Bridemaids and bridegroom shrank in fear,
But I stood high who stood at bay:
’And if I answer yea, fair Sir,
What man art thou to bar with nay?’ 20
He was a strong man from the north,
Light-locked, with eyes of dangerous grey:
’Put yea by for another time
In which I will not say thee nay.’
He took me in his strong white arms,
He bore me on his horse away
O’er crag, morass, and hairbreadth pass,
But never asked me yea or nay.
He made me fast with book and bell,
With links of love he makes me stay; 30
Till now I’ve neither heart nor power
Nor will nor wish to say him nay.
Every valley drinks,
Every dell and hollow:
Where the kind rain sinks and sinks,
Green of Spring will follow.
Yet a lapse of weeks
Buds will burst their edges,
Strip their wool-coats, glue-coats, streaks,
In the woods and hedges;
Weave a bower of love
For birds to meet each other, 10
Weave a canopy above
Nest and egg and mother.
But for fattening rain
We should have no flowers,
Never a bud or leaf again
But for soaking showers;
Never a mated bird
In the rocking tree-tops,
Never indeed a flock or herd
To graze upon the lea-crops. 20
Lambs so woolly white,
Sheep the sun-bright leas on,
They could have no grass to bite
But for rain in season.
We should find no moss
In the shadiest places,
Find no waving meadow grass
Pied with broad-eyed daisies:
But miles of barren sand,
With never a son or daughter, 30
Not a lily on the land,
Or lily on the water.
I was a cottage maiden
Hardened by sun and air,
Contented with my cottage mates,
Not mindful I was fair.
Why did a great lord find me out,
And praise my flaxen hair?
Why did a great lord find me out
To fill my heart with care?
He lured me to his palace home—
Woe’s me for joy thereof— 10
To lead a shameless shameful life,
His plaything and his love.
He wore me like a silken knot,
He changed me like a glove;
So now I moan, an unclean thing,
Who might have been a dove.
O Lady Kate, my cousin Kate,
You grew more fair than I:
He saw you at your father’s gate,
Chose you, and cast me by. 20
He watched your steps along the lane,
Your work among the rye;
He lifted you from mean estate
To sit with him on high.