The Children in the Wood
Now ponder well, you parents dear,
These words which I shall write;
A doleful story you shall hear,
In time brought forth to light.
A gentleman of good account,
In Norfolk dwelt of late,
Who did in honour far surmount
Most men of his estate.
Sore sick he was and like to die,
No help his life could save;
His wife by him as sick did lie,
And both possest one grave.
No love between these two was lost,
Each was to other kind;
In love they lived, in love they died,
And left two babes behind.
The one a fine and pretty boy
Not passing three years old,
The other a girl more young than he,
And framed in beauty's mould.
The father left his little son,
As plainly did appear,
When he to perfect age should come,
Three hundred pounds a year;
And to his little daughter Jane
Five hundred pounds in gold,
To be paid down on marriage-day,
Which might not be controlled.
But if the children chanced to die
Ere they to age should come,
Their uncle should possess their wealth;
For so the will did run.
"Now, brother," said the dying man,
"Look to my children dear;
Be good unto my boy and girl,
No friends else have they here;
To God and you I recommend
My children dear this day;
But little while be sure we have
Within this world to stay.
"You must be father and mother both,
And uncle, all in one;
God knows what will become of them
When I am dead and gone."
With that bespake their mother dear:
"O brother kind," quoth she,
"You are the man must bring our babes
To wealth or misery.
"And if you keep them carefully,
Then God will you reward;
But if you otherwise should deal,
God will your deeds regard."
With lips as cold as any stone,
They kissed their children small:
"God bless you both, my children dear!"
With that the tears did fall.
These speeches then their brother spake
To this sick couple there:
"The keeping of your little ones,
Sweet sister, do not fear;
God never prosper me nor mine,
Nor aught else that I have,
If I do wrong your children dear
When you are laid in grave!"
The parents being dead and gone,
The children home he takes,
And brings them straight unto his house
Where much of them he makes.