Sweet William still the burthen of the lay,
I little thought, alas! the lots were cast,
That thou shou’d’st be another’s bride at last:
And had, when last we trip’d it on the green
And laugh’d at stiff-back’d Rob, small thought I ween,
Ere yet another scanty month was flown,
To see thee wedded to the hateful clown.
Ay, lucky swain, more gold thy pockets line;
But did these shapely limbs resemble thine,
I’d stay at home, and tend the household geer,
Nor on the green with other lads appear.
Ay, lucky swain, no store thy cottage lacks,
And round thy barn thick stands the shelter’d stacks;
But did such features hard my visage grace,
I’d never budge the bonnet from my face.
Yet let it be: it shall not break my ease:
He best deserves who doth the maiden please.
Such silly cause no more shall give me pain,
Nor ever maiden cross my rest again.
Such grizzly suitors with their taste agree,
And the black fiend may take them all for me!”
Now thro’ the village rise confused sounds,
Hoarse lads, and children shrill, and yelping hounds.
Straight ev’ry matron at the door is seen,
And pausing hedgers on their mattocks lean.
At every narrow lane, and alley mouth,
Loud laughing lasses stand, and joking youth.
A near approaching band in colours gay,
With minstrels blythe before to cheer the way,
From clouds of curling dust which onward fly,
In rural splendour break upon the eye.
As in their way they hold so gayly on,
Caps, beads, and buttons glancing in the sun,
Each village wag, with eye of roguish cast,
Some maiden jogs, and vents the ready jest;
Whilst village toasts the passing belles deride,
And sober matrons marvel at their pride.
But William, head erect, with settled brow,
In sullen silence view’d the passing shew;
And oft’ he scratch’d his pate with manful grace,
And scorn’d to pull the bonnet o’er his face;
But did with steady look unmoved wait,
Till hindmost man had turn’d the church-yard gate;
Then turn’d him to his cot with visage flat,
Where honest Tray upon the threshold sat.
Up jump’d the kindly beast his hand to lick,
And, for his pains, receiv’d an angry kick.
Loud shuts the flapping door with thund’ring din;
The echoes round their circling course begin,
From cot to cot, in wide progressive swell,
Deep groans the church-yard wall and neighb’ring dell,
And Tray, responsive, joins with long and piteous yell.
Where ancient broken wall encloses round,
From tread of lawless feet, the hallow’d ground,
And somber yews their dewy branches wave
O’er many a motey stone and mounded grave:
Where parish church, confus’dly to the sight,
With deeper darkness prints the shades of night,
And mould’ring tombs uncouthly gape around,
And rails and fallen stones bestrew the ground:
In loosen’d garb derang’d, with scatter’d hair,
His bosom open to the nightly air,
Lone, o’er a new heap’d grave poor Basil bent,
And to himself began his simple plaint.