David Lewis Paget
Maidenhair - Poem by David Lewis Paget
The grave they kept on the lonely beach
Lay under a foot of lime,
Most of the pile had washed away
With rain, and the tides of time,
It had been so long since its stone was laid
As a warning to who went there,
The rough-cut name had begun to fade,
To the solitary word, ‘Despair! ’
It said, ‘Despair if you dig it up,
Despair if you set it free,
It savaged the girl called Maidenhair
It ravaged this fair country,
It roamed the farms at the dead of night
And tore into sheep and hogs,
The farmers called it the devil’s blight
When they found their blood-spattered dogs.
The only monk that was left to tend
The grave, now lay in the church,
His Order gone, now the only one
To fend off the tidal surge.
The church was almost a ruin since
It had shattered the oak-backed doors,
And blasted the Brothers altar with
Its devils breath, and its claws.
But the monk lay ill, and he knew full well
He never could make the beach,
To pile the lime on the Beast of Time
And the sea would surely breach.
His fellow monks were all laid in clay
On the upper side of the cliff,
Their duty done, they had one by one
Passed on, and lay cold and stiff.
A crack appeared in the bed of lime
With a rush of air from the shore,
And something groaned with an eerie moan,
The seed of the devil’s spore.
A whisp rose out of the open grave
To join with a gully breeze,
That sent it whirling along a wave
And into a grove of trees.
And then an ominous rumble rose
As a whirlwind formed on high,
It whipped the waves to a surly peak
As it rose to blacken the sky,
A tempest, such as had never been
Tore trees, like beeches and birch,
And cut a swathe like the path it paved,
On its wayward way to the church.
The monk lay there with his gilded cross
As he heard the beast outside,
It gave a roar by the shattered door
And the monk had almost died.
But a gentle hand took the cross from him,
A hand that was soft and fair,
And held it up to the beast so grim,
The ghost of Maidenhair.
It shuddered once as she stood with ease
And the cross then drove it back,
The whirlwind died to a gully breeze
As it fled back down the track.
It seemed confused, and it seemed to lose
Its overwhelming reach,
And sank back into its limestone grave
On that long deserted beach.
The sea had battered the arching cliff
Hung over that limestone shore,
It now collapsed in a final lapse
With the monks who’d passed before.
And beneath a thousand tons of earth
That is holding off the sea,
There’s a rough-cut stone that says, ‘Despair,
Despair if you let it free! ’
30 March 2015
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