A well there is in the west country,
And a clearer one never was seen;
There is not a wife in the west-country
But has heard of the Well of St. Keyne.
An oak and an elm tree stand beside,
And behind does an ash tree grow,
And a willow from the bank above
Droops to the water below.
A traveller came to the Well of St. Keyne:
Pleasant it was to his eye,
For from cock-crow he had been travelling
And there was not a cloud in the sky.
He drank of the water so cool and clear,
For thirsty and hot was he,
And he sat down upon the bank,
Under the willow tree.
There came a man from the neighbouring town
At the well to fill his pail;
On the well-side he rested it,
And bade the stranger hail.
"Now, art thou a bachelor, stranger?" quoth he,
"For an if thou hast a wife,
The happiest draught thou hast drunk this day
That ever thou didst in thy life.
"Or has your good woman, if one you have,
In Cornwall ever been?
For an if she have, I'll venture my life
She has drunk of the Well of St. Keyne."
"I have left a good woman who never was here,"
The stranger he made reply;
"But that my draught should be better for that,
I pray you answer me why."
"St. Keyne," quoth the countryman, "many a time
Drank of this crystal well,
And before the angel summoned her
She laid on the water a spell.
"If the husband of this gifted well
Shall drink before his wife,
A happy man thenceforth is he,
For he shall be master for life.
"But if the wife should drink of it first,
God help the husband then!"
The stranger stoop'd to the Well of St. Keyne,
And drank of the waters again.
"You drank of the well, I warrant, betimes?"
He to the countryman said;
But the countryman smiled as the stranger spake,
And sheepishly shook his head.
"I hastened as soon as the wedding was done,
And left my wife in the porch,
But i' faith she had been wiser than me,
For she took a bottle to church,"