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The Legend of the Swaffham Tinker

John Chapman was a tinker
     who lived in Swaffham Town,
One night he dreamed a voice did say
     if you win win renown,
Then he must go to London Bridge,
     and there the voice did cry
He'd find a man to tell him
     where wondrous treasure lies.

So Chapman came to London Bridge,
     but no man did he see,
Till a Butcher's boy came whistling by,
     so careless and so free;
As he passed by he did let fall
     a sheep's head on the ground,
And Chapman said to a passer by,
     'Oh see what I have found.'

The man he said that all was well,
     the sheep's head he'd restore,
But first good friends, as he seem tired,
     pray tell me now some more.
What brought you up to London
     to seek the city wide?
Said John, 'A dream brought me to London
     - a fool's game I have tried.'

'Yes, friend you are most foolish,
     to leave your home like this,
To wander up to London,
     for dreams of fancied bliss,
Where no man cares for others,
     save as they serve their plan,
To rob and slay each other,
     and best their fellow man.

'Now hark to me, a month ago,
     while sleeping in my chair,
I thought I heard some church bells
     chiming clearly in the air,
The voices hovered o'er me,
     that seemed to me to say,
Neath the Eastern door of Swaffham Church
     great buried treasure lay.'

'I dreamed I had found a coffer,
     of many guineas bright,
Then I searched again for thirty rods,
     till there came into sight
A heavy moss-grown arch of stone,
     and after that a cross,
Then I deeper dug for others
     that lay like useless dross.'

He who jested did not notice
     the change in Chapman's eye,
Nor heeded he the tremor,
     his dog Jasper did decry.
Through common, lane and byway,
     homeward he quickly sped,
When money failed he tinkered,
     to earn his daily bread.

A comely widow where he halted
     offered heart, and home, and barn
And you who smile and read this,
     therein can see no harm,
But Chapman never tarried,
     his heart was not his own,
He knew his wife and children
     waited for him at home.

At length he reached his cottage door,
     to hear his good wife's cry,
'God bring me back my husband
     to bless me ere I die.'
But still he never lingered
     save to light his lantern at the fire,
And hurried through the churchyard
     till at last he reached the spire.

There was the arch stone surely,
     and lifting proved the key,
For below the found the shining gold
     of wondrous mystery.
He filled his leather apron
     quite full ten times or more,
And then with superhuman strength
     the coffer home he bore.

He cleaned it bright and shining,
     and on the coming day
There passed two men of learning,
     'Why look you here,' said they;
'Of what is this inscription -
     'Beneath me you will find,
Another one containing
     much treasure of the same kind.'

'This is an ancient coffer
     from Norman times methinks,
The tinker sees no value
     save to buy him meat and drink.'
Now all who read this legend,
     let it be true or not,
Can learn a weighty lesson
     that must not be forgot.


Norfolk Poems





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