The West-Country Damosel’s Complaint
No: 292; variant: 292A
- ‘WHEN will your marry me, William,
And make me your wedded wife?
Or take you your keen bright sword
And rid me out of my life.’
- ‘Say no more so then, lady,
Say you no more then so,
For you shall into the wild forrest,
And amongst the buck and doe.
- ‘Where thou shalt eat of the hips and haws,
And the roots that are so sweet,
And thou shalt drink of the cold water,
That runs underneath [thy] feet.’
- Now she had not been in the wild forrest
Passing three months and a day
But with hunger and cold she had her fill,
Till she was quite worn away.
- At last she saw a fair tyl’d-house,
And there she swore by the rood
That she would to that fair tyl’d-house,
There for to get her some food.
- But when she came unto the gates,
Aloud, aloud she cry’d,
An alms, an alms, my own sister!
I ask you for no pride.
- Her sister calld up her merry men all,
By one, by two, and by three,
And bid them hunt away that wild doe,
As far as ere they could see.
- They hunted her ore hill and dale,
And they hunted her so sore
That they hunted her into the forrest,
Where her sorrows grew more and more.
- She laid a stone all at her head,
And another all at her feet,
And down she lay between these two,
Till death had lulld her asleep.
- When sweet Will came and stood at her head,
And likewise stood at her feet,
A thousand times he kist he[r] cold lips,
Her body being fast asleep.
- Yea, seaven times he stood at her feet,
And seaven times at her head,
A thousand times he shook her hand,
Although her body was dead.
- ‘Ah wretched me!’ he loudly cry’d,
‘What is it that I have done?
O woud to the powers above I’de dy’d,
When thus I left her alone!
- ‘Come, come, you gentle red-breast now,
And prepare for us a tomb,
Whilst unto cruel Death I bow,
And sing like a swan my doom.
- ‘Why could I ever cruel be
Unto so fair a creature?
Alas! she dy’d for love of me,
The loveliest she in nature!
- ‘For me she left her home so fair
To wander in ths wild grove,
And there with sighs and pensive care
She ended her life for love.
- ‘O constancy, in her thou’rt lost!
Now let women boast no more;
She’s fled unto the Elizium coast,
And with her carryd the store.
- ‘O break, my heart, with sorrow filld,
Come, swell, you strong tides of grief!
You that my dear love have killd,
Come, yield in death to me relief.
- ‘Cruel her sister, was’t for me
That to her she was unkind?
Her hunband I will never be,
But with this my love be joynd.
- ‘Grim Death shall tye the marriage-bands,
Which jealousie shan’t divide;
Together shall tye our cold hands,
Whilst here we lye side by side.
- ‘Witness, ye groves, and chrystial streams,
How faithless I late have been,
But do repent with dying leaves
Of that my ungrateful sin;
- ‘And wish a thousand times that I
Had been but to her more kind,
And not have let a virgin dye
Whose equal there’s none can find.
- ‘Now heaps of sorrow press my soul;
Now, now ‘tis she takes her way;
I come, my love, without controule,
Nor from thee will longer stay.’
- With that he fetchd a heavy groar
Which rent his tender breast,
And then by her he laid him down,
When as death did give him rest.
- Whilst mournful birds, with leavy boughs,
To them a kind burial gave,
And warbled out their love-sick vows,
Whilst they both slept in their grave.