Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ELEGY: THE LITTLE GHOST WHO DIED FOR LOVE; FOR ALLANAH HARPER, by EDITH SITWELL



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ELEGY: THE LITTLE GHOST WHO DIED FOR LOVE; FOR ALLANAH HARPER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Fear not, o maidens, shivering
Last Line: "but this old world, is sick and soon must die!"
Subject(s): Churchill, Deborah (1678-1708); Ghosts; Injustice; Love; Supernatural


Deborah Churchill, born in 1678, was hanged in 1708 for shielding
her lover in a duel. His opponent was killed, her lover fled to
Holland, and she was hanged in his stead, according to the law of the
time. The chronicle said, "Though she died at peace with God,
this malefactor could never understand the justice of her sentence,
to the last moment of her life."

"FEAR not, O maidens, shivering
As bunches of the dew-drenched leaves
In the calm moonlight . . . it is the cold sends quivering
My voice, a little nightingale that grieves.

Now Time beats not, and dead Love is forgotten . . .
The spirit too is dead and dank and rotten,

And I forget the moment when I ran
Between my lover and the sworded man --

Blinded with terror lest I lose his heart.
The sworded man dropped, and I saw depart

Love and my lover and my life . . . he fled
And I was strung and hung upon the tree.
It is so cold now that my heart is dead
And drops through time . . . night is too dark to see

Him still. . . . But it is spring; upon the fruit-boughs of your lips,
Young maids, the dew like India's splendour drips,
Pass by among the strawberry beds, and pluck the berries
Cooled by the silver moon; pluck boughs of cherries

That seem the lovely lucent coral bough
(From streams of starry milk those branches grow)
That Cassopeia feeds with her faint light,
Like Ethiopia ever jewelled bright.

Those lovely cherries do enclose
Deep in their sweet hearts the silver snows,

And the small budding flowers upon the trees
Are filled with sweetness like the bags of bees.

Forget my fate . . . but I, a moonlight ghost,
Creep down the strawberry paths and seek the lost

World, the apothecary at the Fair.
I, Deborah, in my long cloak of brown
Like the small nightingale that dances down
The cherried boughs, creep to the doctor's bare
Booth . . . cold as ivy in the air,
And, where I stand, the brown and ragged light
Holds something still beyond, hid from my sight.

Once, plumaged like the sea, his swanskin head
Had wintry white quills . . . 'Hearken to the Dead . . .
I was a nightingale, but now I croak
Like some dark harpy hidden in night's cloak,
Upon the walls; among the Dead, am quick;
Oh, give me medicine, for the world is sick;
Not medicines, planet-spotted like fritillaries
For country sins and old stupidities,
Nor potions you may give a country maid
When she is lovesick . . . love in earth is laid,
Grown dead and rotten' . . . so I sank me down,
Poor Deborah in my long cloak of brown.
Though cockcrow marches, crying of false dawns,
Shall bury my dark voice, yet still it mourns
Among the ruins, -- for it is not I
But this old world, is sick and soon must die!"





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