David Lewis Paget
The Village That Wasn'T There! - Poem by David Lewis Paget
I went to stay with an old schoolmate
In the village of Rushing Brooke,
I thought there wouldn't be much to do
So I took a favourite book,
He said he'd only been there a while
For the cottage rent was cheap,
He'd needed to get away, he said,
But never could get to sleep.
His face was haggard, his eyes bloodshot
His hands would tremble and shake,
He said it was close to a fortnight since
He'd started to lie awake,
‘I get to the point I'm drifting off
When I hear that terrible knell,
A long slow tolling invades my sleep
From the church that has no bell.'
We sat up talking ‘til one o'clock
Then I made my way to bed,
But nothing invaded my sleep that night,
‘It won't at first, ' he said.
‘There's something wanders the street outside
In the hours before the dawn,
Clad in a cowl, or a hooded cloak
But it's gone before the morn.'
From all that I saw of Rushing Brooke
The cottages were quaint,
They certainly had a timeless look,
Could do with a coat of paint.
The roads were rough with a pebbled look
But I saw no folk about,
I passed the Smithy and Fodder store
But the Blacksmith, he was out.
We walked on over to see the church
That was grim, and overgrown,
There'd not been a single service there
Since the Roundheads stormed the town,
But weeds grew up in the vestry, there
Were signs of an ancient fire,
And looking up we could see a space
Right under the old church spire.
‘That was the space they hung the bell
But the bell has long been gone,
The Roundheads carried it off, they say,
So it couldn't toll for Rome.
The bell had tolled for the death of Charles
As his head fell under the axe,
The soldiers came for revenge in force
In one of their brute attacks.'
I kept him company every night
But I had to get some sleep,
For days I'd wake and I'd find him still
Awake in a crumpled heap.
I woke one time and I saw him stare
Through the window, into the night,
For there was a ghostly cloak and cowl,
It gave me a sudden fright.
And that's when I heard the tolling bell
For the first time, that he'd said,
The bell from the church, that wasn't there
Was tolling in my head,
I lay awake ‘til the sun came up,
Went out to greet the day,
But there the village had tumbled down,
Had long since gone away.
Only the marks of ancient roads,
Foundations that had stood,
There wasn't a cottage left out there
Just an encroaching wood,
The church was standing among the trees
And our cottage, cracked and scarred,
Half of the roof was missing, and
The chimney lay in the yard.
We hurried away to the nearest town
And found an old-style Inn,
My friend had fallen asleep within
A moment of checking in,
He slept and he slept for two whole days
While I asked about the town,
‘What of the village of Rushing Brooke? '
But all that they did was frown.
The wife of the keeper of the Inn
Was tidying my room,
I asked her the same old question as
She worked there in the gloom,
‘I wouldn't go near to Rushing Brooke
Not now, for a thousand pound,
That's where the soldiers stole the bell
And mowed the villagers down.'
‘They say as the place is haunted by
The figure of a monk,
They burnt him alive inside the church
As he tolled the bell by the font.
He lived in a little cottage there,
The only one that stands,
I've heard some tell that they've heard the bell
And seen him, walk in the grounds.'
23 July 2014
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