The Fight on Durnover Moor


We'd loved, we two, some while,
And that had come which comes when men too much beguile;
And without more ado
My lady said: " O shame! Get home, and hide!" But he was true.

Yes: he was true to me,
And helped me some miles homealong; and vowing to come
Before the weeks were three,
And do in church a deed should strike all scandal dumb.

And when we had traipsed to Grey's great Bridge, and pitched my box
On its cope, to breathe us there,
He cried: " What wrangle's that in yonder moor? Those knocks,
Gad, seem not to be fair!

" And a woman on her knees! . . . I'll go. . . . There's surely something wrong!"
I said: " You are tired and spent
With carrying my heavy things so far and long!"
But he would go, and went.

And there I stood, steadying my box, and screened from none,
Upon the crown of the bridge,
Ashamed o' my shape, as lower and lower slipped the sun
Down behind Pummery Ridge. . . .

" O you may long wait so!
Your young man's done — aye, dead!" they by and by ran and cried.
" You shouldn't have let him go
And join that whorage, but have kept him at your side!

" It was another wench,
Biggening as you, that he championed: yes, he came on straight
With a warmth no words could quench
For her helpless face, as soon as ever he eyed her state,

" And fought her fancy-lad, who had used her far from well,
So soon to make her moan,
Aye, closed with him in fight, till at a blow yours fell,
His skull against a stone.

" She'd followed him there, this man who'd won her, and overwon,
So, when he set to twit her
Yours couldn't abide him — him all other fighters shun,
For he's a practised hitter.

" Your man moved not, and the constables came for the other; so he,
He'll never make her his wife
Any more than yours will you; for they say that at least 'twill be
Across the water for life."

" O what has she brought about!"
I groaned; " this woman met here in my selfsame plight;
She's put another yielding heart's poor candle out
By dogging her man to-night!

" He might never have done her his due
Of amends! But mine had bidden the banns for marrying me!
Why did we rest on this bridge; why rush to a quarrel did he
With which he had nothing to do!"

But vain were bursts of blame:
We twain stood like and like, though strangers till that hour,
Foredoomed to tread our paths beneath like gaze and glower,
Bear a like blushful name.

Almost the selfsame day
It fell that her time and mine came on, — a lad and a lass:
The father o' mine was where the worms waggle under the grass,
Of hers, at Botany Bay.
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