Robert Southey

Here you will find the Long Poem Wat Tyler - Act I of poet Robert Southey

Wat Tyler - Act I



Wat Tyler at work within. A May-pole 
before the Door. 



CHEERFUL on this holiday, 
Welcome we the merry May. 

On ev'ry sunny hillock spread, 
The pale primrose rears her head; 
Rich with sweets the western gale 
Sweeps along the cowslip'd dale. 
Every bank with violets gay, 
Smiles to welcome in the May. 

The linnet from the budding grove, 
Chirps her vernal song of love. 
The copse resounds the throstle's notes, 
On each wild gale sweet music floats; 
And melody from every spray, 
Welcomes in the merry May. 

Cheerful on this holiday, 
Welcome we the merry May. 


During the Dance, Tyler lays down his 
Hammer, and sits mournfully down before
his Door. 

[To him. 


Why so sad, neighbour??do not these gay sports, 
This revelry of youth, recall the days 
When we too mingled in the revelry; 
And lightly tripping in the morris dance 
Welcomed the merry month? 


Aye, we were young; 
No cares had quell'd the hey-day of the blood: 
We sported deftly in the April morning, 
Nor mark'd the black clouds gathering o'er our noon; 
Nor fear'd the storm of night. 


Beshrew me, Tyler, 
But my heart joys to see the imps so cheerful! 
Young, hale, and happy, why should they destroy 
These blessings by reflection? 


Look ye, neighbour? 
You have known me long. 


Since we were boys together, 
And play'd at barley-brake, and danc'd the morris:? 
Some five-and-twenty years! 


Was not I young, 
And hale and happy? 


Cheerful as the best. 


Have not I been a staid, hard-working man? 
Up with the lark at labour?sober?honest? 
Of an unblemish'd character? 

Who doubts it, 
There's never a man in Essex bears a better. 


And shall not these, tho' young, and hale and happy, 
Look on with sorrow to the future hour? 
Shall not reflection poison all their pleasures? 
When I?the honest, staid, hard-working 
Tyler, Toil thro' the long course of the summer's day, 
Still toiling, yet still poor! when with hard labour 
Scarce can I furnish out my daily food? 
And age comes on to steal away my strength, 
And leave me poor and wretched! Why should this be? 
My youth was regular?my labour constant? 
I married an industrious, virtuous woman; 
Nor while I toiled and sweated at the anvil, 
Sat she neglectful of her spinning wheel.? 
Hob?I have only six groats in the world, 
And they must soon by law be taken from me. 


Curse on these taxes?one succeeds another? 
Our ministers?panders of a king's will? 
Drain all our wealth away?waste it in revels? 
And lure, or force away our boys, who should be 
The props of our old age!?to fill their armies 
And feed the crows of France! year follows year, 
And still we madly prosecute the war;? 
Draining our wealth?distressing our poor peasants? 
Slaughtering our youths?and all to crown our chiefs 
With Glory!?I detest the hell-sprung name. 


What matters me who wears the crown of France? 
Whether a Richard or a Charles possess it? 
They reap the glory?they enjoy the spoil? 
We pay?we bleed!?The sun would shine as cheerly 
The rains of heaven as seasonably fall; 
Tho' neither of these royal pests existed. 


Nay?as for that, we poor men should fare better! 
No legal robbers then should force away 
The hard-earn'd wages of our honest toil. 
The Parliament for ever cries more money, 
The service of the state demands more money. 
Just heaven! of what service is the state? 


Oh! 'tis of vast importance! who should pay for 
The luxuries and riots of the court? 
Who should support the flaunting courtier's pride, 
Pay for their midnight revels, their rich garments, 
Did not the state enforce??Think ye, my friend, 
That I?a humble blacksmith, here at Deptford, 
Would part with these six groats?earn'd by hard toil, 
All that I have! To massacre the Frenchmen, 
Murder as enemies men I never saw! 
Did not the state compel me? 
(Tax gatherers pass by) 
There they go, privileg'd r???s!? 

(PIERS and ALICE advance to him. ) 


Did we not dance it well to-day, my father? 
You know I always lov'd these village sports, 
Even from my infancy, and yet methinks 
I never tript along the mead so gaily. 
You know they chose me queen, and your friend Piers 
Wreath'd me this cowslip garland for my head? 
Is it not simple??you are sad, my father! 
You should have rested from your work to-day,