George Borrow

(1803-1881 / England)

May Asda


May Asda is gone to the merry green wood;
Like flax was each tress on her temples that stood;
Her cheek like the rose-leaf that perfumes the air;
Her form, like the lily-stalk, graceful and fair:

She mourn’d for her lover, Sir Frovin the brave,
For he had embark’d on the boisterous wave;
And, burning to gather the laurels of war,
Had sail’d with King Humble to Orkney afar:

At feast and at revel, wherever she went,
Her thoughts on his perils and dangers were bent;
No joy has the heart that loves fondly and dear—
No pleasure save when the lov’d object is near!

May Asda walk’d out in the bonny noon-tide,
And roam’d where the beeches grew up in their pride;
She sat herself down on the green sloping hill,
Where liv’d the Erl-people, and where they live still:

Then trembled the turf, as she sat in repose,
And straight from the mountain three maidens arose;
And with them a loom, and upon it a woof,
As white as the snow when it falls on the roof.

Of red shining gold was the fairy-loom made;
They sang and they danc’d, and their swift shuttles play’d;
Their song was of death, and their song was of life,
It sounded like billows in tumult and strife.

They gave her the woof, with a sorrowful look,
And vanish’d like bubbles that burst on the brook;
But deep in the mountain was heard a sweet strain,
As the lady went home to her bower again.

The web was unfinish’d; she wove and she spun,
Nor rested a moment, until it was done;
And there was enough, when the work was complete,
To form for a dead man a shirt or a sheet.

The heroes return’d from the well-foughten field,
And bore home Sir Frovin’s corse, laid on a shield;
Sad sight for the maid! but she still was alert,
And sew’d round the body the funeral shirt:

And when she had come to the very last stitch,
Her feelings, so long suppress’d, rose to a pitch,
The cold clammy sweat from her features outbroke;
Death struck her, and meekly she bow’d to the stroke.

She rests with her lover now deep in the grave,
And o’er them the beeches their mossy boughs wave;
There sing the Erl-maidens their ditties aloud,
And dance while the merry moon peeps from the cloud.

Submitted: Wednesday, October 13, 2010

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