Beads beaming with her blood: the Ballad of Charlotte Dymond by Charles Causley

 

Image: Pixabay  Image: Pixabay

 

‘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.


Originally posted here last year.

Read more about the poet here. 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

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11 thoughts on “Beads beaming with her blood: the Ballad of Charlotte Dymond by Charles Causley

  1. Interesting story! And your poem is a great summary of the high (er, low) points. You capture the feel of that time well. I especially like the line about the razor writing its name.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hideous error! As this was a repost from last year I removed the now irrelevant introduction and along with it the minor fact that the poem was written my Charles Causley! Teach me to repost in a rush. Very many apologies for accidentally claiming Mr Causley’s words as my own. Never, ever my intention.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha! Yep. Remember studying this at school – it stuck with me ever after, that awful ‘women dying at the hands of a lover’ trope that’s sadly as real today as then

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! Yes, we didn’t read Poe, but we did read this, so … I’m not sure he’s thought of as one of the best poets, but this story – the lovers, the moors, some of Causley’s turns of phrase – appealed to my sense of the Gothic even back then. Glad you liked it Casey 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You DIDN’T READ POE??? Be still my Tell-Tale Heart. Have you read The Cask of Amontillado? If not, you must. And oh, The Raven. I’ll be digging out my Poe anthology before the day is through. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Sadly there was no Poe on the curriculum. Shakespeare, William Golding, George Bernard Shaw, Steinbeck – quite a lot of him if I recall – but no Poe. I shall search him out before you cry Nevermore! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. NO POE??? “That’s crazy,” quoth the raven. 😉 I hope you’ve had a minute to discover his fabulousity. (Ok, that’s not really a word…)

        Liked by 1 person

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