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The Three Beggars

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The Three Beggars
written by Walter de la Mare
Songs of Childhood (1902) Link to further information




    'Twas autumn daybreak gold and wild,
      While past St Ann's grey tower they shuffled,
    Three beggars spied a fairy-child
        In crimson mantle muffled.

    The daybreak lighted up her face
      All pink, and sharp, and emerald-eyed;
    She looked on them a little space,
        And shrill as hautboy cried:--

    'O three tall footsore men of rags
      Which walking this gold morn I see,
    What will ye give me from your bags
        For fairy kisses three?'

    The first, that was a reddish man,
      Out of his bundle takes a crust:
    'La, by the tombstones of St Ann,
        There's fee, if fee ye must!'

    The second, that was a chesnut man,
      Out of his bundle draws a bone:
    'La, by the belfry of St Ann,
        And all my breakfast gone!'

    The third, that was a yellow man,
      Out of his bundle picks a groat,
    'La, by the Angel of St Ann,
        And I must go without.'

    That changeling, lean and icy-lipped,
      Touched crust, and bone, and groat, and lo!
    Beneath her finger taper-tipped
        The magic all ran through.

    Instead of crust a peacock pie,
      Instead of bone sweet venison,
    Instead of groat a white lilie
        With seven blooms thereon.

    And each fair cup was deep with wine:
      Such was the changeling's charity,
    The sweet feast was enough for nine,
        But not too much for three.

    O toothsome meat in jelly froze!
      O tender haunch of elfin stag!
    O rich the odour that arose!
        O plump with scraps each bag!

    There, in the daybreak gold and wild,
      Each merry-hearted beggar man
    Drank deep unto the fairy child,
        And blessed the good St Ann.

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