Robert Southey ( )


St. Michaels Chair


MERRILY, merrily rung the bells,
  The bells of St. Michaels tower,
When Richard Penlake and Rebecca his wife
  Arrived at St. Michaels door.

Richard Penlake was a cheerful man,
  Cheerful and frank and free;
But he led a sad life with Rebecca his wife,
  For a terrible shrew was she.

Richard Penlake a scolding would take,
  Till patience availed no longer;
Then Richard Penlake his crab-stick would take,
  And show her that he was the stronger.

Rebecca his wife had often wished
  To sit in St. Michaels chair;
For she should be the mistress then
  If she had once sat there.

It chanced that Richard Penlake fell sick;
  They thought he would have died:
Rebecca his wife made a vow for his life,
  As she knelt by his bedside.

Now hear my prayer, St. Michael! and spare
  My husbands life, quoth she;
And to thine altar we will go,
  Six marks to give to thee.

Richard Penlake repeated the vow;
  For woundily sick was he:
Save me, St. Michael! and we will go,
  Six marks to give to thee.

When Richard grew well, Rebecca his wife
  Teased him by night and by day:
O mine own dear! for you I fear,
  If we the vow delay.

Merrily, merrily rung the bells,
  The bells of St. Michaels tower,
When Richard Penlake and Rebecca his wife
  Arrived at St. Michaels door.

Six marks they on the altar laid,
  And Richard knelt in prayer:
She left him to pray, and stole away
  To sit in St. Michaels chair.

Up the tower Rebecca ran,
  Round and round and round:
T was a giddy sight to stand atop,
  And look upon the ground.

A curse on the ringers for rocking
  The tower! Rebecca cried,
As over the church battlements
  She strode with a long stride.

A blessing on St. Michaels chair!
  She said, as she sat down:
Merrily, merrily rung the bells,
  And out Rebecca was thrown.

Tidings to Richard Penlake were brought,
  That his good wife was dead:
Now shall we toll for her poor soul
  The great church-bell? they said.

Toll at her burying, quoth Richard Penlake,
  Toll at her burying, quoth he;
But dont disturb the ringers now,
  In compliment to me.



Robert Southey's other poems:
  1. For a Monument in the Vale of Ewias
  2. For a Tablet at Penshurst
  3. For a Tablet at Silbury Hill
  4. For a Monument at Taunton
  5. For a Monument in the New Forest


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