A Tragic Tale of a Lightning Romance of John Hewit and Sarah Drew as told by England's greatest poet - Alexander Pope
On the 31st of July 1718, John Hewit and Sarah Drew were working in a farm field near the village of Stanton Harcourt in Oxfordshire Cotswolds.
They were rustic lovers; he about twenty-five years of age, and she an attractive maiden a little younger. They were betrothed, and had, on that very morning, obtained the consent of the parents on both sides to their marriage, which was to take place on the following week. The poet, Alexander Pope, was a guest at Stanton Harcourt Manor (in the tower) at the time; and he recorded the tragic incident of the day in the following words:
"Between two and three o’clock in the afternoon, the clouds grew black, and such a storm of thunder and lightning ensued that all the labourers made the best of their way to what shelter the trees and hedges afforded.
Sarah was frightened, and fell down in a swoon on a heap of barley; John, who never separated from her, having raked together two or three heaps the better to secure her from the storm. Immediately after was heard so loud a crash as if the heavens had split asunder.
Every one was now solicitous for his neighbour, and they called to one another throughout the field. No answer being returned to those who called to the lovers, they stepped to the place where they lay. They perceived the barley all in a smoke, and then spied the faithful pair; John with one arm about Sarah’s neck, and the other held over her, as if to screen her from the lightning.
They were struck dead, and stiffened in this tender posture. Sarah’s left eye was injured, and there appeared a black spot on her breast. Her lover was blackened all over; not the least sign of life was found in either. Attended by their melancholy companions, they were conveyed to the town, and next day were interred in Stanton Harcourt churchyard."
Alexander Pope wrote the following epitaph which was engraved on a stone in the parish church of Stanton Harcourt:
Near this place lie the bodies
Of JOHN HEWIT and SARAH DREW
An industrious young man
And virtuous young maiden of this parish;
Who, being at harvest work (with several others),
Were in one instant killed by lightning,
The last day of July, 1718.
Think not by rigorous judgment seized
A pair so faithful could expire;
Victims so pure, Heaven saw well pleased
Teach me to feel another's woe, to hide the fault I see, that mercy I to others show, that mercy show to me - Alexander Pope
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