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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

William and Margaret

David Mallet (c. 1705–1765)

’TWAS at the silent, solemn hour,

When night and morning meet;

In glided Margaret’s grimly ghost,

And stood at William’s feet,

Her face was like an April morn

Clad in a wintry cloud;

And clay-cold was her lily hand,

That held her sable shroud.

So shall the fairest face appear,

When youth and years are flown:

Such is the robe that kings must wear

When death has reft their crown.

Her bloom was like the springing flower

That sips the silver dew;

The rose was budded in her cheek,

Just opening to the view.

But love had, like the canker-worm,

Consumed her early prime:

The rose grew pale, and left her cheek—

She died before her time.

‘Awake!’ she cried, ‘thy true-love calls—

Come from her midnight grave:

Now let thy pity hear the maid

Thy love refused to save.

‘This is the dumb and dreary hour,

When injured ghosts complain;—

When yawning graves give up their dead

To haunt the faithless swain.

‘Bethink thee, William, of thy fault,

Thy pledge and broken oath!

And give me back my maiden vow,

And give me back my troth.

‘Why did you promise love to me,

And not that promise keep?

Why did you swear my eyes were bright,

Yet leave those eyes to weep?

‘How could you say my face was fair,

And yet that face forsake?

How could you win my virgin heart,

Yet leave that heart to break?

‘Why did you say my lip was sweet,

And made the scarlet pale?

And why did I, young witless maid!

Believe the flattering tale?

‘That face, alas! no more is fair,

Those lips no longer red:

Dark are my eyes, now closed in death,

And every charm is fled.

‘The hungry worm my sister is;

This winding-sheet I wear:

And cold and weary lasts our night,

Till that last morn appear.

‘But hark! the cock has warned me hence.

A long and last adieu!

Come see, false man, how low she lies,

Who died for love of you.’

The lark sang loud, the morning smiled

With beams of rosy red;

Pale William quaked in every limb,

And raving left his bed.

He hied him to the fatal place

Where Margaret’s body lay;

And stretched him on the green grass turf

That wrapt her breathless clay.

And thrice he called on Margaret’s name,

And thrice he wept full sore;

Then laid his cheek to her cold grave,

And word spake never more.