LEIGH HUNT (1784–1859) was an essayist, journalist and poet of the Romantic Period in English Literature. Not perhaps one of the leading Romanticists, but he nevertheless, did much to bring their poetry to prominence in the early 19th century, particularly through his friendships with Shelley, Keats and Byron, and by means of his editorship of the influential literary magazine, The ‘Examiner.’
A short poem of his, which I’ve long enjoyed for its sweetness and simplicity, is Leigh Hunt’s verse, originally entitled ‘Rondeau’, but more generally known as ‘Jenny kiss’d Me’.
This charming poem is said to have been inspired by a meeting, following an illness, with the wife of his friend, the eminent historian Thomas Carlyle.
JENNY KISS’D ME . . . By Leigh Hunt (1838)
Jenny kiss’d me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I’m growing old, but add
Jenny kiss’d me.
Perhaps unkindly, I quote below a parody I came across of Hunt’s verses by Paul Dehn,
the Oscar-winning British screenwriter, who merely altered the last two lines, to read . . .
“Say I’ve had a filthy cold
Since Jenny kiss’d me.”
The poem has been set to music by the 2oth Century English composer, Muriel Herbert (1897-1984). This song now appears to be extremely popular with a capella choral groups – and particularly with American high school and college choirs, many examples of which can be found on YouTube. I include one of these below . . .