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The Demon of the Gibbet by Fitz-James O'Brien



There was no west, there was no east,
     No star abroad for eyes to see;
And Norman spurred his jaded beast
     Hard by the terrible gallows-tree.




"O, Norman, haste across this waste,—
     For something seems to follow me!"
"Cheer up, dear Maud, for, thanked be God,
     We nigh have passed the gallows tree!"




He kissed her lip: then—spur and whip!
     And fast they fled across the lea.
But vain the heel, the rowel steel,—
     For something leaped from the gallows-tree!




"Give me your cloak, your knightly cloak,
     That wrapped you oft beyond the sea!
The wind is bold, my bones are old,
     And I am cold on the gallows-tree!"





"O holy God! O dearest Maud,
     Quick, quick, some prayers—the best that be!
A bony hand my neck has spanned,
     And tears my knightly cloak from me!"




"Give me your wine,—the red, red wine,
     That in a flask hangs by your knee!
Ten summers burst on me accurst,
     And I am athirst on the gallows-tree!"





"O Maud, my life, my loving wife!
     Have you no prayer to set us free?
My belt unclasps,—a demon grasps,
     And drags my wine-flask from my knee!"




"Give me your bride, your bonnie bride,
     That left her nest with you to flee!
O she hath flown to be my own,
     For I'm alone on the gallows-tree!"





"Cling closer, Maud, and trust in God!
     Cling close!—Ah, heaven, she slips from me!"
A prayer, a groan, and he alone
     Rode on that night from the gallows-tree.

 
 
 

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