06 March 2016

Devil's Deeds

Some say the devil’s dead, the devil’s dead, the devil’s dead;
some say the devil’s dead and buried in Cold Harbour.

Others say he’s rose again, others say he’s rose again;
others say he’s rose again, apprenticed to a barber.

SCENE: Inside an old inn.

Villagers are seated at tables, talking and laughing. Jack the middle-aged keeper serves behind the bar (right of stage) and his daughter Bess collects glasses and chats with the customers. There are subdued sounds of a storm outside and often rain is blown against the inn’s windows (back of stage). The old inn door (also back of stage) bursts open to admit Arthur, a well-bearded fisherman, and the sound of the wind howling. Arthur struggles to close the door, then removes his sodden overcoat and hangs it on a stand just inside the door, before walking slowly to the bar, greeting people he recognises as he passes the tables.

Arthur:    A foul night, Jack.
Jack:                                         Aye, Art, ’tis filth.
Arthur:                                                                   The Devil’s work, I’d say.
                   They just brought in a boat, she hit the rocks on Beezel’s Bay.
Jack:          Not one of ours?
Arthur:                               Nay, one I never saw, called Summer Breeze.
Jack:          She don’t sound sturdy for a storm. A pint?
Arthur:                                                                                   Aye, if y’please.
                   I heard young Ned, the lifeguard, say, no bodies was on board,
                   I’d wager they’re Cold Harbour way, more souls for Satan’s hoard.
Jack:          Aye, some folks say, the Devil’s dead and buried deep down there.
Arthur:    ’Tis true.
Jack:                         But if he’s dead, then how’s he workin’ rain and air?
Arthur:    He’s hauntin’, Jack, his spirit’s with us, though he sleeps below.
                   Ah, evenin’ Bill.
Bill:                                       Hello there, Art. One more, Jack, ’fore I go.
Jack:          So what’s your thinkin’, Bill, this storm, the Devil haunts the sea?
Bill:          He haunts? You think the Devil’s dead?
Jack:                                                                                ’Tis Art says that, not me.
Bill:          Aye, that’s the story fisherfolk hold dear, when storms come through,
                   they hear his voice in howlin’ winds, in’t so, Art?
Arthur:                                                                                           Aye, ’tis true.
Bill:          But others say, the Devil rose from death and came ashore,
                   he’s ’prenticed to a barber now, sweeps hairs from off the floor.
Arthur:    ’Tis prattle, Bill – why’d Satan choose a barber, of all types?
Jack:          Perhaps he likes that pole, y’know, the white an’ blood-red stripes.
Bess:          That may be, Father, for they used to bloodlet, days gone by,
                   do surgeries, take teeth, e’en put a leech upon your eye!
Jack:          What, leeches? Nay, Bess, you’ve been readin’ nonsense books again.
Bess:          ’Tis my encyclopaedia.
Jack:                                                   Look – glasses! Ern and Gwen!
                   She’s always at that book of hers.
Bill:                                                                      She’s right about the leech,
                   the takin’ teeth as well, enough to make you shout an’ screech!
                   If I was Satan, then I reckons, that’s the life I’d lead,
                   instead of lyin’ out at sea, all dead and wrapped in weed.
Arthur:    Well, each his own, but if you knew the ocean, all its might,
                   and seen a corpse come shoreward, blue and bloated, ghastly sight,
                   well, then you’d see, ’tis Devil’s work.
Bill:                                                                              I reckon that I would,
                   though bein’ a barber’s boy, and leechin’, that still sounds quite good.
Jack:          Perhaps the Devil’s harboured and apprenticed, takes two forms.
Bess:          Aye, daily doin’ surgeries, but nightly makin’ storms!

* * *

Here is the Poem of the Month for February, originally published on the official Happenstance website <(:-)

And here are the P-i-R's notes:

Welcome to Poem of the Month for February!
The P-i-R has composed something a little different this month: ‘Devil’s Deeds’ consists of a scene inspired by the song performed before Happenstance launch into the dance entitled ‘Much Wenlock’.
I had thought there might be a connection between the town and the lyrics, but my sources proved vague on this: ‘What is it all about, you ask? Goodness knows!’
Readers will note that the lines take the form of an eight-verse fourteener. I’ve written notes on this to accompany my ‘The Winchcombe Morris side of yore’, here: http://happenstancepoetry.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/the-winchcombe-morris-side-of-yore.html
And here is a video of Happenstance performing ‘Much Wenlock’, in Tewkesbury on Boxing Day 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmEIt4Qdh-8