Poetry Corner: The Friar of Orders Gray

A reader named Jeanine asked about the poem which heads the short story “By His Cockle Hat and Staff”

This short story was published in Forbidden Thoughts  edited by Jason Rennie    (Superversive Press, January 2017). Introduction by Milo Yiannopolous. Stories by Nick Cole, John C. Wright, Sarah A. Hoyt, Brad R. Torgersen, &c. Non-fiction articles by Tom Kratman and Larry Corriea. Buy nine copies today! Send my kids to college!

517VI1QZnLL._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_FMwebp_.jpg (196×293)

Unbeknownst to me, this same poem is quoted by Shakespeare, for Ophelia sing in mourning as she goes mad, “He is dead and gone, lady, / He is dead and gone, / At his head a grass-green turf, / At his heels a stone” (IV.v.29-32).

Here is the whole:

The Friar of Orders Gray

Thomas Percy (1729–1811)
Adapted from old ballads

IT was a friar of orders gray
Walked forth to tell his beads;
And he met with a lady fair
Clad in a pilgrim’s weeds.

“Now Christ thee save, thou reverend friar;
I pray thee tell to me,
If ever at yon holy shrine
My true-love thou didst see.”

“And how should I know your true-love
From many another one?”
“O, by his cockle hat, and staff,
And by his sandal shoon.

“But chiefly by his face and mien,
That were so fair to view;
His flaxen locks that sweetly curled,
And eyes of lovely blue.”

“O lady, he is dead and gone!
Lady, he ’s dead and gone!
And at his head a green grass turf,
And at his heels a stone.

“Within these holy cloisters long
He languished, and he died,
Lamenting of a lady’s love,
And ’plaining of her pride.

“Here bore him barefaced on his bier
Six proper youths and tall,
And many a tear bedewed his grave
Within yon kirkyard wall.”

“And art thou dead, thou gentle youth?
And art thou dead and gone?
And didst thou die for love of me?
Break, cruel heart of stone!”

“O, weep not, lady, weep not so;
Some ghostly comfort seek;
Let not vain sorrow rive thy heart,
Nor tears bedew thy cheek.”

“O, do not, do not, holy friar,
My sorrow now reprove;
For I have lost the sweetest youth
That e’er won lady’s love.

“And now, alas! for thy sad loss
I ’ll evermore weep and sigh;
For thee I only wished to live,
For thee I wish to die.”

“Weep no more, lady, weep no more,
Thy sorrow is in vain;
For violets plucked, the sweetest showers
Will ne’er make grow again.

“Our joys as wingèd dreams do fly;
Why then should sorrow last?
Since grief but aggravates thy loss,
Grieve not for what is past.”

“O, say not so, thou holy friar;
I pray thee, say not so;
For since my true-love died for me,
’T is meet my tears should flow.

“And will he never come again?
Will he ne’er come again?
Ah, no! he is dead, and laid in his grave,
Forever to remain.

“His cheek was redder than the rose;
The comeliest youth was he!
But he is dead and laid in his grave:
Alas, and woe is me!”

“Sigh no more, lady, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever:
One foot on sea and one on land,
To one thing constant never.

“Hadst thou been fond, he had been false,
And left thee sad and heavy;
For young men ever were fickle found,
Since summer trees were leafy.”

“Now say not so, thou holy friar,
I pray thee say not so;
My love he had the truest heart,
O, he was ever true!

“And art thou dead, thou much-loved youth,
And didst thou die for me?
Then farewell home; for evermore
A pilgrim I will be.

“But first upon my true-love’s grave
My weary limbs I ’ll lay,
And thrice I ’ll kiss the green-grass turf
That wraps his breathless clay.”

“Yet stay, fair lady; rest awhile
Beneath this cloister wall;
The cold wind through the hawthorn blows,
And drizzly rain doth fall.”

“O, stay me not, thou holy friar,
O, stay me not, I pray,
No drizzly rain that falls on me
Can wash my fault away.”

“Yet stay, fair lady, turn again,
And dry those pearly tears;
For see, beneath this gown of gray
Thy own true-love appears.

“Here forced by grief and hopeless love,
These holy weeds I sought;
And here, amid these lonely walls,
To end my days I thought.

“But haply, for my year of grace
Is not yet passed away,
Might I still hope to win thy love,
No longer would I stay.”

“Now farewell grief, and welcome joy
Once more unto my heart;
For since I have found thee, lovely youth,
We nevermore will part.”