Farewell To Fairies

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"Farewell, Rewards And Fairies!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Corbet, in his later days a bishop in the Church of England, and noted for his wit, touches lightly a problem that to him has weighty overtones. Gone from "merry old England," says the poet, are the fairies and the old superstitions countenanced by the Catholics before the coming of Protestantism to the country. If Corbet is critical of the Roman Church for allowing the remnants of paganism to remain among the peasantry, he seems equally critical of the dour-faced Puritans who stamped out the cult of fairies. The first line of the poem supplied Kipling with the title of one of his most famous books for children (1910)

"Farewell, rewards and fairies!"
Good housewives now may say,
For now foul sluts in dairies
Do fare as well as they,
And though they sweep their hearths no less
Than maids were wont to do,
Yet who of late for cleanliness,
Finds sixpence in her shoe?
Lament, lament, old abbeys,
The fairies lost command;
They did but change priests' babies,
But some have changed your land;
And all your children sprung from thence
Are now grown Puritanes;
Who live as changelings ever since
For love of your domains.
. . .
Witness these rings and roundelays
Of theirs, which yet remain,
Were footed in Queen Mary's days
On many a grassy plain;
But since of late Elizabeth,
And later, James came in,
They never danced on any heath
As when the time hath been.