Percy's Reliques - Fair Margaret and Sweet William.

Fair Margaret and Sweet William.

            This seems to be the old song quoted in Fletcher's Knight of the Burning Pestle, Acts ii. and iii.; although the six lines there preserved are somewhat different from those in the ballad as it stands at present. The reader will not wonder at this, when he is informed that this is only given from a modern printed copy picked up on a stall. Its full title is, "Fair Margaret's Misfortunes; or Sweet William's frightful dreams on his wedding night, with the sudden death and burial of those noble lovers." The lines preserved in the play are this distich:

"You are no love for me, Margaret,
I am no love for you."

            And the following stanza:

When it was grown to dark midnight,
And all were fast asleep,
In came Margarets grimly ghost
And stood at Williams feet.

            These lines have acquired an importance by giving birth to one of the most beautiful ballads in our own or any other language.-- See the song intitled "Margaret's Ghost," at the end of this volume.

            Since the first edition some improvements have been inserted, which were communicated by a lady of the first distinction, as she had heard this song repeated in her infancy.

As it fell out out on a long summer's day
Two lovers they sat on a hill;
They sat together that long summer's day,
And could not take their fill.

"I see no harm by you, Margaret,
And you see none by mee;
Before to-morrow at eight o' the clock
A rich wedding you shall see."

Fair Margaret sat in her bower-window,
Combing her yellow hair:
There she spyed sweet William and his bride,
As they were a riding near.

Then down she layd her ivory comb;
And braided her hair in twain:
She went alive out of her bower,
But ne'er came alive in't again.

When day was gone, and night was come,
And all men fast asleep,
Then came the spirit of fair Marg'ret,
And stood at William's feet.

"Are you awake, sweet William? shee said;
Or, sweet William, are you asleep?
God give you joy of your gay bride-bed,
And me of my winding-sheet."

When day was come, and night was gone,
And all men wak'd from sleep,
Sweet William to his lady sayd,
"My dear, I have cause to weep."

"I dreamt a dream, my dear ladyč,
Such dreames are never good:
I dreamt my bower was full of red wine,
And my bride-bed full of blood."

"Such dreams, such dreams, my honoured Sir,
They never do prove good;
To dream thy bower was full of red wine
And the bride-bed full of blood."

He called up his merry men all,
By one, by two, and by three:
Saying, "I'll away to fair Marg'ret's bower,
By the leave of my ladie."

And when he came to fair Marg'ret's bower,
He knocked at the ring;
And who so ready as her seven brethren
To let sweet William in.

Then he turned up the covering sheet,
"Pray let me see the dead;
Methinks she looks all pale and wan,
She hath lost her cherry red.

"I'll do more for thee, Margarčt,
Than any of thy kin;
For I will kiss thy pale wan lips,
Though a smile I cannot win."

With that bespake the seven brethren,
Making most piteous mone:
"You may go kiss your jolly brown bride,
And let our sister alone."

"If I do kiss my jolly brown bride,
I do but what is right;
I neer made a vow to yonder poor corpse
By day, nor yet by night.

"Deal on, deal on, my merry men all,
Deal on your cake and your wine:[ 1]
For whatever is dealt at her funeral to-day,
Shall be dealt to-morrow at mine."

Fair Margaret dyed to-day, to-day,
Sweet William dyed the morrow:
Fair Margaret dyed for pure true love,
Sweet William dyed for sorrow.

Margaret was buryed in the lower chancel,
And William in the higher:
Out of her brest there sprang a rose,
And out of his a briar.

They grew till they grew unto the church top,
And then they could grow no higher;
And there they tyed in a true lovers knot,
Which made all the people admire.

Then came the clerk of the parish,
As you the truth shall hear,
And by misfortune cut them down,
Or they had now been there.

NOTES

1. Alluding to the dole anciently given at funerals.

 

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