David Lewis Paget
Play The Man... - Poem by David Lewis Paget
I stood at the back of the Oxford crowd
When Latimer was burned,
He stood by Nicholas Ridley who
Was burning, in his turn,
Latimer said to ‘Play the man, '
I know, I heard him shout,
‘We shall light a candle in England
That will never be put out! '
I felt the tears stream from my eyes
At such a show of faith,
And cursed the Catholic Mary
For her bloody lack of grace,
The fire burned Ridley's nether parts
And caused him terrible pain,
They died true martyrs to the faith,
I hoped I'd do the same.
I was a lowly pikeman sent
To keep the crowd in line,
But they stood mute in horror at
The hated monarch's crime,
I stood again as Cranmer placed
His hand into the flame,
To pay for recantations signed
By the hand that was to blame.
But Bloody Mary soon was dead,
Elizabeth now reigned,
Religion turned upon its head,
Was Protestant again,
The clergy could recant or pay
Imprisonment for life,
We were sent to hunt recusants
Taking hammer, axe and knife.
The stately homes of Catholics
Were searched from roof to floor,
They hid the priests in priest holes, built
In chimneys, rooms and more,
We measured walls to infant squalls,
We shattered brick and stone,
Removed wood panels, floors and doors,
Would not leave them alone.
I'd watched the faces of the priests
Who'd seen my kinsmen burn,
Revenge was what I sought, at least
I'd make them beg and squirm,
For hundreds of my people died
With Mary on the throne,
I worked with the pursuivants who
Would make them all atone.
A whisper came that Hamley Hall
Was hiding seven priests,
We had it well surrounded so
They couldn't flee, at least,
Sir Thomas Cheswyn was the squire,
With Anne, his lady wife,
We burst in through the oaken door
At just about midnight.
A week we searched and probed and prod,
We tore some walls apart,
We climbed up to the rooftop to
The eaves, to make a start,
Sir Thomas swore, ‘There's no-one here,
We keep a peaceful scene,
By whose authority do you…'
We answered him, ‘The Queen.'
We wouldn't let him leave that place,
His wife, or servants too,
We questioned them eternally
For they were Catholics too,
‘You set your Papist tyranny
On us, so now you'll pay,
You'll either give your bishops up
Or live to rue the day.'
But Hamley Hall was massive,
Was a house of forty rooms,
We found a secret passage
But it led us nowhere soon,
We'd almost given up the hunt
When word came through for sure,
There's seven priests in seven holes,
Make sure you bar the door! '
The leader of the pursuivants
Was grim, and cold as ice,
He never said a kindly word,
I saw him smile but twice,
He locked the doors and made us pile
The flooring round the walls,
Then set a flame to Hamley House,
The memory appals.
I thought that I was full of hate
Until I heard them scream,
The flames devoured the mansion while
I stood, as in a dream,
And priests leapt from the upper floors
Their garments well ablaze,
But only three got out of there,
The mansion burned for days.
And Cheswynd burned inside his house,
His wife and baby scarred,
The servants perished from the fumes
The other priests were charred,
While I, a lowly pikeman thought:
‘What God would seek this fate?
Religion is some twisted thing
When man turns love to hate! '
14 January 2013
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