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Witch Margaret

Who hath not met Witch Margaret?
Red gold her rippling hair,

Eyes like sweet summer seas are set
Beneath her brow so fair;

And cream and damask rose have met
Her lips and cheek to share.

Come up! and you shall see her yet,
Before she groweth still;

Before her cloak of Rame and smoke
The winter air shall fill;

For they must burn Witch Margaret
Upon the Castle Hill.

They found on her the devil's mark,
Wherein naught maketh pain,-

"Bind her and dip her! stiff and stark
She floateth aye again;

Her body changeth after dark,
When powers of darkness reign."

They drave the boot on Margaret
And crushed her dainty feet;

The hissing-searing irons set
To kiss her lips so sweet:

She hath not asked for mercy yet,
Nor mercy shall she meet.

The silent sky was cold and grey,
The earth was cold and white,

They brought her out that Christmas Day
To burn her in our sight;

The snow that fell and fell alway
Would cover her ere night.

All feebly as a child would go
Her bleeding feet dragged by,

Blood-red upon the white, white snow
I saw her footprints lie;

And someone shrieked to see her so-
God knows if it was I!

Upon her body all in black,
Fell down her red-gold hair;

All bruised and bleeding from the rack
Her writhen arms hung bare;

Red blood dripped all along her track,
Red blood seemed in the air.

The while they told her deeds of shame,
She, resting in the snow,

Stretched out weak hands toward the flame,
Watched the sparks upwards go,

Till on the pale pinched face there came
Some of the red fire's glow.

Oh, is it blood that blinds mine eyes,
Or is it driving snow?

And are these but the wild wind's cries
That drive me to and fro,

That beat about mine ears and rise
Wherever I may go?

It's red and black on Castle Hill!
The people go to pray,

A little wind sighs on, until
The ashes float away;

And then God's earth is very still,
For this is Christmas Day.

-Riccardo Stephens-