Cross-path’d with every gossip’s foot is trod;
By cottage door where playful children run,
And cats and curs sit basking in the sun:
Where o’er the earthen seat the thorn is bent,
Cross-arm’d, and back to wall, poor William leant.
His bonnet broad drawn o’er his gather’d brow,
His hanging lip and lengthen’d visage shew
A mind but ill at ease. With motions strange,
His listless limbs their wayward postures change;
Whilst many a crooked line and curious maze,
With clouted shoon, he on the sand pourtrays.
The half-chew’d straw fell slowly from his mouth,
And to himself low mutt’ring spoke the youth.
“How simple is the lad! and reft of skill,
Who thinks with love to fix a woman’s will:
Who ev’ry Sunday morn, to please her sight,
Knots up his neck-cloth gay, and hosen white:
Who for her pleasure keeps his pockets bare,
And half his wages spends on pedlar’s ware;
When every niggard clown, or dotard old,
Who hides in secret nooks his oft told gold,
Whose field or orchard tempts with all her pride,
At little cost may win her for his bride;
Whilst all the meed her silly lover gains
Is but the neighbours’ jeering for his pains.
On Sunday last when Susan’s bands were read,
And I astonish’d sat with hanging head,
Cold grew my shrinking limbs, and loose my knee,
Whilst every neighbour’s eye was fix’d on me.
Ah, Sue! when last we work’d at Hodge’s hay,
And still at me you jeer’d in wanton play;
When last at fair, well pleas’d by show-man’s stand,
You took the new-bought fairing from my hand;
When at old Hobb’s you sung that song so gay,
Sweet William still the burthen of the lay,
I little thought, alas! the lots were cast,
That thou shou’d’st be another’s bride at last:
And had, when last we trip’d it on the green
And laugh’d at stiff-back’d Rob, small thought I ween,
Ere yet another scanty month was flown,
To see thee wedded to the hateful clown.
Ay, lucky swain, more gold thy pockets line;
But did these shapely limbs resemble thine,
I’d stay at home, and tend the household geer,
Nor on the green with other lads appear.
Ay, lucky swain, no store thy cottage lacks,
And round thy barn thick stands the shelter’d stacks;
But did such features hard my visage grace,
I’d never budge the bonnet from my face.
Yet let it be: it shall not break my ease:
He best deserves who doth the maiden please.
Such silly cause no more shall give me pain,
Nor ever maiden cross my rest again.
Such grizzly suitors with their taste agree,
And the black fiend may take them all for me!”
Now thro’ the village rise confused sounds,
Hoarse lads, and children shrill, and yelping hounds.
Straight ev’ry matron at the door is seen,
And pausing hedgers on their mattocks lean.
At every narrow lane, and alley mouth,
Loud laughing lasses stand, and joking youth.
A near approaching band in colours gay,
With minstrels blythe before to cheer the way,
From clouds of curling dust which onward fly,
In rural splendour break upon the eye.
As in their way they hold so gayly on,
Caps, beads, and buttons glancing in the sun,
Each village wag, with eye of roguish cast,
Some maiden jogs, and vents the ready jest;
Whilst village toasts the passing belles deride,
And sober matrons marvel at their pride.
But William, head erect, with settled brow,
In sullen silence view’d the passing shew;
And oft’ he scratch’d his pate with manful grace,
And scorn’d to pull the bonnet o’er his face;
But did with steady look unmoved wait,
Till hindmost man had turn’d the church-yard gate;
Then turn’d him to his cot with visage flat,
Where honest Tray upon the threshold sat.
Up jump’d the kindly beast his hand to lick,
And, for his pains, receiv’d an angry kick.
Loud shuts the flapping door with thund’ring din;
The echoes round their circling course begin,
From cot to cot, in wide progressive swell,
Deep groans the church-yard wall and neighb’ring dell,
And Tray, responsive, joins with long and piteous yell.