The Demon Of The Gibbet


Fitz-James O'Brien

There was no west, there was no east,

No star abroad for eyes to see;

And Norman spurred his jaded beast

Hard by the terrible gallows-tree.

"O, Norman, haste across this waste,—

For something seems to follow me!"

"Cheer up, dear Maud, for, thanked be God,

We nigh have passed the gallows tree!"

He kissed her lip: then—spur and whip!

And fast they fled across the lea.

But vain the heel, the rowel steel,—

For something leaped from the gallows-tree!

"Give me your cloak, your knightly cloak,

That wrapped you oft beyond the sea!

The wind is bold, my bones are old,

And I am cold on the gallows-tree!"

"O holy God! O dearest Maud,

Quick, quick, some prayers—the best that be!

A bony hand my neck has spanned,

And tears my knightly cloak from me!"

"Give me your wine,—the red, red wine,

That in a flask hangs by your knee!

Ten summers burst on me accurst,

And I am athirst on the gallows-tree!"

"O Maud, my life, my loving wife!

Have you no prayer to set us free?

My belt unclasps,—a demon grasps,

And drags my wine-flask from my knee!"

"Give me your bride, your bonnie bride,

That left her nest with you to flee!

O she hath flown to be my own,

For I'm alone on the gallows-tree!"

"Cling closer, Maud, and trust in God!

Cling close!—Ah, heaven, she slips from me!"

A prayer, a groan, and he alone

Rode on that night from the gallows-tree.

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