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Collected Poems

The Rakehelly Man

page 119

The Rakehelly Man

For F. H. Worsfold, esprit fort

A great black-hearted ruffian
came riding from the south
with spurs upon his ankles
and laughter on his mouth.

He wore two ladies' wish-bones
a-dangling from his ears,
his great black curly whisker
was wet with maidens' tears.

Oh, black were his moustaches,
and black his evil heart,
as black as ever trembled
upon the hangman's cart.

He lolloped through the meadow
upon his great black horse,
a-seeking in his madness
a maiden he could force.

He found her leaning idly
upon her mother's gate,
her mother was to market,
her business kept her late.

He fondled his moustaches
and flashed his wicked eye,
his smile was like the spider's
rend="indent"that gleams upon the fly.

Oh, deep as hell the cunning
that lurked beneath that smile!
His lips were full of laughter,
his heart was black with guile!

page 120

He took her by the arm-hole
and led her up the drive,
he held her hand so slender
and stroked its fingers five.

Upon her mother's bower
he hung his feathered cap,
oh, fierce were his embraces,
and fraught with evil hap!

He took her on the terrace,
they rudely came to grips,
he bent his curly whisker
and tasted her red lips.

He plucked her in the portico,
and not content with that
the ruffian rumble-dumbled her
upon the back-door mat.

With evil-sounding chuckles
he chased her through the hall
and with his jewelled falchion
he forced her to the wall.

And then he chortled madly,
and much against her will
banged up the kitchen window
and bussed her on the sill.

She tumbled over backwards
and fell into the yard,
the hell-hound scrambled after
and held her fast and hard.

He chased her through the meadow
beyond the reeking sty,
the heifers stood and sorrowed,
a tear in every eye.

He held her by the hawthorn,
He towsled her in hay,
he gleaned her in the cornfield,
and then he rode away.

page 121

He leapt upon his charger
and rode into the south,
with lightning in his bridle
and laughter on his mouth.

Ah, let the weary wanton
dissolve in tears of shame!
For she has cast a shadow
upon the family name.

And you, you backseat riders
who mock the maiden's tears,
restrain your ribald laughter,
and cease your heartless jeers.

For all that is foreboded
in youth and love betrayed
is another Black Rakehelly,
or another Feckless Maid.