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

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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