Member Rara Avis
America the beautiful
(Pardon the length of this piece.I wanted to tell as much of the story as I could, and this is how it ended up. So thanks in advance to anyone who can finish reading this! Also special thanks to Sven, whose Black Rose poem inspired me to continue this piece when writer's block struck.)
‘Twas started on a dull and dreary bitter winter’s day,
A game it was, not more than simply little girls at play.
They’d talk of things girls talk about and have their fortunes read
By a slave within the house-they loved to hear what she said.
She’d tell the girls of spells and trances (voodoo if you will)
And the girls they loved to hear it and could never have their fill.
So it started from the mischief of a group of little girls-
But when things began to happen, then the gossip spread in whirls.
One girl grew very sickly and a cause they could not find-
They knew not if it was physical or if it was in her mind.
Others fell into convulsions and such awful screaming fits
If you could have only seen them, you’d be sure they’d lost their wits.
And the doctors they were brought in, but so little could they do-
Yet this was caused by something-maybe witchcraft? But by who?
The rumors started up then like a spark within a wood
That flames and makes a field dry where once the trees have stood.
“The Devil walks in Salem town!” The cry on every tongue
“The witches must be punished! They will die! They will be hung!”
They knew not who the witches were, but soon they would find out
Who had black-magic powers and could bring these things about.
The household slave was named as one, two other women too,
And when the women three confessed, the horror in town grew.
“The Devil is among us! Can we trust anyone at all?”
News traveled fast from house to house, passed forward like a ball.
The witches, taken to the jail, were tied up, bound and chained
And kept beneath guards’ watchful eyes-and still the girls were pained!
“Not all the witches have been caught!” The fear rose like a flame
And grew as the possessed girls listed name and name and name.
Shocked was the village to find out of those who were accused,
Knew there was no hope of saving those with reputation bruised.
A devout old Christian woman and a simple farmer’s wife,
Never thinking that they would be named as two who’d lose their life
And an aged man, never known to have hurt anyone at all-
He also tried to save his wife, but on deaf ears fell his call.
To the judge they were then taken and then did they testify
Their innocence, but over that there was the young girls’ cry.
“She pinches me!” one screamed out of the simple farmer’s wife.
“What cause have you to bring these girls such hurt and pain and strife?”
Rang out the judge-her husband tried to speak for her did he-
“He is a wizard!” one girl spoke, “as evil just as she!”
So all were taken to the jail and locked within a cell
Where they thought of damning phrases that had turned their lives to hell.
They talked, they hoped, they prayed to God that when their trials came
The words of friends and family both would help to clear their name.
But all their hopes were not to be, for when before the judge
They testified their innocence, the man he would not budge.
For every move the people made, the girls would imitate.
“Call out your spirit!” yelled the judge. His voice was filled with hate.
The verdict came-they were condemned! They all would die by noose!
For that was how to save the town-death for the witches loose.
But one accused did not plead-he would not say nay or aye
For if he pled his innocence, he knew that he would die.
But death was in the books for him, this aged but still strong man
And since they could not hang him, they would do all that they can.
“The planks and stones,” the judge declared, “will lay upon his chest.
His plea will be brought out of him, or to death he will be pressed.”
The stones were piled upon this man-“More weight!” he gasped, and died
With half the town beside him and the judges by his side.
The fate of this heroic man was heard by those in jail
And they listened to his story, their eyes wide and faces pale.
They’d known their was no hope for the-they knew it all along-
That once branded as a witch, they would not last for very long.
The town began to wonder if his innocence was true
And as the days passed by, the doubts, though slowly, surely grew.
But the seed of doubt was planted just a little bit too late
For soon afterwards, two more accused were delivered to their fate.
The farmer and the Christian woman woke early ‘fore the sun
They knew this was they day in which their lives would both be done.
The farmer told his wife he loved her and he said his last goodbye
She turned away so that he would not notice if she’d cry.
They spoke their last words to each other and then lead away was he
Along the path to gallows and what all knew was to be.
She thought of their unborn child, the reason she’d been spared,
And the father of the baby and the love and life they’d shared.
Now it was the end of summer-how long could all this go on?
How many more would be accused? Would all the town be gone?
The condemned two spoke their final words and prayed their very last
They thought of happy days they’d had, now so far in the past.
And then the noose was ‘round their necks-and then, then it was done!
Now two more innocent were dead, from accusations spun.
No one had listened to their pleas, no one had thought ‘twas true
That the accused were innocent of witchcraft through and through.
Eventually the fear died down, the accusations stopped,
And the charges on the ones condemned eventually were dropped.
So many pieces to pick up so as to go on with life
But all Salem would remember all the trials, death, and strife.
The town would always know the scar of the Salem witchcraft scare
It resulted from their actions and it now was theirs to bear.
And Salem taught a lesson all should keep in mind today-
“Innocent ‘til proven guilty” when one’s accused, that is the way.
(c)Ann Elizabeth Costello
"He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!"