The Well of St. Keyne

Original Text: 
Morning Post (London, Dec. 3, 1798).
2    And a clearer one never was seen;
3There is not a wife in the west country
4    But has heard of the Well of St. Keyne.
5An oak and an elm-tree stand beside,
6    And behind doth an ash-tree grow,
7And a willow from the bank above
8    Droops to the water below.
9A traveller came to the Well of St. Keyne;
10    Joyfully he drew nigh,
11For from the cock-crow he had been travelling,
12    And there was not a cloud in the sky.
13He drank of the water so cool and clear,
14    For thirsty and hot was he,
15And he sat down upon the bank
16    Under the willow-tree.
17There came a man from the house hard by
18    At the Well to fill his pail;
19On the Well-side he rested it,
20    And he bade the Stranger hail.
21"Now art thou a bachelor, Stranger?" quoth he,
22    "For an if thou hast a wife,
23The happiest draught thou hast drank this day
24    That ever thou didst in thy life.
25"Or has thy good woman, if one thou hast,
26    Ever here in Cornwall been?
27For an if she have, I'll venture my life
28    She has drank of the Well of St. Keyne."
29"I have left a good woman who never was here."
30    The Stranger he made reply,
31"But that my draught should be the better for that,
32    I pray you answer me why?"
33"St. Keyne," quoth the Cornish-man, "many a time
34    Drank of this crystal Well,
35And before the Angel summon'd her,
36    She laid on the water a spell.
37"If the Husband of this gifted Well
38    Shall drink before his Wife,
39A happy man thenceforth is he,
40    For he shall be Master for life.
41"But if the Wife should drink of it first,--
42    God help the Husband then!"
43The Stranger stoopt to the Well of St. Keyne,
44    And drank of the water again.
45"You drank of the Well I warrant betimes?"
46    He to the Cornish-man said:
47But the Cornish-man smiled as the Stranger spake,
48    And sheepishly shook his head.
49"I hasten'd as soon as the wedding was done,
50    And left my Wife in the porch;
51But i' faith she had been wiser than me,
52    For she took a bottle to Church."


1] Celtic folk-lore is peculiarly rich in magic wells. St. Keyne's well may have originally belonged to a local pagan divinity. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
J. D. Robins
RPO Edition: 
2RP.2.144; RPO 1996-2000.