Old Farmer Wall, of Manor Hall,
To market drove his wain:
Along the road it went well stowed
With sacks of golden grain.
His station he took, but in vain did he look
For a customer all the morn;
Though the farmers all, save Farmer Wall,
They sold off all their corn.
Then home he went sore discontent,
And many an oath he swore,
And he kicked up rows with his children and spouse,
When they met him at the door.
Next market-day, he drove away
To the town his loaded wain:
The farmers all, save Farmer Wall,
They sold off all their grain.
No bidder he found, and he stood astound
At the close of the market-day,
When the market was done, and the chapmen were gone
Each man his several way.
He stalked by his load along the road;
His face with wrath was red:
His arms he tossed, like a goodman crossed
In seeking his daily bread.
His face was red, and fierce was his tread,
And with lusty voice cried he:
"My corn I'll sell to the devil of hell,
If he'll my chapman be."
These words he spoke just under an oak
Seven hundred winters old;
And he straight was aware of a man sitting there
On the roots and grassy mould.
The roots rose high o'er the green-sward dry,
And the grass around was green,
Save just the space of the stranger's place,
Where it seemed as fire had been.
All scorched was the spot, as gipsy-pot
Had swung and bubbled there:
The grass was marred, the roots were charred,
And the ivy stems were bare.
The stranger up-sprung: to the farmer he flung
A loud and friendly hail,
And he said, "I see well, thou hast corn to sell,
And I'll buy it on the nail."
The twain in a trice agreed on the price;
The stranger his earnest paid,
And with horses and wain to come for the grain
His own appointment made.
The farmer cracked his whip, and tracked
His way right merrily on:
He struck up a song, as he trudged along,
For joy that his job was done.
His children fair he danced in the air;
His heart with joy was big;
He kissed his wife; he seized a knife,
He slew a suckling pig.
The faggots burned, the porkling turned
And crackled before the fire;
And an odour arose, that was sweet in the nose
Of a passing ghostly friar.
He twirled at the pin, he entered in,
He sate down at the board;
The pig he blessed, when he saw it well dressed,
And the humming ale out-poured.
The friar laughed, the friar quaffed,
He chirped like a bird in May;
The farmer told how his corn he had sold
As he journeyed home that day.
The friar he quaffed, but no longer he laughed,
He changed from red to pale:
"Oh, helpless elf! 'tis the fiend himself
To whom thou hast made thy sale!"
The friar he quaffed, he took a deep draught;
He crossed himself amain:
"Oh, slave of pelf! 'tis the devil himself
To whom thou hast sold thy grain!"
"And sure as the day, he'll fetch thee away,
With the corn which thou hast sold,
If thou let him pay o'er one tester more
Than thy settled price in gold."
The farmer gave vent to a loud lament,
The wife to a long outcry;
Their relish for pig and ale was flown;
The friar alone picked every bone,
And drained the flagon dry.
The friar was gone: the morning dawn
Appeared, and the stranger's wain
Come to the hour, with six-horse power,
To fetch the purchased grain.
The horses were black: on their dewy track
Light steam from the ground up-curled;
Long wreaths of smoke from their nostrils broke,
And their tails like torches whirled.
More dark and grim, in face and limb,
Seemed the stranger than before,
As his empty wain, with steeds thrice twain,
Drew up to the farmer's door.
On the stranger's face was a sly grimace,
As he seized the sacks of grain;
And, one by one, till left were none,
He tossed them on the wain.
And slily he leered, as his hand up-reared
A purse of costly mould,
Where, bright and fresh, through a silver mesh,
Shone forth the glistering gold.
The farmer held out his right hand stout,
And drew it back with dread;
For in fancy he heard each warning word
The supping friar had said.
His eye was set on the silver net;
His thoughts were in fearful strife;
When, sudden as fate, the glittering bait
Was snatched by his loving wife.
And, swift as thought, the stranger caught
The farmer his waist around,
And at once the twain and the loaded wain
Sank through the rifted ground.
The gable-end wall of Manor Hall
Fell in ruins on the place:
That stone-heap old the tale has told
To each succeeding race.
The wife gave a cry that rent the sky
At her goodman's downward flight;
But she held the purse fast, and a glance she cast
To see that all was right.
'Twas the fiend's full pay for her goodman grey,
And the gold was good and true;
Which made her declare, that "his dealings were fair,
To give the devil his due."
She wore the black pall for Farmer Wall,
From her fond embraces riven:
But she won the vows of a younger spouse
With the gold which the fiend had given.
Now, farmers, beware what oaths you swear
When you cannot sell your corn;
Lest, to bid and buy, a stranger be nigh,
With hidden tail and horn.
And, with good heed, the moral a-read,
Which is of this tale the pith,
If your corn you sell to the fiend of hell,
You may sell yourself therewith.
And if by mishap you fall in the trap,—
Would you bring the fiend to shame,
Lest the tempting prize should dazzle her eyes,
Lock up your frugal dame.