Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE LAY OF MR. COLT, by WILLIAM EDMONSTOUNE AYTOUN



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE LAY OF MR. COLT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: And now the sacred rite was done
Last Line: And died within the gaol.
Alternate Author Name(s): Bon Gaultier (with Theodore Martin)
Subject(s): Death; Love; Prisons & Prisoners; Trials; Dead, The; Convicts


STREAK THE FIRST

. . . . . . .

AND now the sacred rite was done, and the marriage-knot was tied,
And Colt withdrew his blushing wife a little way aside;
'Let's go', he said, 'into my cell, let's go alone, my dear;
I fain would shelter that sweet face from the sheriff's odious leer.
The gaoler and the hangman, they are waiting both for me, --
I cannot bear to see them wink so knowingly at thee!
Oh, how I loved thee, dearest! They say that I am wild,
That a mother dares not trust me with the weasand of her child;
They say my bowie-knife is keen to sliver into halves
The carcass of my enemy, as butchers slay their calves.
They say that I am stern of mood, because, like salted beef,
I packed my quartered foeman up, and marked him 'prime tariff';
Because I thought to palm him on the simple-souled John Bull,
And clear a small percentage on the sale at Liverpool;
It may be so, I do not know -- these things, perhaps, may be;
But surely I have always been a gentleman to thee!
Then come, my love, into my cell, short bridal space is ours, --
Nay, sheriff, never look thy watch -- I guess there's good two hours.
We'll shut the prison doors and keep the gaping world at bay,
For love is long as 'tarnity, though I must die today!'

STREAK THE SECOND

The clock is ticking onward,
It nears the hour of doom,
And no one yet hath entered
Into that ghastly room.
The gaoler and the sheriff,
They are walking to and fro:
And the hangman sits upon the steps,
And smokes his pipe below.
In grisly expectation
The prison all is bound,
And, save expectoration,
You cannot hear a sound.
The turnkey stands and ponders, --
His hand upon the bolt, --
'In twenty minutes more, I guess,
'Twill all be up with Colt!
But see, the door is opened!
Forth comes the weeping bride;
The courteous sheriff lifts his hat,
And saunters to her side, --
'I beg your pardon, Mrs. C.,
But is your husband ready?'
'I guess you'd better ask himself,'
Replied the woeful lady.

The clock is ticking onward,
The minutes almost run,
The hangman's pipe is nearly out,
'Tis on the stroke of one.
At every grated window
Unshaven faces glare;
There 's Puke, the judge of Tennessee,
And Lynch, of Delaware;
And Batter, with the long black beard,
Whom Hartford's maids know well;
And Winkinson, from Fish Kill Reach,
The pride of New Rochelle;
Elkanah Nutts, from Tarry Town,
The gallant gouging boy;
And coon-faced Bushwhack, from the hills
That frown o'er modern Troy;
Young Julep, whom our Willis loves,
Because, 'tis said, that he
One morning from a bookstall filched
The tale of 'Melanie';
And Skunk, who fought his country's fight
Beneath the stripes and stars, --
All thronging at the windows stood,
And gazed between the bars.
The little boys that stood behind
(Young thievish imps were they!)
Displayed considerable nous
On that eventful day;
For bits of broken looking-glass
They held aslant on high,
And there a mirrored gallows-tree
Met their delighted eye.

The clock is ticking onward;
Hark! hark! it striketh one!
Each felon draws a whistling breath,
'Time's up with Colt; he's done!'

The sheriff looks his watch again,
Then puts it in his fob,
And turns him to the hangman,
'Get ready for the job.'
The gaoler knocketh loudly,
The turnkey draws the bolt,
And pleasantly the sheriff says,
'We're waiting, Mister Colt!'

No answer! No! no answer!
All's still as death within;
The sheriff eyes the gaoler,
The gaoler strokes his chin.
'I shouldn't wonder, Nahum, if
It were as you suppose.'
The hangman looked unhappy, and
The turnkey blew his nose.

They entered. On his pallet
The noble convict lay, --
The bridegroom on his marriage-bed,
But not in trim array.
His red right hand a razor held,
Fresh sharpened from the hone,
And his ivory neck was severed,
And gashed into the bone.
. . . . . .
And when the lamp is lighted
In the long November days,
And lads and lasses mingle
At the shucking of the maize;
When pies of smoking pumpkin
Upon the table stand,
And bowls of black molasses
Go round from hand to hand;
When slap-jacks, maple-sugared,
Are hissing in the pan,
And cider, with a dash of gin,
Foams in the social can;
When the goodman wets his whistle,
And the goodwife scolds the child;
And the girls exclaim convulsively,
'Have done, or I'll be riled!'
When the loafer sitting next them
Attempts a sly caress,
And whispers, 'Oh! you 'possum,
You've fixed my heart, I guess!'
With laughter and with weeping,
Then shall they tell the tale,
How Colt his foeman quartered,
And died within the gaol.





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