Percy's Reliques - The Witch of Wokey.

The Witch of Wokey.

            This ballad was published in a small collection of poems, intitled, Euthemia, or the Power of Harmony, &c., 1756, written, in 1748, by the ingenious Dr. Harrington, of Bath, who never allowed them to be published, and withheld his name till it could no longer be concealed. The following contains some variations from the original copy, which it is hoped the reader will pardon, when he is informed they come from the elegant pen of the late Mr. Shenstone.

            Wokey-hole is a noted cavern in Somersetshire, which has given birth to as many wild fanciful stories as the Sybil's Cave, in Italy. Through a very narrow entrance, it opens into a very large vault the roof whereof, either on account of its height, or the thickness of the gloom, cannot be discovered by the light of torches. It goes winding a great way under ground, is crost by a stream of very cold water, and is all horrid with broken pieces of rock: many of these are evident petrifactions; which, on account of their singular forms, have given rise to the fables alluded to in this poem.

IN aunciente days tradition showes
A base and wicked elfe arose,
The Witch of Wokey hight:
Oft have I heard the fearfull tale
From Sue, and Roger of the vale,
On some long winter's night.

Deep in the dreary dismall cell,
Which seem'd and was ycleped hell,
This blear-eyed hag did hide:
Nine wicked elves, as legends sayne,
She chose to form her guardian trayne,
And kennel near her side.

Here screeching owls oft made their nest,
While wolves its craggy sides possest,
Night-howling thro' the rock:
No wholesome herb could here be found;
She blasted every plant around,
And blister'd every flock.

Her haggard face was foull to see;
Her mouth unmeet a mouth to bee;
Her eyne of deadly leer,
She nought devis'd, but neighbour's ill
She wreak'd on all her wayward will,
And marr'd all goodly chear.

All in her prime, have poets sung,
No gaudy youth, gallant and young,
E'er blest her longing armes;
And hence arose her spight to vex,
And blast the youth of either sex,
By dint of hellish charms.

From Glaston came a lerned wight,
Full bent to marr her fell dispight,
And well he did, I weene:
Sich mischief never had been known,
And, since his mickle lerninge shown,
Sich mischief ne'er has been.

He chauntede out his godlie booke,
He crost the water, blest the brooks,
Then -- pater noster done, --
The ghastly hag he sprinkled o'er;
When lo! where stood a hag before,
Now stood a ghastly stone.

Full well 'tis known adown the dale:
Tho' passing strange indeed the tale,
And doubtfull may appear,
I'm bold to say, there's never a one,
That has not seen the witch in stone,
With all her household gear.

But tho' this lernede clerke did well;
With grieved heart, alas! I tell,
She left this curse behind:
That Wokey-nymphs forsaken quite,
Tho' sense and beauty both unite,
Should find no leman kind.

For lo! even as the fiend did say,
The sex have found it to this day,
That men are wonderous scant:
Here's beauty, wit, and sense combin'd,
With all that's good and virtuous join'd,
Yet hardly one gallant.

Shall then sich maids unpitied moane?
They might as well, like her, be stone,
As thus forsaken dwell.
Since Glaston now can boast no clerks;
Come down from Oxenford, ye sparks,
And, oh! revoke the spell!

Yet stay -- nor thus despond, ye fair;
Virtue's the gods' peculiar care;
I hear the gracious voice:
Your sex shall soon be blest agen,
We only wait to find such men,
As best deserve your choice.

 

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