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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Robert Browning 1812–89

Muckle-Mouth Meg


FROWN’D the Laird on the Lord: “So, red-handed I catch thee?

Death-doom’d by our Law of the Border!

We ’ve a gallows outside and a chiel to dispatch thee:

Who trespasses—hangs: all ’s in order.”

He met frown with smile, did the young English gallant:

Then the Laird’s dame: “Nay, Husband, I beg!

He ’s comely: be merciful! Grace for the callant

—If he marries our Muckle-mouth Meg!”

“No mile-wide-mouth’d monster of yours do I marry:

Grant rather the gallows!” laugh’d he.

“Foul fare kith and kin of you—why do you tarry?”

“To tame your fierce temper!” quoth she.

“Shove him quick in the Hole, shut him fast for a week:

Cold, darkness, and hunger work wonders:

Who lion-like roars now, mouse-fashion will squeak,

And ‘it rains’ soon succeed to ‘it thunders.’”

A week did he bide in the cold and dark

—Not hunger: for duly at morning

In flitted a lass, and a voice like a lark

Chirp’d, “Muckle-mouth Meg still ye ’re scorning?

“Go hang, but here ’s parritch to hearten ye first!”

“Did Meg’s muckle-mouth boast within some

Such music as yours, mine should match it or burst:

No frog-jaws! So tell folk, my Winsome!”

Soon week came to end, and, from Hole’s door set wide,

Out he march’d, and there waited the lassie:

“Yon gallows, or Muckle-mouth Meg for a bride!

Consider! Sky’s blue and turf’s grassy:

“Life’s sweet; shall I say ye wed Muckle-mouth Meg?”

“Not I,” quoth the stout heart: “too eerie

The mouth that can swallow a bubblyjock’s egg:

Shall I let it munch mine? Never, dearie!

“Not Muckle-mouth Meg? Wow, the obstinate man!

Perhaps he would rather wed me!”

“Ay, would he—with just for a dowry your can!”

“I ’m Muckle-mouth Meg,” chirp’d she.

“Then so—so—so—so—” as he kiss’d her apace—

“Will I widen thee out till thou turnest

From Margaret Minnikin-mou’, by God’s grace,

To Muckle-mouth Meg in good earnest!”