Beads beaming with her blood: the murder of Charlotte Dymond

Image: Pixabay

Image: Pixabay

Yesterday, I posted my short story, Summon the Nine Dancers.

Now, when I wrote this, I didn’t make the link between it and The Ballad of Charlotte Dymond by Charles Causley. I should’ve done. You see, I studied Causley’s poem when I was at school and some of the phrases stayed with me for a long time.

Her Sunday beads among the reeds, Beaming with her blood and Come quiet now, you pretty poor boy and They sent him smartly up to heaven, And dropped him down to hell.

The poem relates pretty closely the murder of the real Charlotte in 1844. Matthew, her disabled lover, was eventually hanged for her death, due to some pretty damning physical evidence, though he claimed to be innocent of the crime.

Moorland, a flirty girl, a scorned lover and a knife … You can see why Causley and I were both drawn to the tragic story. The rhyming scheme may not be to everyones’ taste, and it’s a little melodramatic, I suppose, but haunting nontheless.

‘The Ballad of Charlotte Dymond’ by Charles Causley

It was a Sunday evening

And in the April rain

That Charlotte went from our house

And never came home again.


Her shawl of diamond redcloth,

She wore a yellow gown,

She carried the green gauze handkerchief

She bought in Bodmin town.


About her throat her necklace

And in her purse her pay:

The four silver shillings

She had at Lady Day.


In her purse four shillings

And in her purse her pride

As she walked out one evening

Her lover at her side.


Out beyond the marshes

Where the cattle stand,

With her crippled lover

Limping at her hand.


Charlotte walked with Matthew

Through the Sunday mist,

Never saw the razor

Waiting at his wrist.


Charlotte she was gentle

But they found her in the flood

Her Sunday beads among the reeds

Beaming with her blood.


Matthew, where is Charlotte,

And wherefore has she flown?

For you walked out together

And now are come alone.


Why do you not answer,

Stand silent as a tree,

Your Sunday worsted stockings

All muddied to the knee?


Why do you mend your breast-pleat

With a rusty needle’s thread

And fall with fears and silent tears

Upon your single bed?


Why do you sit so sadly

Your face the colour of clay

And with a green gauze handkerchief

Wipe the sour sweat away?


Has she gone to Blisland

To seek an easier place,

And is that why your eye won’t dry

And blinds your bleaching face?


Take me home! cried Charlotte,

‘I lie here in the pit!

A red rock rests upon my breasts

And my naked neck is split!’


Her skin was soft as sable,

Her eyes were wide as day,

Her hair was blacker than the bog

That licked her life away;


Her cheeks were made out of honey,

Her throat was made of flame

Where all around the razor

Had written its red name.


As Matthew turned at Plymouth

About the tilting Hoe,

The cold and cunning constable

Up to him did go:


‘I’ve come to take you, Matthew,

Unto the magistrate’s door.

Come quiet now, you pretty poor boy,

And you must know what for.’


‘She is as pure,’ cried Matthew,

‘As is the early dew,

Her only stain it is the pain

That round her neck I drew!


‘She is as guiltless as the day

She sprang forth from her mother.

The only sin upon her skin

Is that she loved another.’


They took him off to Bodmin,

They pulled the prison bell,

They sent him smartly up to heaven

And dropped him down to hell.


All through the granite kingdom

And on its travelling airs

Ask which of these two lovers

The most deserves your prayers.


And your steel heart search, Stranger,

That you may pause and pray

For lovers who come not to bed

Upon their wedding day,


But lie upon the moorland

Where stands the sacred snow

Above the breathing river,

And the salt sea-winds go.

If you’re ever in Bodmin in Cornwall, there is a memorial to Charlotte near the spot where her body was found and a courtroom re-enactment of Matthew’s trial at Bodmin’s Shire Hall

13 thoughts on “Beads beaming with her blood: the murder of Charlotte Dymond

  1. Did you study this in high school or university? Certainly evokes a mood, it does. My youngest is named Charlotte, a good name. They call her “Lotte” in Germany.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Studied this at secondary school – at around 13 or 14 I think. The sadness and drama of it appealed to me. Causley treats both Charlotte and Matthew with great sympathy and doomed love is attractive when you’re a teenager. Lotte is a lovely name – I hope she loves it 🙂


  2. I’ve never read that poem before. I like it, but my favourite one about Bodmin is The Highwayman, by Alfred Noyes – at least, I think it’s set on Bodmon Moor. Have you ever been their after dark? it deserved its creepy reputation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I havn’t been to Bodmin, no. The story of Charlotte so embedded itself in my subconscious, though, I think I’d find it creepy even if it was the most cheerful place on earth :). My son had to learn the Highwayman a couple of years ago for school. I watched the class perform it twice – man, it feels long when there’s a bunch of reluctant, stumbling 10 year olds reciting it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. John Otway is famous for his success as a rock and roll failure, giving him the moniker “Patron Saint of Failures”. He has a cult following, and I’ve liked him since 1977, when he had his first hit, “Really Free, known as “The Hit!” Years later his fans asked him what he would like for his birthday ( it’s tarditional to remember his birthday) and he said “I’d like another hit please,” so his fans made it happen. We all bought 3 copies of his (bad) single “Bunsen Burner”. He hit the singles charts at number 9. It was rumoured that someone hacked into a computer somewhere, fixing the chart.
        There’s a bit of immaturity in us all.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s kind of sweet, though. got to champion the underdog. And lack of talent? Doesn’t mean much in the music industry sometimes 🙂 I have heard of him, so he’s made some kind of impact 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Excuse me! He has lots of fans. When my ex husband and I were splitting up, he arranged for John to do a gig down here. (in the hope that it would win me back, perhaps) It was raining, and the venue was at least twenty minutes walk from the town centre, and yet the place was packed out.
        OK, so less than forty people turned up, but I expect there was a flu epidemic, or a lot of fans had been grounded by their mums, or they got lost on the way. (or drowned – there is a river nearby) Anyway, as I said, it was raining. A lot. Reaaly wet rain. In fact there was a thunderstorm and then there was a hurricane and all the houses suddenly flew up in the air and landed in trees near Exeterand it was too far to walk to the train station to catch a train back to Barnstaple and anyway all the trains had crashed and they couldn’t hitch because all the cars were going the wrong way because there was a sale on at Ikea and they wanted to get something cheap and the buses… the buses… all had mad people in them and John Otway fans are very sensible people who don’t like mad people so they couldn’t get on the buses.
        And anyway their mums made them tidy their bedrooms because they were all messed up from flying up in the air, and then they had to chop the trees down, and when the houses fell on the ground they had to tidy their bedrooms all over again. By that time John Otway had gone home.
        I just thought you should know.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Haha! Love that. You spin a John Otway gig into some kind of mad Wizard of Oz,/ teen rebellion cross over. Funny. I’m sure Mr Otway has a million fans – all as passionate about him as you are 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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