Goose and Common is a 17th Century folk poem, which forms one of the pithiest condemnations of the English enclosure movement—the process of fencing off common land and turning it into private property.
The means by which the landed gentry stole the common land was one of the key factors that angered so many people in this country and created a violent reaction epitomised by the Cato Street Conspiracy. Peterloo was an outburst of anger at the landed classes who were monopolising political power and mobilising power for their own benefit.
In a few lines, Goose and Common manages to criticize double standards of the regency period:
The poem exposes the artificial and controversial nature of property rights, and take a slap at the legitimacy of state power. And it does it all with humour, without jargon, and in rhyming couplets.
—James Boyle, Duke Law School Professor
The Askew Sisters have created a beautiful song from this 17th century poem for their album ‘Enclosure’, which was released on 3rd May 2019. The Askew sisters explained the background to the recording the song:
“We really like the power and simplicity of these words and how they feel starkly relevant in today’s society. The earliest reference to it that we can find is from The Gentleman’s Mathematical Companion in 1816, where it’s noted as being seen on a handbill in Plaistow protesting a Bill for the enclosure of Epping Forest, but its origins may well be much older. Hazel wrote a tune for the words and the whole song fell into place once Emily added some driving cello.”
WCRAG hope to use the song as part of the MOD drama project in the autumn of 2021