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Oh, fair the face of Wenham Lake
     Upon the young girl's shone,
Her tender mouth, her dreaming eyes,
     Her yellow hair outblown.

By happy youth and love attuned
     To natural harmonies, [365]
The singing birds, the whispering wind,
     She sat beneath the trees.

Sat shaping for her bridal dress
     Her mother's wedding gown,
When lo! the marshal, writ in hand,
     From Alford hill rode down.

His face was hard with cruel fear,
     He grasped the maiden's hands:
“Come with me unto Salem town,
     For so the law commands!”

“Oh, let me to my mother say
     Farewell before I go!”
He closer tied her little hands
     Unto his saddle bow.

‘Unhand me,’ cried she piteously,
     ‘For thy sweet daughter's sake.’
‘I'll keep my daughter safe,’ he said,
     ‘From the witch of Wenham Lake.’

“Oh, leave me for my mother's sake,
     She needs my eyes to see.”
“Those eyes, young witch, the crows shall peck
     From off the gallows-tree.”

He bore her to a farm-house old,
     And up its stairway long,
And closed on her the garret-door
     With iron bolted strong.

[366] The day died out, the night came down:
     Her evening prayer she said,
While, through the dark, strange faces seemed
     To mock her as she prayed.

The present horror deepened all
     The fears her childhood knew;
The awe wherewith the air was filled
     With every breath she drew.

And could it be, she trembling asked,
     Some secret thought or sin
Had shut good angels from her heart
     And let the bad ones in?

Had she in some forgotten dream
     Let go her hold on Heaven,
And sold herself unwittingly
     To spirits unforgiven?

Oh, weird and still the dark hours passed;
     No human sound she heard,
But up and down the chimney stack
     The swallows moaned and stirred.

And o'er her, with a dread surmise
     Of evil sight and sound,
The blind bats on their leathern wings
     Went wheeling round and round.

Low hanging in the midnight sky
     Looked in a half-faced moon.
Was it a dream, or did she hear
     Her lover's whistled tune?

[367] She forced the oaken scuttle back;
     A whisper reached her ear:
‘Slide down the roof to me,’ it said,
     ‘So softly none may hear.’

She slid along the sloping roof
     Till from its eaves she hung,
And felt the loosened shingles yield
     To which her fingers clung.

Below, her lover stretched his hands
     And touched her feet so small;
“Drop down to me, dear heart,” he said,
     ‘My arms shall break the fall.’

He set her on his pillion soft,
     Her arms about him twined;
And, noiseless as if velvet-shod,
     They left the house behind.

But when they reached the open way,
     Full free the rein he cast;
Oh, never through the mirk midnight
     Rode man and maid more fast.

Along the wild wood-paths they sped,
     The bridgeless streams they swam;
At set of moon they passed the Bass,
     At sunrise Agawam.

At high noon on the Merrimac
     The ancient ferryman
Forgot, at times, his idle oars,
     So fair a freight to scan.

[368] And when from off his grounded boat
     He saw them mount and ride,
“God keep her from the evil eye,
     And harm of witch!” he cried.

The maiden laughed, as youth will laugh
     At all its fears gone by;
‘He does not know,’ she whispered low,
     ‘A little witch am I.’

All day he urged his weary horse,
     And, in the red sundown,
Drew rein before a friendly door
     In distant Berwick town.

A fellow-feeling for the wronged
     The Quaker people felt;
And safe beside their kindly hearths
     The hunted maiden dwelt,

Until from off its breast the land
     The haunting horror threw,
And hatred, born of ghastly dreams,
     To shame and pity grew.

Sad were the year's spring morns, and sad
     Its golden summer day,
But blithe and glad its withered fields,
     And skies of ashen gray;

For spell and charm had power no more,
     The spectres ceased to roam,
And scattered households knelt again
     Around the hearths of home.

[369] And when once more by Beaver Dam
     The meadow-lark outsang,
And once again on all the hills
     The early violets sprang,

And all the windy pasture slopes
     Lay green within the arms
Of creeks that bore the salted sea
     To pleasant inland farms,

The smith filed off the chains he forged,
     The jail-bolts backward fell;
And youth and hoary age came forth
     Like souls escaped from hell.


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1877 AD (1)
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