Canto 5

Lancaster Castle heaps up stone
Above the bustle streets,
How beautiful its cathedral
The cityscape completes.

Within its court the justicars
Shall hear the Witchcraft Act;
It will see hung, both old & young,
Who sign’d a Devil’s pact.

“Each one in turn we shall bring out,
These witches from their cage!”
As Nowell said this, his hot head
Empurpl’d in a rage,

“These Becchentes are Satanic,
They drink each other’s blood,
In orgies wild, corpses defiled
& eaten if they could.

These vile crones summon demons up,
Chaunting incantation!”
As his head bow’d an angry crowd
Howl’d exasperation.

Chattox the first to reach the dock,
& there confesses all,
In weeping strains of pins & pains,
& how she sold her soul.

They thought her very odious,
No modesty, nor grace;
A toothless grinning specimen
Dredg’d from the human race.

Old Chattox rais’d her arms aloft
To Him high over us,
“You may spurn me but, pray, mercy
To my honest daughters!”

The prosecution shut its book,
The death-warrant self-signed
By Chattox, led, already dead,
Back to her dungeon bind.

As one-by-one the coven went
To answer for their sins,
None stood a chance, no honest stance
Could ever save their skins.

For counsel fair are serfs denied
When stood against the state;
When avarice & prejudice
Can influence our fate;

When witches fear’d of most of all,
Whose crimes few could forgive,
Drown’d in a pool by ducking stool,
Or death to those that live.

Up summon’d to that brutal dock
The lady Nutter stood,
Pois’d for her fall, the judges all
Sat desp’rate for her blood;

But every peasant in the crowd
Refused her as a witch,
For she was great, of good estate,
& she was very rich.

So to convince the court & crowd
A long line Nowell made
Of women tall, the truth men call
Identity parade.

In came wee James, & Jennet too,
Each one did gladly say
That Alice Nutter veins did cut
Upon that Good Friday.

So comes the coven’s ending-day,
Their dungeon is unbarr’d;
As up they go, the day did glow,
& they were under guard.

That prison train led into town,
Steep down from Castle Hill;
Trudging bare feet, yon China Street,
T’where Market Square did fill.

The crowd was thirsting for witch-blood,
All tossing rotten fruit.
& understood the hangman’s hood
Conceal’d an ugly brute.

They went up to the windy moor,
Saw gallows stood erect,
Where thick ropes hung & breezy swung,
For looseness nooses check’d.

As three-by-three those witches died
Upon the dangle-ropes;
Up cheers the crowd, happy & loud,
Upon the clapping slopes;

Who jeer when Jane & John Bulcock
Turn to teary violence;
A quite outrageous death-display;
‘Til that snapping silence.

As jam tarts make a roaring trade
So does each wee pick-pocket;
The lady Nutter sadly put
In her palm a locket.

She opens it, sees smiles serene
Beam from happy children;
& hopes & prays in coming days
They’d all meet in Heaven.

Hid in the crowd the Devil stood,
Dress’d like a Christian,
Cheeks puffing pride as each fresh bride
Was to Cocytus gone.

As bodies stack upon the moor,
Still gallows creak & groan,
Until the last cut from the mast,
Wee James from life was shorn.

The Devil smiles a wicked smile
& left off thro’ the crowd;
A happy man, all gone to plan,
& he was very proud.

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