The Defence of Guenevere, by William Morris

Father John’s War-Song


So many reapers, Father John,

So many reapers and no little son,

To meet you when the day is done,

With little stiff legs to waddle and run?

Pray you beg, borrow, or steal one son.

Hurrah for the corn-sheaves of Father John!


O maiden Mary, be wary, be wary!

And go not down to the river,

Lest the kingfisher, your evil wisher,

Lure you down to the river,

Lest your white feet grow muddy,

Your red hair too ruddy

With the river-mud so red;

But when you are wed

Go down to the river.

O maiden Mary, be very wary,

And dwell among the corn!

See, this dame Alice, maiden Mary,

Her hair is thin and white,

But she is a housewife good and wary,

And a great steel key hangs bright

From her gown, as red as the flowers in corn;

She is good and old like the autumn corn.


This is knight Roland, Father John,

Stark in his arms from a field half-won;

Ask him if he has seen your son:

Roland, lay your sword on the corn,

The piled-up sheaves of the golden corn.


Why does she kiss me, Father John?

She is my true love truly won!

Under my helm is room for one,

But the molten lead-streams trickle and run

From my roof-tree, burning under the sun;

No corn to burn, we had eaten the corn,

There was no waste of the golden corn.


Ho, you reapers, away from the corn,

To march with the banner of Father John!


We will win a house for Roland his son,

And for maiden Mary with hair like corn,

As red as the reddest of golden corn.


Father John, you have got a son,

Seven feet high when his helm is on

Pennon of Roland, banner of John,

Star of Mary, march well on.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58