The Three Beggars

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The Three Beggars
written by Walter de la Mare
Songs of Childhood (1902)

    '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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