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The Well of St. Keyne by Robert Southey


"The Well of St. Keyne" is a poem written by Robert Southey. This is a humorous poem. It is about a well in the west of the country. The story states that every woman knows about it but not every man. It goes on to tell the story of a man who goes to the well and drinks from it. A man comes out and starts to talk to him. He asks him if he is married or single. At the end, we find out the man is curious because the legend says that if a man drinks from the well before his wife, he will be master of life. If the woman drinks first, she will be. The man who drinks from the well states that he was just married and came to drink before his wife, but then says that she was probably smarter than him and brought some of the well's water to church and drank it there.

This poem is written as thirteen stanzas with four lines in each. It is rhymed as ABAB.


The Well of St. Keyne

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,
And behind doth 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 the 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 house hard by
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 drank this day
That ever thou didst in thy life."

"Or 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 the better for that,
I pray you answer me why?"

"St. Keyne," quoth the Cornish-man, "many a time
Drank of this crystal Well,
And before the Angel summon'd her,
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."

"But if the Wife should drink of it first,--
God help the Husband then!"
The Stranger stoopt 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."

Next: My Days Among the Dead are Past
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