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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.


Gentle Herdsman, Tell to Me

By Percy’s Reliques

  • The scene of this beautiful old ballad is laid near Walsingham, in Norfolk, where was anciently an image of the Virgin Mary, famous over all Europe for the numerous pilgrimages made to it, and the great riches it possessed.

  • GENTLE herdsman, tell to me,

    Of curtesy I thee pray,

    Unto the towne of Walsingham

    Which is the right and ready way.

    “Unto the towne of Walsingham

    The way is hard for to be gon;

    And verry crooked are those pathes

    For you to find out all alone.”

    Weere the miles doubled thrise,

    And the way never soe ill,

    Itt were not enough for mine offence,

    Itt is soe grievous and soe ill.

    “Thy yeeares are young, thy face is faire,

    Thy witts are weake, thy thoughts are greene;

    Time hath not given thee leave, as yett,

    For to commit so great a sinne.”

    Yes, herdsman, yes, soe woldest thou say,

    If thou knewest soe much as I;

    My witts, and thoughts, and all the rest,

    Have well deserved for to dye.

    I am not what I seeme to bee,

    My clothes and sexe doe differ farr:

    I am a woman, woe is me!

    Born to greeffe and irksome care.

    For my beloved, and well-beloved,

    My wayward cruelty could kill:

    And though my teares will nought avail,

    Most dearely I bewail him still.

    He was the flower of noble wights,

    None ever more sincere colde bee;

    Of comely mien and shape hee was,

    And tenderlye hee loved mee.

    When thus I saw he loved me well,

    I grewe so proud his paine to see,

    That I, who did not know myselfe,

    Thought scorne of such a youth as hee.

    And grew soe coy and nice to please,

    As women’s lookes are often soe,

    He might not kisse, nor hand forsooth,

    Unlesse I willed him soe to doe.

    Thus being wearyed with delayes

    To see I pittyed not his greeffe,

    He gott him to a seerett place,

    And there he dyed without releeffe.

    And for his sake these weeds I weare,

    And sacrifice my tender age;

    And every day Ile begg my bread,

    To undergoe this pilgrimage.

    Thus every day I fast and pray,

    And ever will doe till I dye;

    And gett me to some secrett place,

    For soe did hee, and soe will I.

    Now, gentle herdsman, aske no more,

    But keepe my secretts I thee pray:

    Unto the towne of Walsingham

    Show me the right and readye way.

    “Now goe thy wayes, and God before!

    For he must ever guide thee still:

    Turne downe that dale, the right hand path,

    And soe, faire pilgrim, fare thee well!”