Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IX. Tragedy: Humor
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IX. Tragedy: Humor.  1904.
Humorous Poems: I. Woman
The Well of St. Keyne
Robert Southey (1774–1843)
   “In the parish of St. Neots, Cornwall, is a well arched over with the robes of four kinds of trees,—withy, oak, elm, and ash,—and dedicated to St. Keyne. The reported virtue of the water is this, that, whether husband or wife first drink thereof, they get the mastery thereby.”

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,        5
  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;
  Pleasant it was to his eye,        10
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,        15
  Under the willow-tree.
There came a man from the neighboring town
  At the well to fill his pail,
On the well-side he rested it,
  And bade the stranger hail.        20
“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 your good woman, if one you have,        25
  In Cornwall ever been?
For an if she have, I ’ll venture my life
  She has drunk of the Well of St. Keyne.”
“I have left a good woman who never was here,”
  The stranger he made reply;        30
“But that my draught should be better for that,
  I pray you answer me why.”
“St. Keyne,” quoth the countryman, “many a time
  Drank of this crystal well,
And before the angel summoned her        35
  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.        40
“But if the wife should drink of it first,
  Heaven help the husband then!”
The stranger stooped to the Well of St. Keyne,
  And drank of the waters again.
“You drank of the well, I warrant, betimes?”        45
  He to the countryman said.
But the countryman 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.        50
But i’ faith, she had been wiser than me,
  For she took a bottle to church.”

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