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Main > English folktales > Fairy tale "The Babes In The Wood"

The Babes In The Wood

He had not kept these pretty babes

A twelvemonth and a day,

But, for their wealth, he did devise

To make them both away.

He bargained with two ruffians strong,

Which were of furious mood,

That they should take these children young.

And slay them in a wood.

He told his wife an artful tale

He would the children send

To be brought up in London town

With one that was his friend.

Away then went those pretty babes,

Rejoicing at that tide,

Rejoicing with a merry mind

They should on cock-horse ride.

They prate and prattle pleasantly,

As they ride on the way,

To those that should their butchers be

And work their lives' decay:

So that the pretty speech they had

Made Murder's heart relent;

And they that undertook the deed

Full sore now did repent.

Yet one of them, more hard of heart,

Did vow to do his charge,

Because the wretch that hired him

Had paid him very large.

The other won't agree thereto,

So there they fall to strife;

With one another they did fight

About the children's life;

And he that was of mildest mood

Did slay the other there,

Within an unfrequented wood;

The babes did quake for fear!

He took the children by the hand,

Tears standing in their eye,

And bade them straightway follow him,

And look they did not cry;

And two long miles he led them on,

While they for food complain:

"Stay here," quoth he, "I'll bring you bread,

When I come back again."

These pretty babes, with hand in hand,

Went wandering up and down;

But never more could see the man

Approaching from the town.

Their pretty lips with blackberries

Were all besmeared and dyed;

And when they saw the darksome night,

They sat them down and cried.

Thus wandered these poor innocents,

Till death did end their grief;

In one another's arms they died,

As wanting due relief:

No burial this pretty pair

From any man receives,

Till Robin Redbreast piously

Did cover them with leaves.

And now the heavy wrath of God

Upon their uncle fell;

Yea, fearful fiends did haunt his house,

His conscience felt an hell:

His barns were fired, his goods consumed,

His lands were barren made,

His cattle died within the field,

And nothing with him stayed.

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