THE THREE BEGGARS by Walter de la Mare

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'Twas autumn daybreak gold and wild,
While past St Ann's grey tower they shuffled,
Three beggars spied a fairy-child
In crimson mantle muffled.
The daybreak lighted up her face
All pink, and sharp, and emerald-eyed;
She looked on them a little space,
And shrill as hautboy cried:--
'O three tall footsore men of rags
Which walking this gold morn I see,
What will ye give me from your bags
For fairy kisses three?'
The first, that was a reddish man,
Out of his bundle takes a crust:
'La, by the tombstones of St Ann,
There's fee, if fee ye must!'
The second, that was a chesnut man,
Out of his bundle draws a bone:
'La, by the belfry of St Ann,
And all my breakfast gone!'
The third, that was a yellow man,
Out of his bundle picks a groat,
'La, by the Angel of St Ann,
And I must go without.'
That changeling, lean and icy-lipped,
Touched crust, and bone, and groat, and lo!
Beneath her finger taper-tipped
The magic all ran through.
Instead of crust a peacock pie,
Instead of bone sweet venison,
Instead of groat a white lilie
With seven blooms thereon.
And each fair cup was deep with wine:
Such was the changeling's charity,
The sweet feast was enough for nine,
But not too much for three.
O toothsome meat in jelly froze!
O tender haunch of elfin stag!
O rich the odour that arose!
O plump with scraps each bag!
There, in the daybreak gold and wild,
Each merry-hearted beggar man
Drank deep unto the fairy child,
And blessed the good St Ann.
Walter de la Mare,

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