David Lewis Paget
The Hart Midsummer Fair - Poem by David Lewis Paget
‘Just where do you think you’re going, girl
With those ribbons in your hair? ’
‘I’m off to the world of Make Believe
To the Hart Midsummer Fair.
They say there’s a Magical Fairy Ring
Where the maids dance round a pole,
Where the step of a dainty pair of feet
Can win you a pot of gold.’
‘There’s Lords and Ladies and Dukes and Kings
Come down from the Castle Kragg,
Wearing their Crowns and jewels and rings
And they roast a new killed Stag,
There are clowns and jugglers, Gypsy bands
And the Phantom Fiddler’s there,
Playing an ancient Irish jig
At the Hart Midsummer Fair.’
‘The gentlemen from the town come down
All dressed in their best array,
Looking to win a country maid
To hang off their arm that day.
And those as willing, the auctioneer
Takes maids from the countryside,
Bangs his gavel and calls the odds
For the sale of a country bride.’
‘I’ll not have you at the County fair,
You can stay at the farm by me,
We’ve been affianced for over a year
And wed in a year, we’ll see! ’
‘I’ve waited long for your promise to wed
But nothing has come about,
I’ll not be wed to an Ostler, when
A gentleman calls me out.’
He locked the maid in the pantry, so
She wouldn’t get out that day,
But she slipped the lock, and changed her dress
And managed to get away.
She went the way of the hidden lane
On the old grey dappled mare,
And rode on over the hills to find
The Hart Midsummer Fair.
She was late for the clowns and jugglers
She was late for the Fairy Ring,
She wasn’t too late for the auctioneer
Who told her to come right in.
She couldn’t see who was bidding for her
But she took it with a smile,
It must have been some fine gentleman
For the bidding was done in style.
‘Four pounds I’m bid, for this comely wench,
Four guineas to you out there, ’
Another pound brought his gavel down
‘I believe that you’ve won her, sir! ’
They tied a blindfold over her eyes
And her wrists were bound with cords,
She had to walk for a dozen miles
Tethered behind a horse.
The horse’s hooves had a hollow ring
As they hit the cobblestones,
The walls were damp and the air was filled
With a smell like drying bones.
Her ‘gentleman’ took the blindfold off
And her knees began to sag,
She’d sold herself to the Pantler of
The household, Castle Kragg.
The Pantler, so very old and grey
With a blind, white staring eye,
He said that she’d be the scullery maid
There were pots and pans to dry,
There wasn’t a single window in
The kitchen, down below,
She thrust the money he’d paid for her
And she begged him, let her go.
‘That’s not enough, ’ said the wily serf,
‘To free you from these grounds,
If you want to purchase your liberty
It will cost you twenty pounds.
Your value is in the work you’ll do
Both here, and under the stairs,
If you pay your shilling a week to me
It will take you seven years! ’
That night she slept on a pile of sacks
And she thrust the man away,
She said, ‘You’re not going to touch me
For as long as you make me pay! ’
But late that night in the pale moonlight
A horse’s hooves were heard,
And a shadow crept to her bedside,
Whispered, ‘Don’t say a single word! ’
He led her up to the courtyard where
There stood the dapple grey,
Hoisted her up behind him, spurred
The horse, ‘Now let’s away! ’
She clung on tight to the Ostler she
Had spurned, without a care,
And laughed when they crested the hillside
As the breeze blew through her hair.
The banns went up the following day
They were married in the fall,
She said, ‘I finally got my way, ’
And he answered, ‘Not at all!
‘You only married an Ostler, not
The Pantler under the stair.’
‘An Ostler’s all that I wanted since
The Hart Midsummer Fair! ’
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