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The Demon of the Gibbet
There was no west, there was no east, No star abroad for eyes to see; And Norman spurred his jaded beast Hard by the terrible gallows-tree.
"O, Norman, haste across this waste,— For something seems to follow me!" "Cheer up, dear Maud, for, thanked be God, We nigh have passed the gallows tree!" He kissed her lip: then—spur and whip! And fast they fled across the lea. But vain the heel, the rowel steel,— For something leaped from the gallows-tree! "Give me your cloak, your knightly cloak, That wrapped you oft beyond the sea! The wind is bold, my bones are old, And I am cold on the gallows-tree!"
"O holy God! O dearest Maud, Quick, quick, some prayers—the best that be! A bony hand my neck has spanned, And tears my knightly cloak from me!" "Give me your wine,—the red, red wine, That in a flask hangs by your knee! Ten summers burst on me accurst, And I am athirst on the gallows-tree!" "O Maud, my life, my loving wife! Have you no prayer to set us free? My belt unclasps,—a demon grasps, And drags my wine-flask from my knee!" "Give me your bride, your bonnie bride, That left her nest with you to flee! O she hath flown to be my own, For I'm alone on the gallows-tree!"
"Cling closer, Maud, and trust in God! Cling close!—Ah, heaven, she slips from me!" A prayer, a groan, and he alone Rode on that night from the gallows-tree.
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