesh is hay:

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The pipe, so lily-like and weak,

Does thus thy mortal state bespeak;

Thou art e'en such--

Gone with a touch:

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And when the smoke ascends on high,

Then thou behold'st the vanity

Of worldly stuff--

Gone with a puff:

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And when the pipe grows foul within,

Think on thy soul defiled with sin;

For then the fire

It doth require:

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And seest the ashes cast away,

Then to thyself thou mayest say,

That to the dust

Return thou must:

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.


Was this small plant for thee cut down?

So was the Plant of Great Renown,

Which Mercy sends

For nobler ends:

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Does juice medicinal proceed

From such a naughty foreign weed?

Then what's the power

Of Jesse's Flower?

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The promise, like the pipe, inlays,

And by the mouth of faith conveys

What virtue flows

From Sharon's Rose:

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

In vain the unlighted pipe you blow;

Your pains in outward means are so,

'Till heavenly fire

Your heart inspire:

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The smoke, like burning incense, towers:

So should a praying heart of yours,

With ardent cries,

Surmount the skies:

Thus think, and smoke tobacco.