The War-Wife of Catknoll

" What crowd is this in Catknoll Street,
Now I am just come home?
What crowd is this in my old street,
That flings me such a glance?
A stretcher — and corpse? A sobering sight
To greet me, when my heart is light
With thoughts of coming cheer to-night
Now I am back from France."

" O 'tis a woman, soldier-man,
Who seem to be new come:
O 'tis a woman, soldier-man,
Found in the river here,
Whither she went and threw her in,
And now they are carrying her within:
She's drowned herself for a sly sin
Against her husband dear.

" 'A said to me, who knew her well,
" O why was I so weak! "
'A said to me, who knew her well,
And have done all her life,
With a downcast face she said to me,
" O why did I keep company
Wi' them that practised gallantry,
When vowed a faithful wife! "

" " God, I'm driven mad! " she said,
" To hear he's coming back;
I'm fairly driven mad! " she said:
" He's been two years agone,
And now he'll find me in this state,
And not forgive me. Had but fate
Kept back his coming three months late,
Nothing of it he'd known! "

" We did not think she meant so much,
And said: " He may forgive. "
O never we thought she meant so much
As to go doing this.
And now she must be crowned! — so fair! —
Who drew men's eyes so everywhere! —
And love-letters beyond compare
For coaxing to a kiss.

" She kept her true a year or more
Against the young men all;
Yes, kept her true a year or more,
And they were most to blame.
There was Will Peach who plays the flute,
And Waywell with the dandy suit,
And Nobb, and Knight. . . . But she's been mute
As to the father's name." Note: verse 5. — " She must be crowned." Old English for " there must be a coroner's inquest over her".
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