The Tale of the Lincoln Imp

Tales from End to End
The Tale of the Lincoln Imp

by H. J. Kesson (Ursus) 1904

The devil was in a good humour one day
and let out his sprightly young demons to play.
One dived in the sea and was not at all wet,
one jumped in a furnace: no scorch did he get,
one rode on a rainbow, one delved in the dirt,
one handled forked lightning not got any hurt.
One strode on the wind as he would on a steed
and thus to old Lindum was carried with speed
where aldermen heard him conceitedly say
‘There’ll be e’re I leave it, the devil to pay.’

‘And now,’ says the Imp, ‘take me into the church;
his lordship of Lindum I’ll knock off his perch.
I’ll blow up the chapter and blow up the dean,
the canon’s I’ll cannon right over the screen.
I’ll blow up the singers bass, tenor and boy
and the blower himself shall a blowing enjoy.
The organist, too, shall right speedily find
that I’ll go one better in raising the wind.
I’ll blow out the windows and blow out the lights,
tear vestments to tatters, put ritual to rights!
And e’en the poor verger who comes in my road
will find.’ – vulgar Imp! – ‘ he may likewise be blowed.’

Now the wind has his faults but you’ll find on the whole
if somewhat uncouth, he’s an orthodox soul.
He wouldn’t blow hard on a monarch, I ween,
nor ruffle the robes of a bishop or dean.
And if for dissenters he cares not the least,
you won’t catch him blowing up deacon or priest.
The man in the street he may rudely unrig
but he snatches not judges nor barristers wig.
When he enters a church, as the musical know,
’tis only to make the sweet organ-pipes blow
the toot on the ‘choir’ or the ‘swell’ or the ‘great’
And hence at the Imp he was justly irate,
so in sorrowful anger he said to the elf
‘No! Here I shall stop, you may go by yourself.’

The impudent elf in derision replied,
‘Such half-hearted folks are much better outside;
to force you to enter I cannot, but see,
till I’ve finished my fun you must wait here for me.’

Then he entered the porch in an imp-ious way
declaring the nave should be spelt with a ‘K’.
He roamed through each transept, he strolled in each aisle,
then he thought in the choir he would romp for a while.
As he passed ‘neath the rood, no obeisance he made;
no rev’rence at all to the altar he paid.
He thumbed all the canons’ and choristers’ books
and cast on the saints his most insolent looks.
The chalice and patens were safe in a box;
he was stopped in the act of unpicking the locks.
He hacked at the lectern and chopped at the stalls;
the tapestry tore from the sanctified walls.
Incensed against incense, the thuribles he
demolished – the candlesticks broke on his knee.

Then seeing some angels, he cried ‘Pretty things,
a sackful of feathers I’ll pluck from your wings
to make me a couch when I’m tired of this joke.’
Ah! Soon he was sorry that rudely he spoke,
for the tiniest angel with amethyst eyes
and hair like spun gold ‘fore the altar did rise,
pronouncing these words in a dignified tone
‘Oh impious Imp, be ye turned into stone!’
So he was, as you’ll see, when to Lincoln you stray
and the wind has been waiting outside till this day.
You can’t see the wind, but no matter for that
Believe, or he’ll rob you of cloak or of hat.

Lincoln Imp
Lincoln Imp


This moral, I’ll trust, you’ll deduce from my lay –
if ever your minded the mischief to play.
Be sure that your able the ‘needful’ to find
In other words, certain of ‘raising the wind’
and then, when you’re bent upon ‘going the pace’,
don’t count on the wind or I pity your case.
There are bikes at your service and motors galore,
steam, gas and electric machines by the score.
Again, if for skittish amusement you search,
don’t meddle, I pray, with affairs of the church.
The puppets of politics – all will admit –
are legitimate sport for exuberant wit.
But if ever a trick on the clergy you play,
you’ll speedily find there’s the ‘dickens to pay’.

To angels – when met – be extremely polite,
attentions too forward, they’ll keenly requite.
Don’t ruffle their feathers, just let them alone,
Else, if you’re converted, ’twill be into stone.
Don’t chum with low people, unruly and bold,
and be left, when they’ve done with you, out in the cold.
Don’t be far too clever but seek to be good
and when you’re at Lincoln, behave as you should.
Step into the Minster, the Imp to behold,
who points to the truth of the tale that I’ve told.
So visit old Lindum, a city most rare;
of course take a ticket and pay the due fare!