A Gift for New Years Day: a little gothic romance ….

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I’VE crossed the fields from Lattenden
And haunted Honey Mill,
My feet and all my clothes are torn.
Yet on I stumble still
I must not stay to speak to you
Or falter with my pain,
But hasten on to Willow’s Forge,
At the bottom of the lane.

Folk call me mad perhaps ‘tis true
My life is full of fears,
At whiles I bite my arms, and then
I wash the blood with tears.
I scream, I talk to owls and crows,
Hear voices from the sky,
I see the spooks that ride o’ nights
Men shudder when I’m nigh.

My love was hanged for stealing sheep,
‘Twas that which sent me mad
He was a liar and a thief,
But O I loved my lad !
I’ve wandered wildly ever since,
And last night, ‘neath the Wain,
I saw my love at Willow’s Forge,
At the bottom of the lane.

His face was wan, his burning eye
Was like a coal from hell
(He’s with the damned souls, all folk say,
But O I love him well !)
His hands were misty as the moon
That bathed his awful brow,
His lips and breast were smeared with blood,
His cheeks were white as snow.

O tell me, love, where have you been
This weary sleepless while ?
I’ve screamed and wept to kiss your lips,
I’ve hungered for your smile.
Have you been down among the damned,
Where, like the sheep in fold,
The dead men lie, and bleat and cry
And shiver in the cold ?

Have you been up to where the clouds
Are sailing in the blue,
And have they thrown you down, and said
‘Twas no fit place for you ?
Or have you roamed all Sussex through
In weariness and pain,
To meet me here at Willow’s Forge,
At the bottom of the lane ? ’

He nothing said at all, but stared
With glazed and dreadful eye,
His red lips shook, as if he strove
To part them with a cry.
He could not speak, and O I thought
He’d shiver from my sight,
And leave me lone at Willow’s Forge,
In the terror of the night.

‘ O kiss me lad, before you go ! ‘
I cried, and raised my head.
He stooped his scarlet lips to me,
The living kissed the dead.
But O his mouth was all on fire,
And burned my cheek and hair,
I screamed aloud, and he had gone,
And left me waiting there.

I told my mother what had passed,
She shuddered at my tale
‘You’ve seen the moonlight through the trees
That shiver in the gale ;
And as for your burnt cheek, my girl,
Which makes you sob with pain,
You’ve kissed the fire at Willow’s Forge,
At the bottom of the lane.’

But though she speak, and though I hear,
I will not aught believe
But that at last I’ve met and kissed
The lad for whom I grieve.
And if I haunt the meeting spot,
I’ll see him there again
That’s why I haste to Willow’s Forge,
At the bottom of the lane.

Willow’s Forge by Sheila Kaye-Smith

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