The Hock-Cart

A poem by Robert Herrick

To the Right Honourable Mildmay, Earl of Westmoreland

Come, sons of summer, by whose toil
We are the lords of wine and oil;
By whose tough labours, and rough hands,
We rip up first, then reap our lands.
Crown'd with the ears of corn, now come,
And to the pipe sing Harvest Home.
Come forth, my lord, and see the cart
Dress'd up with all the country art.
See, here a malkin, there a sheet,
As spotless pure, as it is sweet;
The horses, mares, and frisking fillies,
(Clad, all, in linen, white as lilies.)
The harvest swains and wenches bound
For joy, to see the Hock-cart crown'd.
About the cart, hear, how the rout
Of rural younglings raise the shout;
Pressing before, some coming after,
Those with a shout, and these with laughter.
Some bless the cart; some kisses the sheaves;
Some prank them up with oaken leaves;
Some cross the fill-horse; some with great
Devotion, stroke the home-borne wheat;
While other rustics, less attent
To prayers than to merriment,
Run after with their breeches rent.
Well, on, brave boys, to your lord's hearth,
Glitt'ring with fire, where, for your mirth,
Ye shall see first the large and chief
Foundation of your feast, fat beef,
With upper stories, mutton, veal,
And bacon, (which makes full the meal)
With sev'ral dishes standing by,
As here a custard, there a pie,
And here all tempting frumenty.
And for to make the merry cheer,
If smirking wine be wanting here,
There's that which drowns all care, stout beer,
Which freely drink to your lord's health,
Then to the plough, (the common-wealth)
Next to your flails, your fanes, your fats;
Then to the maids with wheaten hats;
To the rough sickle and crook'd scythe,
Drink frolic boys, till all be blythe.
Feed and grow fat; and as ye eat,
Be mindful, that the lab'ring neat
(As you) may have their fill of meat
And know, besides, ye must revoke
The patient ox unto the yoke,
And all go back unto the plough
And harrow, (though they're hang'd up now.)
And, you must know, your lord's word's true,
Feed him ye must, whose food fills you.
And that this pleasure is like rain,
Not sent ye for to drown your pain,
But for to make it spring again.

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