Posted by: anna | October 21, 2009

St Keyne’s Well

There is a poem by Robert Southey (A Balliol Man) about St Keyne’s Well:


A Well there is in the west countiy.
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 does 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 neighbouring town
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 drunk this day
That ever thou didst in thy life.

‘0r 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 better for that,
I pray you answer me why?’

‘St Keyne,” quoth the Cornish-man, ‘many a time
Drank of this crystal welli.
And before the angel summoned her,
She laid on the water a spell.”

‘If the husband of this gifted well
Shall drink before the wife,
A happy man thenceforth is he,
For e shall be master for life.

‘But if the wife should drink of it first’ —
God help the husband then !*’
The Stranger stoop’d 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 hasten’d 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.”

-Robert Southey

Not one of his better efforts…


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