Last night I was a guest author on Edin Road Radio, hosted by Jesse Coffey, where I read my epic poem, “Shadows”. I borrowed the cadence from the classic “The Highway Man” by Alfred Noyes . Other than the cadence, this is all my own. I challenged myself to write an entire story arc in the form of an epic poem.
A twisted rain had fallen from a torrent tortured sky
The clouds were like a fortress, the moonlight to deny
And the darkened lane was slick and black like blood beneath his feet
As he called up to her window,
To the black glass of her window,
His cries up to her window ringing from the cobbled street.
All the doors were closed against him, and the locks shone bright as gold
His drenched cloak wrapped around him, no match against the cold
With one hand curled he pounded, the other clutched to his breast
And he waited on her doorstep
Her cold and heartless doorstep
Dropped to his knees on her doorstep, with a burning in his chest.
Each drop of rain that touched him, steamed from his fevered brow
With a death grip on the door latch, his sight began to cloud
One furtive glance to the window, and his eyes could see no more
The night fell all around him
Heavy dark around him
And in the dawn they found him, with his hand still on the door.
‘Does no one know who lies here? Does no one know his fame?’
And they checked his cloak and they found it, a letter with her name.
The maid that he’d been seeking, in the dark that stormy night
Had sent to him a letter
A message in the letter
‘Look for my sign in the window, and we’ll wed at dawns first light.’
‘What a shame,’ the maidens whispered, ‘so handsome fair was he’
And each held a secret longing, ‘would that he’d come for me . . .
‘I’d have never been so heartless, she should feel the sting of guilt
‘That she left him there in the rainstorm
‘Scorned and shamed in the rainstorm
‘How she let him die in the rainstorm, of stone her heart is built.’
She crept up like a shadow, as they laid him on the cart
Ignored the sneers and the catcalls, as the crowd around did part
And she took from him the letter, and kissed his cold dead lips
And the man beside her pulled her
Far from the crowd he pulled her
Away from her love, he pulled her, with a harsh and viselike grip.
‘Think no more about him. Your hand is pledged to mine,
‘Your pity will serves purpose, and is wasted on his kind.
‘A bounder was he when he left you, to seek his selfish pride
‘He lied to you and he mocked you
‘Scorned you, forgot you
‘Laughed when any would ask him, if he’d make of you his bride.’
They buried the lad in the churchyard, ‘neath a howling autumn wind
None knew what name to call him, nor where to find his kin
But the maidens wept, and they mourned him, and watered the grave with tears
‘How could she be so heartless’
‘So callous, and heartless’
‘How could she leave so quickly when her love lies buried here?’
With a stone in her soul she relented, and fulfilled her pledge to wed
No love she bore for the husband with whom she’d share her wedding bed
As he came to her in the chamber, and tossed his clothes to the floor
The pistol shone in his waistcoat
From the pocket of his waistcoat
He gathered the gun from the waistcoat and quickly locked the door.
The fire in his eyes told the story, and she backed away to the wall
To the window she dashed and then halted, judging the height of the fall
‘Do you fear me, lady?’ he sniggered ‘Aft’ the pains I’ve taken thus?
‘That no man shall come between us
‘Nor shadow fall between us
‘Your love shan’t come between us, now he’s dead beneath the dust.’
He grabbed at the letter she’d clung to, taken from the dead man’s hand
And he laughed as she cried and he told her the details of his plan
‘You left your pen and your papers, plain for the world to see’
‘And I simply wrote him a letter’
‘In your hand, I wrote the letter’
‘The letter that undid him was not from his love . . . but me.’
Her heart drummed loudly within her, and her fear gave way to ire
And she dove for his hand with the pistol, to his heart she aimed to fire
But he twisted a nimble sidestep and she fell against the hearth
The letter he tossed to the fire
The proof of his deed in the fire
And he raised the pistol to fire, with the barrel against her heart.
She did not cry for mercy, she had another scheme instead
And with a kiss she pleased him, and led him to her bed
When the moment was hers she seized it, and foiled his well laid plan
And the night fell hard around her
Heavy dark around her
The shot rang out around her, as the gun fell from her hand.
The moon shone through the window, and cast a ghostly light
And the wind wailed a tortured descant through the valleys of the night
And he covered his ears to the ringing and the howling from the moors
As his bride lay dead in the moonlight
Cold on the bed in the moonlight
And he covered her face in the moonlight, and fled through the open door.
“Was murder, you know,” were the whispers, from the gossips in the town
And the blame fell upon her husband as they laid her in the ground.
Aside her fallen lover, beneath a howling wind
Just one word on her gravestone
‘Justice’ on her gravestone
Beside the nameless gravestone, where her lover lies within . . .
All through the moors and the marshes, through vale and forest deep
Like a fox, they hunted and found him, and brought him to the tree
For her death they bound him and hanged him and she won her victory
Just one word on his gravestone
‘Guilty’ on his gravestone
No name etched on his gravestone, and none to mourn his memory . . .
Still when the rains come falling from a howling autumn sky
And the clouds are like a fortress, the moonlight to deny
From the house, now long abandoned, where the lovers were to meet
Her light shines from the window
Her sign to him from the window
Two shadows cast from the window, kissing on the cobbled street . . .