Joseph Skipsey

(March 17, 1832 - September 3,1903 / Percy, Northumberland)

Nanny To Bessy - Poem by Joseph Skipsey

ELEVEN long winters departed
Since you and he sailed o'er the main?
Dear, dear—I've been thrice broken-hearted,
And thrice—but, ah, let me refrain.—

There was not a lassie in Plessy,
Nay, truly there was not a lad,
That morning you left us all, Bessy,
But dropped a kind tear and look's sad.

A week ere ye went ye were married—
Yes, yes, I remember aright;
The lads and the lasses all hurried
To dance at your bridals that night.

With others, were Mary from Horton,
And Harry from over the fields;
Your prim cousin Peggy from Chirton,
And diddler Allen from Shields.

Piper Tom, with his pipes in the corner,
Did pipe till the red morn a-broke;
And we danced and we sung in our turn, or
Gave vent to our glee in a joke.

That seems but last night, tho' eleven
Black winters have flown since, and yet
Ye're bright as yon star in the heaven,
Whilst I—but I winnot regret.

Ye're just bright and fresh and as rosy
As when ye last left us all, just;
Whilst I am a poor wither'd posy
The passer has strampt in the dust.

This was not so always; no, clearly
—When lasses—the burnie has shown
The rose on your dimpled cheek nearly
Out-matched by the rose on my own.

Twinn'd sisters appeared we, and canny
Together we'd link o'er the wold,
When Bessy's bit secrets to Nanny,
And Nanny's to Bessy were told.

Nay's one, we grew up until Harry
Was mine—but, was mine for how long?
Then, the changes that followed,—the worry,
The guilt, and the shame, and the wrong?

—Ye knew my 'curst bane and besetter?
Brown? Piers with the thievish black e'e?
He danced at your wedding, and better
Than any but Harry danced he.

The sight sent the lasses a-skarling,
Whenever he came into view;
And many a fond mother's darling
Has lived his deception to rue.

Meg Wilson, a-down the green loaning,
Skipped with him a fine afternoon;
When last she went there she was moaning,
Her heart like a harp out of tune.

Even Cary, the dour-looking donnet,
Who'd looked on my downfall with scorn,
Was smit with his blink, and her bonnet
One Monday was found in the corn.

Nay, many with him tripped and tumbled
As I'd tripped and tumbled—what then?
Not one by her fall was so humbled,
Or put to one half of my pain.

When Harry was brought on a barrow,
A corpse from the pit, had I known
—But Brown, who had long been his marrow,
Then, who was so kind as Piers Brown?

He showed himself ready and willing
To lighten the load I endured;
He gather'd me many a shilling,
And whatso I needed procured.

The bones of my Harry right duly
Were laid in the grave by his aid;
Then slipt he to see me—too truly
So slipt till my pride was low laid.

There's many to point and to titter
At one who has happen'd a fall—
And into the cup that is bitter,
The petty still empty their gall.

There's many to point and to titter
At one that has happened to fall—
And into my potion so bitter,
The petty so emptied their gall.

Then mine was a hardship and trouble;
When touch'd by deceit's magic mace,
My pride went away like a bubble,
Then mine was a pitiful case.

Then deep on my cheek burn'd the scarlet,
The token of sin and of shame;
And many did call me a harlot,
More worthy than I of the name.

Then mishap to mishap, like billow
To billow succeeded, and I
Was laid with my head on my pillow,
And no one to solace me nigh.

Then perished the darlings you kindly
Remember and ask for—alorn,
I lay by the morsels and blindly,
Then cursed the dark hour I was born.

A-lorn by the dead lay I—driven
To frenzy by grief, shame, and scorn,
And lifted my two hands to heaven,
Then cursed the dark hour I was born.

I cursed—felt accursed—nay, that hourly
I'd dogged by a black devil been;
And he, when he'd speeded most surely,
Had held in derision my teen.

He'd dazzled and led me to yamour,
For baubles one ought to despise,
Then whipt from my vision the glamour,
And shown the sad truth to my eyes.

He'd mounted the air, and a snelling
Bleak blast had swept valley and plain,
And the dwelling of joy made the dwelling
Of dire desolation and pain.

Years long the keen thought of the cruel
Black lot of thy crony a-led
Her to feel, and to prate thus, and—jewel!—
Yet puts a mill-wheel in her head.

The pale morning finds me a-wringing
My hands for the decries in vain;
The day passes by without bringing
Me any relief to my pain.

Evermore on my heart feeds the canker,
The cruel reflection that—ay—
That they for a morsel did hanker,
I had not a penny to buy.

Overcome by despair in confusion
Of mind, I will wander oft, when
The prey of a charming delusion,
They seem to me living again.

Again on their hazels a-prancing,
They hie as they hied o'er the way,
The midges above them a-dancing,
Are not half so merry as they.

Again up and down the ball boundeth,
A-tween their bit hands and the earth,
Till rapture their senses confoundeth,
And laughter gives vent to their mirth.

Again—in my sight—my woe banished,—
The birds seem a-living again,
Then quickly I find them a-vanished,
And sorrow yet with me, and pain.

While yet but a lassie, I married;
While yet in my teens I was left;
Ere olden to frenzy was harried
Ere olden of hope I'm a-reft.

A reed by the wild wind a-broken
Am I, and my tongue in vain seeks
To utter the tale which a-spoken,
Would hurry that rose from your cheeks.

But let me refrain. Since we parted—
Ah lass, since ye went o'er the main;
Since then I've been thrice broken-hearted,
And thrice—but ah, let me refrain.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, September 4, 2014

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