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Editor's Selection of Poems
The Three Beggars

by Walter de la Mare

'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:--

'Oh three tall footsore men in 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 chestnut man,
Out of his bundle draws a bone:
'La, by the bellfry 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 Angle 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 a crust a peacock pie,
Instead of bone sweet venison,
Instead of a groat a white lily
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!
Oh, rich the odour that arose!
Oh, 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.
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