The Widow and Her Little Maidens

A widow was served by maidens awakened by a rooster. They killed the rooster. The widow then woke them earlier.

Be careful what you ask for.

A neat Widow had two Maidens to wait on her. She woke them every morning when the cock crowed. The Maidens resolved the kill the cock who roused their mistress so early. They did this, but found matters worse. No longer able to tell time from the cock, the Widow woke them for work in the middle of the night.

Townsend VersionTownsend version

A Widow who was fond of cleaning had two little Maidens to wait on her. She was in the habit of waking them early in the morning, at cockcrow. The Maidens, aggravated by such excessive labor, resolved to kill the cock who roused their mistress so early. When they had done this, they found that they had only prepared for themselves greater troubles, for their mistress, no longer hearing the hour from the cock, woke them up to their work in the middle of the night.

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall (The Old Woman and her Maids)

Croxall - Old Woman and MaidsA CERTAIN old Woman had several Maids whom she used to call up to their work, every morning at the crowing of the Cock. The Benches, who found it grievous to have their sweet sleep disturbed so early, combined together and killed the Cock, thinking that, when the alarm was gone, they might enjoy themselves in their warm beds a little longer. The old Woman, grieved for the loss of her Cock, and having, by some means or other discovered the whole plot, was resolved to be even with them; for, from that time, she obliged them to rise constantly at midnight.


Whittingham - Old Woman and Maids

C. Whittingham (1814)

It can never be expected that things should be, in all respects, agreeable to our wishes; and if they are not very bad indeed, we ought in many cases to be contented with them; lest when, through impatience, we precipitately quit our present condition of life, we may to our sorrow find, with the old saying, that seldom comes a better. Before we attempt any alteration of moment, we should be certain what state it will produce: for, when things are already bad, to make them worse by trying experiments, is an argument of great weakness and folly, and is sure to be attended with a too late repentance. Grievances, if really such, ought by all means to be redressed, provided we can be assured of doing it with success: but we had better, at any time, bear with some inconvenience, than make our condition worse, by attempting to mend it.


JBR CollectionJBR Collection (The Old Woman and Her Maids)

A certain Old Woman had several Maids, whom she used to call to their work every morning at the crowing of the Cock. The Maids, finding it grievous to have their sweet sleep disturbed so early, killed the Cock, thinking when he was quiet they should enjoy their warm beds a little longer. The Old Woman, vexed at the loss of the Cock, and suspecting them to be concerned in it, from that time made them rise soon after midnight.

Crane Poetry VisualCrane Poetry Visual


Lazy Housemaids and Widow

Two Maids killed the Rooster whose warning
Awoke them too soon every morning.
But small were their gains,
For their Mistress took pains
To rouse them herself without warning.

Laziness is its own punishment.

1001Gallus et Ancillae

Anus quaedam domi habebat complures ancillas quas quotidie, antequam lucesceret, ad galli gallinacei (quem domi alebat) cantum excitabat ad opus. Ancillae tandem, quotidiani negotii commotae taedio, gallum obtruncant, sperantes iam, necato illo, sese in medios dormituras dies. Sed haec spes miseras frustrata est. Hera enim, ut interemptum gallum rescivit, ancillas intempesta nocte surgere deinceps iubet.

Perry #55