Eliza Cook

(24 December 1818 – 23 September 1889 / London Road / Southwark / England)

Black Bess


TURPIN had his Black Bess, and she carried him well,
As fame with her loud-breathing trumpet will tell;
She knew not the lash, and she suffered no spur;
A bold rider was all that was needed by her.
That rider grew pallid and cautious with fear,
There was danger around him and death in the rear;
But he mocked at the legion of foes on his track,
When he found himself firm on his bonnie steed's back.

She carried him on as no steed did before,
She travelled as courser will never do more;
Bounding on like the wild deer, she scarce left a trace,
On the road or the turf, of her antelope pace.
The pistol was levelled, what was it to Dick?
The shot might be rapid, but Bess was as quick:
'Ha! Ha! ' shouted Turpin, 'a horse and a man
Are fair marks for your bullets to reach, if they can.'

The mountain was high, and the valley was deep;
She sprang up the hill and she flew down the steep;
She came to the waste, rough with furrow and weed,
But the brushwood and gap were no checks to her speed.
She dashed through the stream and she climbed the broad bank,
With no word to urge forward, no heel to her flank;
The gate with its padlock might stand in her way;
It took more than five bars to keep Black Bess at bay.

She kept her career up for many a league,
With no slackening of pace and no sign of fatigue;
Right onward she went till she staggered and dropped;
But her limbs only failed when her heart-pulse had stopped.
Her dare-devil rider lived on for a while,
And told of her work with a triumphing smile:
And the fame of Dick Turpin had been something less
If he'd ne'er rode to York on his bonnie Black Bess.

Here's a health to her memory! shirk it who dare-
If you love what is noble, pledge Turpin's brave mare;
And the draught will be welcome, the wine will be good;
If it have half the spirit and strength of her blood.
May the steed that comes nigh her in courage and fire
Carry rider more worthy to make its heart tire;
Though she saved him, and died to prove what she could do,
Yet her life was most precious by far of the two.

I live on the sea and I'm lord of a ship,
That starts from her rest like a hound from the slip;
Her speed is unrivalled, her beauty is rare;
But her timbers are black as the highwayman's mare.
From her keel-spanning beam to her sky-greeting spar
She's as dark as a midnight without moon or star:
Her name, boys! her name, you may easily guess,
She is christened, right nobly, 'The Bonnie Black Bess.'

Submitted: Saturday, March 24, 2012
Edited: Saturday, March 24, 2012

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