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

St. Keyne

The Well of St. Keyne

By Robert Southey (1774–1843)

A WELL there is in the west country,

And a clearer one never was seen;

There is not a wife in the west country

But has heard of the Well of St. Keyne.

An oak and an elm tree stand beside,

And behind doth an ash-tree grow,

And a willow from the bank above

Droops to the water below.

A traveller came to the Well of St. Keyne;

Joyfully he drew nigh;

For from cock-crow he had been travelling,

And there was not a cloud in the sky.

He drank of the water so cool and clear,

For thirsty and hot was he;

And he sat down upon the bank,

Under the willow-tree.

There came a man from the house hard by,

At the well to fill his pail;

On the well-side he rested it,

And he bade the stranger hail.

“Now, art thou a bachelor, stranger?” quoth he;

“For, an if thou hast a wife,

The happiest draught thou hast drank this day

That ever thou didst in thy life.

“Or has thy good woman, if one thou hast,

Ever here in Cornwall been?

For, an if she have, I ’ll venture my life

She has drank of the Well of St. Keyne.”

“I have left a good woman who never was here,”

The stranger he made reply;

“But that my draught should be the better for that,

I pray you answer me why.”

“St. Keyne,” quoth the Cornish-man, “many a time

Drank of this crystal well;

And, before the angel summoned her,

She laid on the water a spell,—

“If the husband of this gifted well

Shall drink before his wife,

A happy man thenceforth is he,

For he shall be master for life;

“But if the wife should drink of it first,

God help the husband then!”

The stranger stooped to the Well of St. Keyne,

And drank of the water again.

“You drank of the well, I warrant, betimes?”

He to the Cornish-man said;

But the Cornish-man smiled as the stranger spake,

And sheepishly shook his head:—

“I hastened, as soon as the wedding was done,

And left my wife in the porch;

But i’ faith she had been wiser than me,

For she took a bottle to church.”