Canto 4

Auld Pendle is a wild, wild place
Where wolves will growl & croon,
Where by the cats the long-nosed bats
Inspiral by the moon.

Hot rumours trickle out to Read
Of some sick’ning Sabbath,
Of witchery & heresy,
Of vengeful Wiccan wrath.

This was, for Nowell, final straw,
Orders, “Once & for all
We shall arrest this evil nest
Attesting to its fall!”

Across the grassy Sabden side
Men mingle in patrol,
With pike & sword, an angry horde
On Malkin Tower fall.

From slumber James was rudely dragg’d,
& little Jennet too,
When sensing death, Elizabeth
Too joins that wretched crew.

From a mould-heel’d Katherine Hewitt,
Thro’ Alice Grey of Colne,
To John & Jane Bulcock, that fane
Of fearful captives swoll’n.

As Nowell, down to Roughlee Hall,
His hungry horses steer –
Alice Nutter’s dream sprite mutters,
“Pray wake up!” in her ear.

“Your summons rite,” whispers the sprite,
“Was wholly fitted wrong –
For you forgot to seal the knot
With ill-begotten song!”

The Lady rose out of her bed,
& lit a candle wick,
With sleepy care she paced the stair,
Clutching a candlestick.

The Lady dress’d in Sunday best,
Tears in each hourglass eye,
As in their beds, on sleeping heads,
She kissed her kids goodbye.

As Nowell passes Crowtrees Farm,
At last he finds his foe;
Stood on the lawn, alone, unborn,
Lit by the dawn’s first glow.

“Alice Nutter, of Roughlee Hall,
Thou art under arrest!”
With weary heart, into a cart,
Our noble Lady press’d.

She join’d her coven cramp’d inside
That little cell at Fence,
Despite the cries, those heinous lies,
Protesting innocence.

Eyeball cramp’d to-blinking eyeball,
These witches stood or sat;
In atmosphere harsh stabb’d with sneer
The conversation spat.

Theofy spent a sad & sleepless night
Until the breath  dawn,
When push & shout them all barg’d out
Onto the jailhouse lawn.

It was a hot & humid day,
Silent in ragged line;
Looming over East Lancashire
Old Pendle haunch’d supine.

When thirty miles were underfoot
Fair Lancaster arose,
Whose castle keep & dungeon deep
That coven did enclose.

Demdike tries Satan to contact,
Hapless necromancer,
Goes, “Tibb! Tibb! Tibb!” & rubs her rib
But there came no answer;

For Satan is, was, & shall be
A liar thro’ & thro’,
With bitter scrike & screech, Demdike
Did not know what to do.

That night she dream’d herself alone;
A girl by Pendle stream,
That with a shake & mighty quake,
Enchasms ‘cross her dream;

The Devil roars & clambers up
Out of a hissing hole,
“Demdike, Demdike! Do what ye like
But I shall have yer soul!”

Out of the dream, with frightful scream,
Old Demdike hard awoke;
Then clutches chest, that beatless breast,
& dropped dead at a stroke.

The women woke & wail’d & wept,
There mostly gave up hope,
Full well they ken such an omen,
Must mean the danglerope.

Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months
Strong spirits hours erode;
Until, one day, in August, gay,
The morn in glory glow’d.

Good Roger Nowell takes the bench
With paperweights & scrolls;
This coven, yet, would soon regret
They’d ever sold their souls.

There sat Judge Bromby of Altham
With high-brow’d Lord Gerard,
Them sat between, moody & mean,
Sir Richard Houghton, hard.

As gossip-hunting populace
Are led in from the street,
In dungeon deep the coven weep,
Hope wilting in the heat.

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