The Greenwood Shrift

Dublin Core


The Greenwood Shrift


This incident is related of George III., who, being on a hunting excursion with a party of his nobles, was met by a poor child who had vainly sought to obtain the services of a clergyman for her dying mother. He accompanied her to the spot where the outcast lay, and administered to her the consolation of religion in her dying moments, and was thus discovered by his noble party.

Outstretched beneath the leafy shade
Of Windsor forest's deepest glad,

A dying woman lay;

Three little children round her stood,
And there went up from the green wood,

A mounful wail that day.

O, mother! was the mingled cry,
Oh mother! mother! do not die,

And leave us all alone.

My blessed babes, she tried to say,
But in faint accents died away

In a low, sobbing moan.

And then life struggled hard with death,
And fast and strong she drew her breath,

And up she raised her head;

Then peering thro' the deep wood's maze,
With a long, sharp, unearthly gaze,

"Will he not come?" she said.

Just then, the parting boughs between;
A little maid's light form was seen,

All breathless with her speed;

And following close a man came on—
A portly man to look upon—

Who led a panting steed.

"Mother," the little maiden cried,
Or e'er she reached the woman's side,

And kissed her clad-cold cheek,

"I have not loitered n the town,
But long went wandering up and down,

The minister to seek.

"They told me here, they told me there—
I think they mocked me everywhere;

And when I found his home,

And begged him on my bended knee
To bring his book and come with me,

Mother, he would not come.

"I told him how you dying lay,
And could not go in peace away

Without the minister;

I begged him for dear Christ his sake,
But oh! my heart was fit to break—

Mother, he would not stir!

"So, though my tears were blinding me,
I ran back, fast as fast could be,

To come again to you;

And here, close by, the 'Squire I met,
Who asked, so mild, what made me fret;

And when I told him true,

"'I will go with you, child,' he said,
'God sends me to this dying bed,'

Mother, he's here, hard by."

So, while the little maiden spoke,
The man, his back against an oak,

Looked on with glistening eye.

But when the dying woman's face
Turned to him with wistful gaze,

He stepped to where she lay,

And kneeling down, bent over her,
Saying, "I am a minister—

My sister, let us pray!"

And well, without e'en book or stole,
God's word was printed on his soul,)

Into the dying ear

He breathed, as 't were an angel strain,
The things that unto life pertain,

And death's dark shadows clear.

He spoke of sinner's lost estate,
Of Christ renewed, regenerate,

Of God's most blest decree,

That not a single soul should die
That turns with the repentant cry,

"Be merciful to me!"

Then, as the spirit ebbed away,
He raised his hands and eyes to pray,

That peaceful it might pass;

And then the orphans' sobs alone
Were heard, as knelt they, every one,

Close around on the green grass.

Such was the sight their wondering eyes
Beheld in heart-struck, mute surprise,

Who reigned their coursers back;

Just as they found the long astray,
Who, in the heat of chase, that day,

Had wandered from the track.

Then each man reigned his prancing steed,
And lighted down, as if agreed,

In silence by his side;

There, uncovered all, they stood—
It was a wholesome sight, and good

For a mortal pride.

For the noblest of the land
Was that deep, hush'd, bare-headed band,

And central in the ring,

By that dead pauper on the ground,
Her ragged orphans clinging round,

Knelt their anointed king!




1:47, p. 4




Unattributed, “The Greenwood Shrift,” Periodical Poets, accessed April 14, 2024,


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